I’m sick of handshakes. And I’ll explain why in a little while.
They tell you when you’re young that it is easy to make new friends if you’re nice and you just ‘be yourself’. And to a large extent, that’s true — children make friends and bond over the simplest things.
What they don’t tell you is that making friends when you’re older is far more difficult and intimidating. Especially when you’re no longer in school, where you are practically handed friends on a silver platter. I mean, in high school or college, everyone is there for a semi-common purpose and you are all facing relatively similar obstacles and triumphs. In university, freshmen or first years generally live in dorms or uni housing, giving them access to people of comparable ages and interests, which usually include exploring how much cheap vodka they can stomach in one night and still make it to a 9am lecture. Or if you don’t click with anyone you might live in proximity to, there are vast networks of clubs and groups to find like-minded people. It’s hard not to make friends in environments like that.
A drawback of making friends in high school or university is that after a certain limited number of years, you are bound to go your various separate ways, and keeping in touch over long distances and timezones is difficult. And as you move on physically, you also grow-up in new and different ways, changing as individuals. You might out-grow each other, which is perfectly natural, if a bit melancholy to contemplate.
I mention all this because it is currently happening to me, on a more painful, stark level than what I had previously experienced. Fortunately, I have not ‘out-grown’ my closest friends, nor do I want to…I can say with certainty that if I could never make any new friends ever again, I would be content with the ones I have for the rest of my life. Unfortunately, my geographically-closest, closest friend lives approximately 340 miles away. It’s the curse of meeting your best buddies when you live/go to grad school abroad. You all have to return to your country of origin eventually, whether you want to or not. (I’m distinctly in the ‘not’ category.) It’s a forced separation that is bridged by that wonderful invention, the internet. But it’s not quite the same as being able to have movie nights and going for drinks and cooking together and…hugs.
I miss hugs.
I’m sick of handshakes because that means that you are meeting someone new. Which is not necessarily a bad thing. But there is no warmth or affection in a handshake. No familiarity. I have shaken a lot of hands in the last couple of months. Met a lot of perfectly nice new people. I have coworkers and acquaintances in the form of my roommate’s friends. I am nice (relatively speaking, most of the time, after I’ve had coffee) and while I am a cautious person with my affection and my trust, I am generally pretty ‘myself’ with new people.
So why is it so hard to make new friends as an adult? One of the biggest obstacles to making new friends — at least in my case — is that I have painfully little in common with my new coworkers or acquaintances. We are either at completely different stages of our lives or we just have very different goals and outlooks. Which is all well and good for coworkers and acquaintances (it certainly makes for an interesting work environment)…but in my experience, not exactly a great foundation for lasting friendships. Another big obstacle is that I am spending most of my time working, with little opportunity to find a local book club or something social that would allow me to meet new people I might have things in common with. I also have very little intention of staying in this suburb longer than I have to; so any friendships I form will have to face my inevitable departure and I’m not sure I want to go through the forced separation again. Is it worth it? I don’t know.
And how do I get passed the ‘coworkers’ and ‘friend of a friend’ stage if I decide it is indeed worth the effort? I don’t know that either. Like I said, most of my best friendships have been the result of being in an environment where you make friends because you have to…you’re all thrown together at Ustinov College or the PACE program at Kennedy High School or in Olmeca 3 dorms and you don’t really have any choice but to make friends. But in a work or social situation where you don’t need to see/talk/hang out together outside of certain times, how do you even breach that distance between you and another person? Especially if you don’t seem to have much common ground. Ask to get a drink after work? Accept a movie night invitation from an acquaintance? I’ve done both, so we shall have to see how it goes from here.
Being an adult is hard work. And they don’t tell you about things like this…about trying to keep your head up when you send out 30 applications and don’t even get one interview or about figuring out the best repayment plan for your student loans or about making new friends when you’re not even sure you want to do so but a typed ‘xoxo’ can only go so far and you’re tired of shaking hands when really all you want is a freezing group hug at 1am.