Friends. We all want and need them. But it may be easier said than done to find people who we really want to be friends with. This is a story about how to find them, but also where and how. It may not always be easy, but with some effort the reward will very likely be worth it.
Name: Isidra Mencos
Family: I live with my husband, our 17 year old son, and our rescue dog, Commodore
Lives in: Northern California, the USA
Many say that finding friends after 50 is more difficult than when one is young. Would you agree?
Yes. By that age most people have long time friends and established routines. Adding new people into their lives is less necessary, so if you find yourself alone in a new city, or lonely after your best friends move away or pass away, you may find it difficult to be welcomed in new circles. Also, if you're a reserved, quiet personality, as you get older it may become even harder to break out of your shell and reach out to others.
You do have an interesting story about how you tried so hard, but finally found out that you did not need to search elsewhere, but invest more in the people you had around.
I moved to the U.S. from Spain at the age of 33. I didn't know anybody. I made friends through my doctorate studies, but when they were over, everybody moved away in pursuit of a teaching position in another state. Then my best friend passed away. I found myself very lonely. I tried making new friends through different associations or activities, but I wasn't successful.
That's when I realized that I already knew a few people whom I liked a lot, even though we had a superficial relationship. I decided to invest time in getting closer to them, by inviting them to attend workshops and other activities with me, instead of going alone.
Once I got over my fear of rejection and reached out, I realized they liked me as much as I liked them. My insecurities had been the barrier that didn't allow me to go after the friendships I truly wanted. I now have many more close friends than I had 10 years ago and my life is more joyful.
Not everybody has people around though. What can they do then?
It's worth trying a new activity that you enjoy with a group (quilting, hiking, a sport, a book club or whatever you feel would interest you). But my advice is that if you find a person in this group that you like, reach out to set up one-on-one outings. Don't wait for them to reach out to you. They may be as shy or insecure as you are, and would never take the first step.
And take a closer look at your daily activities. You may think that you don't have people around, but that's impossible unless you are a hermit. Is there a neighborhood association you could join? In the U.S. there is an app (Next Door) that puts all neighbors in contact to discuss common issues. Or maybe there is a neighborhood newsletter.
You could use that avenue to find a walking/exercise buddy, perhaps somebody who wants to walk or go to the gym with you a few times a week. If there isn't a neighborhood newsletter or association, you can launch it.
How about work? Is there anybody you get along with? Perhaps you can get two tickets to an interesting conference and invite somebody you like, or suggest going to the movies, or do a little get together at home. If you have a dog, approach another dog owner you always meet in the park and chat with her. Perhaps you can walk your dogs together.
You get the idea. Look around and take the first step to go a little deeper with daily acquaintances that you like. And consider volunteering to widen your circle of acquaintances that could become your best friends in the future.
When you were young you say that you "kept sabotaging myself and the people I loved". What do you mean by that?
I think many of us grow up with some trauma, and we have a lifetime to overcome it. In my case, I had trouble with intimacy, not just sexual intimacy, but relationship intimacy, because I grew up in a large family that didn't foster emotional connections. Everybody was very isolated within the family.
Being intimate means being vulnerable, because when you open yourself to loving another person with your whole being, you also open yourself to being hurt deeply. Keeping your emotional distance seems safer, but in the end it limits your growth and your capacity for joy. I had to learn that. I am still learning it.
Isidra Mencos is a writer currently working in her memoir "The Conquest of Pleasure".
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