Blogging, humor

The Dreaded Friend Zone

“Follow through.”

Chelsea, my friend and better half of the duo behind Traipsing About, was explaining the key to forming and sustaining friendship.

“You and Dakota are the ultimate Friend Makers,” I gushed, thinking about their impressive social circle. Somehow they managed to make everyone feel included and important. Their seemingly natural ability to link people together based on common interests was truly a thing of beauty.

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Did someone say “thing of beauty”? (I told Dakota I knew I was risking our friendship by using this photo, but doesn’t it make you want to check out his blog?)

“If you meet someone for the first time and want to build a friendship, you have to take the initiative and reach out,” Chelsea went on.

“That makes total sense,” I nodded. “I’m still afraid to send people Facebook friend requests for fear of rejection, and I feel the same way about being the first one to reach out. I wonder if that’s what holds other people back, too…”

I thought about my move to central Oregon (from New Jersey) a little over a month ago. I landed here with a few built-in buddies, including Chelsea and Dakota, which gave me a definite advantage in the Friend Game, but how was I going to reach that deep, comfortable, Real Deal Friend Zone with people I had yet to meet? It seemed almost impossible.

“Follow through is the number one thing people miss,” Chelsea’s words echoed in my ears even weeks later. “And why everyone thinks it’s so hard to make new friends as an adult. That’s really all it takes.”

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Being a baller plant-based chef like Chelsea helps, too.

I realized earlier this week that I’d been hiking every day and it had never occurred to me to invite other people. “No one cares about doing this,” I told myself.

In fairness, some of this royally sucked.

Really, though, I was just scared. Childhood bullying and a few failed friendships haunted me. The same tape I replayed in my mind when it came to dating wound ’round and ’round.

It’s SO hard to click with someone… Even if things go well this first time, what happens next? …If I look or act a certain way, they won’t like me… No one wants to spend that much time with me… And my #1 go to: S/He has so many other people who are cooler to hang out with…

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Hang on. Who’s cooler than this?!

No matter how many positive experiences I rack up, the old insecurities rear their ugly heads with a flaming vengeance. In fact, it’s fair to say that recently spending three days off-grid with a group of (then) strangers was even scarier than moving 3,000 miles from the only place I’d ever called home.

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See? Terrifying.

Every fear of failure and rejection I’ve ever had has danced through my mind during these last few weeks of whirlwind change. The fact that I feel happier and more alive, too, has me wondering if the two just naturally go hand in hand.

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Tim Urban (my bloggy hero) might depict it something like this.

After all, if you keep doing things that scare you, you eventually start upping the ante. So the fear never really goes away.

Hey, I wonder if anyone is actually reading this… They probably have cooler things to do.

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Have you found it difficult to make new friends as an adult? (Have you tried offering them homemade potato salad?)

I’m just saying it can’t hurt. (Photos from VegNet Bend‘s monthly vegan potluck.)

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P.S. – Speaking of friendship… special shout out to the woman who makes my world go ’round. Jenn turns (cough) 29 today!!

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26 thoughts on “The Dreaded Friend Zone”

  1. Oh, I can SO RELATE to this post!! And yes, I want to check out your friend’s blog now after seeing that photo, lol. It is hard the older you get, and yes, I think follow up is definitely what a lot of us miss out on the older we get. We get busy, things come up, life gets in the way, and then before you know it, time has passed and you worry what that other person will now think of you if you reach out this much later. And there’s also the fear of trying too hard or looking like you are trying too hard. I didn’t have too many people here when I moved back to Florida and my roommate is definitely not a source of finding people (more on that privately if you want to know, but don’t worry, won’t tell if you don’t need more info coming into your life!) so I have been starting to go to meetup groups and try to meet people that way. Slowly…… btw, I am the one who sent you a friend request this morning — found your email from when we were in IHE together. (I didn’t complete the degree though. Took 4 classes and realized it is a lot of money of student loans on top of the 100K plus I already have. That, and I really don’t want to work with kids. Adults are more my go-to.) Very proud of you for moving cross country. It’s a big step and not one a lot of people are willing to make. That alone was a huge going out of you comfort zone, so congrats!

    1. 1. Friend request: ACCEPTED (with open arms)!
      2. This roommate story sounds, dare I say, blog-worthy!
      3. Crap. Am I supposed to be teaching children right now? I’ve been too busy drinking beer at 2pm (I tell myself I’m still on EST so I can drink before noon).

  2. It’s funny you write this, because every time I read your blog lately you’re surrounded by people….and I’m assuming some of them are friends. Unless they’re stalkers, and that’s a whole other blog entirely.
    But I get it. I have a lot of acquaintances. but just a handful of good true friends.
    Proud of you for stepping out of your comfort zone and exploring the possibilities!

    1. I don’t know any of these people.

      Thank you! It’s definitely a rollercoaster with the ups of “WHEEEEE LIFE IS AMAZING AND EVERYONE LOVES ME AND I LOVE EVERYONE” followed by, “Oh. God. I was wrong about everything. I’m going to die surrounded by cats. And I don’t even have any cats.”

  3. Definitely harder making friends as you get older, people have families and more responsibility in their jobs etc. I find the best way is to just invite myself places nowadays or just say “I’m doing this” and usually someone comes along 😂

    1. I am going to be stealing that strategy (thank you in advance). And you’re so right – that’s the part of the conversation I left out of this post: how some of it really is just people being busy with, well, adulting!

      By the way everyone! I’m going out for a beer later! (…How was that?)

  4. So… New Jersey must be out of your comfort zone by now, right??????? I know you know where I’m going with this………

    PS that Jenn broad looks crazy.

    1. I don’t think New Jersey is in anyone’s comfort zone. Isn’t it 110 degrees there right now? Or are you just LIGHTING THE TOWN ON FIRE ‘CUZ IT’S YAH BIRFDAY?!

      1. 110 degrees with 110% humidity must be so far from the comfort zone, that the entire state of New Jersey must be basking in nearly infinite happiness now, assuming that graph is correct.

  5. I’m going to start wearing a mask when I hang out with you to avoid further awkward photos! Although I suppose I diiiid photo bomb that shot, to be fair. Glad to have you in town, Jules! Bend is better for it.

    1. You say “I’m going to wear a mask when I hang out with you” as though that will result in FEWER photo opportunities…

      You and Chelsea are LIFE CHANGERS.

  6. LOVE all the photos! And happy birthday to Jenn!

    Well, of COURSE, you’d make new friends everywhere you go. You are charming, funny, sweet. It’s easy for you!

    I think it’s easier for me to make new friends now in my (cough, gasp) very late 40s. I find I’m more confident, friendly, and bubbly…practically dripping with effervescence. (or maybe that’s just the gin fizz talking…?)

  7. Staying in a comfort zone SUCKS. It’s awesome to read about your fears even while you step out and go for it. Very cool. I have a 23 year old daughter who graduated from college a year ago and took a job teaching in Turkey, rather than take the much more safe/comfortable job offers she had in the States. It has been awesome for her, the experiences unique and stretching her. I love her and admire her for taking the chance. I guess what you are doing reminds me of that — very cool.

  8. I moved to Portland, Oregon and had a month long cross country adventure not long after college. In the 90’s. I found great friends in my apartment building, work and through a Jewish networking group.
    They are still some of my best friends, even though I was transferred back to the east coast (Delaware) 12 years ago and we are now spread out all over the US as others have moved too.
    Best advice is proxemics! Be around, invite them to do things, following up is also important as mentioned earlier. Good luck! You are in the best part of the country! Please have a Deschutes Black Butte Porter in two for me!

  9. Great hiking and dating adventures you shared with us. I applaud you for putting yourself out there. Your date was memorable – that’s for sure. The thing is … dating in my sixties is no fun either. Even harder because the rules have all changed over time. Bravo for you for being bold enough to swipe!

  10. Aw Jules, it’s been forevah since I commented on a blog…count this comment as something only the cool kid will get outta me. I just wanted to say after leaving my 20 year home and moving to another country, I had to offend much of my comfort zone to survive socially and I think offering up homemade potato salad is basically the gold. For me it was pie. I started making homemade pie and I got at least two besties here by inviting them over for homemade pie (“that I haaaad to use up because I made too much, and other bullshit excuses, etc.”). Btw, I do make a mean vegan, gluten free coconu cream pie if you could make it to Brisbane and be my friend. Oh you were maybe joking about the potato salad tactic? Because I wasn’t! Sharing food, to me, is where it all starts. I think every good friend I’ve made these past two years in Australia have had some origin with food, usually made at home. Also, I highly recommend regular standing friend dates…every first Friday, for example. Put a group together for that and have a cancellation policy that even if there’s only two of you available, it still happens. I lived far too long with best intentions in friendship (“sometime” we should grab coffee…in a hundred years) and I agree follow-through is everything. Well food is everything and follow-through is the key condiment. You’re a brave girl! Keep scaring yourself!

  11. The fear of rejection is real. But it actually gets less and less the more you get rejected, because we realize more and more clearly that the sky doesn’t generally fall on the ground and the rivers generally do not turn to ash the moment somebody says “no”. And, of course, some people will say “yes”.

    1. Awww SHUCKS. I learned from the best (you know I mean you and Dakota, right?). In fact I followed the best all the way across the country, which kind of makes you Yoda-level in the Friend Maker game.

  12. Ok, just made a new friend who was my sister’s friend. We had dinner, talked, and went to the casino for about 2 hours (I don’t spend nor win much). Correct…reaching out is what does it. I have decided that reaching out is fine and, if I am honest and they don’t like me – their loss.
    You have some wonderful friends there. My son lives in Portland, also. By the by, you do know that you are beautiful in those pics, right?

    1. Thank you, Scott! So happy you made a new friend and didn’t lose much at the casino, ha! I really do have some incredible friends, and I can’t believe how many shiny souls there are in this fairly small town who have all been so kind and welcoming towards me!

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