A lot has happened since my last post lamenting the scarcity of friends and opportunities to make them. Namely what has happened is that I have made some. Knowing my husband would be leaving for a few months, I had to decide to set myself up for success and put myself out there to make friends. I realized that after I’ve written an essay about having no friends, I couldn’t get away very well pass up opportunities and decided I would need to say yes to everything.
First of all, I went back to Protestant Women of the Chapel. PWOC is a biblestudy that is held on almost every military base in the world. I went last semester until I started working. I had been lukewarm about going this fall, but I decided to go. The leader of my biblestudy small group took pity on me immediately and invited me to two other groups she leads including WOW, Wives of Warriors. Even though I like to go to Crossfit on Saturday mornings, I decided I could make it to the WOW meetings every 2nd and 4th Saturdays. A couple days later I received an email from Jessica from WOW, whom Diana had asked to reach out to me. She invited me to another group, and then sent an additional email to suggest we hang out because she had found my blog and subsequently felt sorry for me. She invited me to lunch the following week, which I was very appreciative of.
Several people also suggested meetup.com, which I was signed up for but had not used. Lo, I received an email about a new group forming called “Young Black Professionals.” Sounded like me. I joined the group and RSVP’d to the first meetup, which was seeing “Maze Runner: Scorched Earth Trials” despite the fact I had no interest in the movie. Since then, this meetup group has become one of my primary sources of socialization. The group of about 10 usually meets up twice a week, often in the group host’s home (often for food), which feels welcoming and intimate.
I did not mention previously that I attend Crossfit five days a week. I usually go in the mornings and the same people. I usually arrive around 8:55 and leave at about 11, because I’m talking to the other women or the coach. I’m getting my workouts in, but often also the only socialization I may get in a day so I tend to linger.
- Yes Man
Apart from these regular activities, I have said ‘yes’ to just about every other event I have been invited to. I go without knowing if anyone else I know is going, and often when no one else I know is going. That takes energy and courage, because it is so easy to stay home or be shy, but I have to be courageous enough to put myself out there to create new relationships.
I have been to a Resiliency Event for military spouses, PWOC Game Night, PWOC Military Spouse of the Year night, meetup for women networking, H20 at Home ‘Party,’ Essential Oils Class, and next week I am going to a cookie exchange even though the last thing I want is 48 cookies sitting around my house.
I find that I am sometimes aloof at events, including my main meetup group events, if I go when I don’t really feel like it. It takes me an extra second to respond, and I wonder if people think I’m weird. Even I’m not excited about the event, getting to go through the motions is valuable, and I have appreciated making acquaintances I can build on later.
One thing Diana, my leader at PWOC, has encouraged me to do is invest in other women. After I wrote that initial post, I had decided my purpose would be to be a friend to women without friends, but those women have ruined that for me.
In a shocking turn of events, Neighbor A—20, no kids, no job, no friends—knocked on my door to see if I had found a job. We took them cookies when they moved in. The two of us met Neighbor B, 21, no kids, no job, and 1 friend FOUR hours away—and she basically told us she was lonely.
I planned a perfect, Pinterest brunch for the girls and Neighbor B’s friend. Naturally Neighbor B canceled, and didn’t tell me until I texted her the night before. I figured she needed extra help not sabotaging herself and tried to reschedule. She suggested a date that would work and then didn’t respond. Neighbor A and I eventually had breakfast at my house by ourselves.
I have met Neighbor C once when she had one of my packages. I have literally never seen her or her husband since, and they share the duplex with us. Neighbor D just moved in and has already invited me for brownies. She is also 20 with no job or kids, (also only been with her husband for 3 months, ALTOGETHER.)
I also tried to invite people to enjoy my birthday ice cream cake with me and was turned down 3 times. I was even turned down by a friend from Crossfit that lives close by, and who has complained to me several times about having no friends or life. Instead of eating it with me, he only wanted to come get it and go. For the record, my cousin came. I also agreed to host an H2O at Home get-together and no one on post wanted to come. I’ve made other attempts to connect with people whose husbands were gone with no success.
Basically, I can’t with people. I want to save people from themselves, but I don’t know that I am resilient enough. Being rejected by helpless people hurts my feelings. I don’t think people at PWOC are much better because most of the women act like making a new friend (with me anyway) is the furthest thing from their minds. Once again, I am so used to it, when someone actually asks me to do something I don’t know how to respond.
Neighbor A asked how I coped with meeting new people. I told her those skills come with experience. These girls are young. I assume most enlisted people in the army and their spouses have never been to college. Many never have professional work experience before the Army. College is a huge exercise in socializing. Then working in a professional environment turns interpersonal relationship building into a skill. Many women, or people in this environment have not had those experiences, those monumental experiences, which I think is why this culture is hard to navigate socially.
I will say that I have made at least two actual friends; ones that I want to hug when I see them, and text if I haven’t seen them in a while.
Even though people can be terrible and I am not sure which of the people I have met I can actually call on, I appreciate having so many additional opportunities to go through the motions of friendship even if it isn’t really that. Making real friends takes time. In the meantime, I enjoy each time I have a conversation or a laugh with someone. Those experiences alone are valuable and much better than sitting home for hours. Eventually I’ll make a reliable friend, but until then I’m still happy with my husband being it.