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Friends Wanted.

I have written and re-written this blog entry already three times over the past two months never actually coming around to publishing it. Partly because of a lack of courage, partly because of some kind of deeply rooted shame and partly because I have been considering what kind of blog I want to be writing and how much personal information I want to share. But the topic is something that is troubling me and after talking to some of my friends I realized I’m certainly not the only one struggling with it. So I decided to re-write this once more and this time press the publish button hoping this resonates with some of you (while also taking the risk that you all think I’m somehow abnormal or start to take pity on me).

Before I begin I want to emphasize the fact that I do have friends and I have a lovely husband who is also my best friend in the whole world; my family is a close one and I speak with my mother daily. But the thing is, with the exception of my husband with whom I naturally share our home with, none of the above listed people live in the same city as I do. The nearest family and close friends live about 100 km away from us.

We moved here about three and a half years ago. My work is quite independent: I sit in my own workshop repairing furniture so I seldom have people working with or near me nor do I have a lot of co-workers to join for lunch or coffee break. There is also the fact that most of my co-workers are old enough to be my parents, as the average person working at the museum is 18 years older than me (this middle age is from a personnel study carried out a few month back) and the few people who are around my age work in different units than I do. My other job as a fitness instructor is also a lonely one even though I’m surrounded by a room full of people. But when the class ends everybody is in a hurry to go home and there's a social barrier between me as the teacher and them as the students.

Since the move here I’ve only made one good friend and a couple of better acquaintances. And as of mid-August the only person I could call my friend moved away. Suddenly I was faced with the fact that I have no friends. (Or I do have friends as I wrote above, but none who live near me.) The realization has been really hard on me. Since July when I recieved the news about my friend moving away I've felt tired and sad; some kind of apathy has clouded my days and I haven't had the energy to be as happy as I usually am.

I’ve always been quite shy and reserved - you could call me an introvert - and making new friends has never come easy to me. I have no problem with spending time alone and actually often feel the need to have space and time for myself. I get agitated if I need to be overly social for longer periods of time and need to compensate for it with some quiet time. But when there is no alternative to being alone, when it's a must and you don't have the option of choosing to be alone, it starts to feel heavy and distressing.

I don’t really have anyone to go for a walk with, or to movies to see a chick flick, or for a coffee date or to go shopping. My husband works every other Saturday and he often has to work in the evenings and I find myself sitting alone knitting and waiting for him to come home. It’s not easy to find friends at this age especially when befriending your co-workers is not really an option and instructing Zumba classes two nights a week leaves little time for other hobbies. I would really like to make new friends, but I don’t know where I can find them. Students have their parties and new mothers all kinds of support groups but I neither study or have kids. One way to meet new people is via friends at their get-togethers, but if you don't even have that one friend to begin with, this kind of networking doesn't work either.

I have noticed that loneliness and especially friendlessness are some kind of taboos in our society where people measure their self-worth by the number of their Facebook friends or likes on their Instagram account. If you say you don’t have any friends you get weird looks and people start to treat you like you carry a disease that they might contract. In modern society we are taught to tolerate different people and not have any prejudice towards anyone based on their race, sexual orientation or medical history; however it feels that the friendless people are regarded as the modern day lepers: if you don't have any friends there must be something fundamentally wrong with you.

At the same time most of us are lonely, but too ashamed to admit it and fearing rejection when it comes to letting people close to you. I have never met anyone who would say they have too many friends and would reject your invitation to make closer acquaintance on behalf of that excuse. We seem to fill the void in our social contacts with online social networks and instead of going for a coffee together we “like” the photos of our friends’ coffee cups. We pretend we have many friends when we get 100+ birthday wishes via Facebook and live under the delusion that commenting on one's photo every now and then is enough to count as being a friend. Seeing someone's updates and photos and thus knowing what's happening in their lives does not mean they are your friends unless you also keep in touch with them in real life; otherwise it's virtually (pun intended) borderline stalking and that's just creepy. 

I keep wondering why asking someone out as a friend feels even harder than asking someone on a date. I guess the rejection by someone not wanting to be your friend is harder to face than someone not liking you in a romantic way. The latter is easier to understand - "they just don't like you in that way" - and it’s not as personal as the fear of someone not liking you at all.Why is it so hard for us to say we are lonely and would like to have more friends to spend real face to face time with instead of just FaceTime? Or am I really the only one without friends? 

Deep breath. And press "publish".

Comments

  1. It resonates, so I'm going to go ahead and tell you that, even though I've been reading your blog for a while (got here from Ravelry) but never really get around to leaving a comment. Cause, you know, what if you think it's weird that I'm a random person without a blog reading yours! Well, all my friends and family live far away too and I don't have anyone in my town to just hang out with, spontaneously grab a coffee or whatever. I'm quite a solitary person but sometimes I miss people more than I'd like to. So yeah, you're not alone in being alone!

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    1. Thanks for the comment! I was going to say it's nice to hear I'm not alone, but that just sounds wrong as it really isn't nice that anyone should feel lonely. But knowing there's other like me is comforting.

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  2. I know what you mean when you say it seems harder to ask someone out as a friend. Even after I've done the brave thing, I worry about having enough to say while we're out. It's not fun to see the other person struggling to think of something to say either. And then, I worry, will they think I'm weird because of something I said? And so on. I also live in a place far from family and friends (well, the friends are all spread out), but I've been lucky to find a knitting group that meets regularly that has helped fill the void. I still don't have that friend that I can call out anytime for coffee, though. Just haven't found anyone I'm comfortable complaining to like an old friend. So my husband has to put up with me. Thank goodness he's patient.
    PS I love that you teach Zumba. I love Zumba.

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    Replies
    1. I know there's a knitting group in my new home town, but I still haven't mustered the courage to join. It would be easier to go if there was at least one person I would know, but a whole room of people I don't know kind of terrifies me. Just like you wrote, I also worry about what to say and whether the others think I'm a complete idiot :) And nice to hear you love Zumba. Obviously I love it too ;)

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    2. You can do it! The best thing about joining a group is that you don't have to talk. You can just sit, smile, knit, and listen to others.

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  3. After finishing school, all my friends seemed to move away… except one. So I didn’t have that many friends to hang around with anymore, especially when my only friend started a family and didn’t have as much time to me as before. So I felt pretty lonely for several years… and then I found Ravelry! And there a knitters group from my hometown! It took me actually few years to gather my courage to actually participate a meeting for the first time. Oh, how I was nervous! But now, after five years, I’m so glad I finally participated and continued to do that (it took me quite a long time before I was ready to say more than just “Hi”)! I’ve found some really nice people to include in my life! And the best thing is that none of them ever get bored to talk about knitting, yarns, fibers, patterns, dying etc. :D So I really recommend to find out when and where your local knitting groups meet ;)

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    1. Kiitos vinkistä, selvitinkin jo paikallisen neulontakerhon sijainnin. Nyt pitää sitten vaan yrittää kerätä rohkeutta osallistumiseen, toivottavasti siihen ei kuitenkaan mun kohdalla mene paria vuotta :)

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  4. I just found your blog through Ravelry ... Just wanted to tell you that I know exactly how you feel. I'm also introverted and I don't mind being alone, in fact I quite like it. But I had to move to a different town because of a new job a few months ago and it feels different now because I have literally no friends now. No-one to talk to, to go to the movies or to drink a cup of coffee with - simple things you can't do by yourself without feeling weird. Plus, at this age, it's getting difficult to make new friends, everyone is getting married and having kids and they no longer have the time ... Being shy doesn't help. I actually never had many friends and I still never felt lonely, but I do at the moment. I agree, it really is a taboo topic in our society, but I'm glad you found the courage to publish your post ... because now you know there are other people that feel the same and even if it won't change your situation it might still make you feel a little better.

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  5. Like Natalja, I just found your blog after we became friends on Ravelry--this is actually the first post of yours that I've read. Your situation feels so familiar. I'm also an introvert, also very close to my partner, and also feel very inept when it comes to trying to make friends. Even worse (for me), is the pressure I feel when my introverted tendencies and desire to be alone cause me to shy away from burgeoning friendships; I tend not to invest in new friendships because I worry that they will demand too much of my time and emotional energy.

    I do think, though, that these days a lot of people want more real-life friendship, and that asking someone on a friend date is actually becoming more normal and socially-acceptable as people realize how their online life has affected their style of interaction, making friendships based on in-person conversation and shared activities harder to initiate and maintain. I say go for it! And tell us about it so that the rest of us introverts feel confident to do the same.

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