I recently picked up and moved to a new city, to begin a new chapter of my life, but in all of the hustle and bustle of boxes and goodbyes, I forgot to prepare myself for that fear I remembered so well from the first day of kindergarten, college and my first job: I have to make new friends.
With all things familiar several hundred miles south, it was hard to ignore the absence of a go-to friend, someone to talk to about nothing and everything. Attempting to look on the bright side, I set a few goals for the months ahead. In order of importance: be more open-minded, do not hesitate if something intrigues me, and get more sleep.
In a matter of days, I arrived to class well-rested with an open mind, and voila, something intrigued me. Now for the detailed and non-sugar-coated version, I was actually lingering in the hallway outside of my first graduate-level business class. Well beyond five minutes late, I stood in the doorway, peering into a room full of men who were wearing suits and unamused expressions. Just before I took my seat, out of the corner of my eye, I was sure I had spotted a smile on the face of a stranger who was a dead-ringer for James Marsden. In a matter of seconds I politely acknowledged the return of my sixteen year-old self and waved goodbye to the shred of focus I hoped I could muster up for the remainder of this three-hour business class.
Not surprisingly, I have absolutely no idea what was covered in class that night, since I instead occupied my time conjuring up a socially acceptable opening line, given the fact that I had absolutely nothing to ask or tell. Inquiring about class was out, primarily because it is so uninteresting that I myself would stay clear of anyone who did. Besides, I was not paying attention. The three seconds of eye contact were not a justifiable basis either, since a late arrival to this class is analogous to a bomb detonating in any other place. Lastly, asking anything remotely personal would deem me a desperate stalker.
I had read “The Secret” on a flight to Colorado, momentarily enchanted at the ability to will things into your life through thought. About 20 pages in, I tucked that book into the seat-back pocket in front of me, for good. I was uninterested and harshly critical of anyone who fell for it, but I must admit that I did secretly and strongly hope that I would be assigned to the same semester project group as this person. Based on my amusing-to-others but horrible luck with scratch-off lottery tickets and fortune cookies, this was probably unlikely. So, either I have a new-found supernatural ability, or fate knew that I could have really used a friend. Our names were called and with a few minutes left in class, we were instructed to cover introductions and a very brief brainstorming session.
I do not remember the exact words we exchanged that night, but I know his were sharp and captivating. I also know that I probably overlooked some clever pun or enlightened retort, but I would soon hear my fair share. Over the next couple of weeks, I began to look forward to our conversations, entertained and at ease regardless of length or topic. Rather than your usual inattentive “checking in” repartee, we dove into sincere and purposeful thoughts, genuinely interested in what the other was saying, and able to pick up where we had left off.
Still, there was no rush to divulge every detail just yet, but rather we were revealing and discovering the little things at a slow, refreshing pace. Yes, I am still talking about a friendship, and one in which I was learning a lot about myself.
For example, I had made a comment about a friend in my pastâ€”quite cavalier in her regard for meâ€”who had recently resurfaced and attempted to fortify the remains of our friendship.
My new friend urged me to tread carefully around anyone who questioned my passions or my choices. He said there was nothing wrong with cutting my losses. I hadn’t quite realized how great of an impact my new friend had made in such a short amount of time. That is likely because most of our conversations take place over drinks, each time at yet another bar he recommended, citing each as â€˜perfect’. It turns out, he has a knack for discovering places that are everything you want and nothing you don’t, as far as bars go. Lively crowds, but pleasantly absent of annoyingly loud, over-dressed girls. Great musicâ€”as in a song you love, followed by a song you forgot you loved, without a hint of Britney Spears or Kanye West. In these places, it never takes more than a minute or two to get a drink, poured by a bartender in a wish-I-saw-it-first t-shirt. Just as promised: perfection.
I also treasure the always adventurous commute to our post-class drinks, which have become an excellent pre-established Thursday night tradition and the highlight of my week. As a side note, I am thoroughly impressed by my friend’s ability to dispense such thoughtful advice while holding on for dear life, contemplating whether to speak up to a female New Jersey driver who blatantly lies about having a good sense of direction.
Grateful for the rather frightening realization that I needed to make friends quickly in my new life, I took a chance, let my guard down, and discovered that it is possible to find a genuine friendship at this stage in life. What’s more, the rules of being friends with the opposite sex have, as far as I’m concerned, gone out the window.
Certainly I thought it naive to be unable to find fault in someone, but I knew this was nothing like the fast friendships I had made in the past. Those were usually with girls, and were based on some trivial set of values, masquerading as common interests. It was nothing like a high school boyfriend where passing notes and going to the movies on Fridays constituted a relationship. Instead of bonding over some shared activity, we became friends with each other because of who we are.
I have no problem admitting that I have outgrown many friendships from my past, but only recently did it occur to me that most of those friends were girls. At the risk of oversimplifying my logic, it is nothing more than the fact that guys do not “do” drama, are straightforward when I ask for advice, and they can “cut to the chase” so to speak. rather than exhausting the details of every single minute of the day. Also, a love of whiskey probably factors in here.
For now, at a time when life is and should be somewhat â€˜up in the air’ I find no comfort in the adage that things will get better with time. Rather, life throws you into times when each day is just as harrowing as the one before it, and you have to actively pursue people and passions that make the day worthwhile. What works for me is the reminder that after a long week of work, where papers replace parties and reading replaces sleeping; something as routine as a Thursday night business class is actually all I really need. The truth is, regardless of what is splashed across yet another PowerPoint presentation, I get to see my new friend and for a couple of hours, everything else sort of fades.