No one told me that being adult would be this difficult. Actually that’s not true, I heard that all the time I just had some sort of complex and refused to believe it. Youth…
What I actually wasn’t told was the secret to making friends once you leave school, don’t have a job….and are living in a foreign country.
In the beginning, there were way too many nights (actually entire days) spent with my computer. One day, once my passionate relationship with Netflix had faded to self loathing, I realized that I needed human contact, immediately. I did what most millennials do when they want friends, I searched the inter-webs. This is when I came across a weekly event hosted by Couchsurfing. I haven’t been particularly successful with Couchsurfing as a way to stay in a place for free, but I figured if I showed up I could get at least one person to talk to me.
I RSVP’d and within 10 minutes I had a message from another attendee asking me about the type of photography I was interested in and whether or not I wanted to be part of this project he was working on. Seemed both promising, if not a little strange. But, hey, even if it turned out to be nothing, I WOULD have at least one person to talk to when I got there.
About an hour before heading out I started to feel a little flushed in my face. It was happening. I don’t know how many times I’ve shown up somewhere – be it a hostel or a party – feeling as if I am going to vomit because I didn’t know a soul. Will this feeling ever go away? Probably not. But the entire time walking to the bar my palms were sweating profusely, and I had to choke down the feeling of just turning around and running home. Social anxiety is brutal. I thought traveling might have alleviated some of the symptoms, but I’ve learned that all I can do is fight through it.
I have this really bad habit of showing up WAY too early when I am nervous. The event started at around 8pm, I got there at 730, and people didn’t actually show up until around 10pm. So I sat myself at the empty bar, hoping that I didn’t look as petrified as I felt.
I pushed through the panic and the fear, doing something that, for me, was not easy. But after ordering a rather large alcoholic beverage one of the bartenders started a conversation with me. We ended up having a lot in common, including our chosen careers, and the panic slowly receded into something resembling fun. Through the bartender, I was introduced to more people, and by the end I was part of a clique. My loneliness had been cured for an evening.
I am still on the quest for friends, and have signed up for other activities, like hiking. I think building any type of relationship takes time. Chemistry is rare and attention spans short. I just can’t give up just yet.