Hello and welcome to our advice column, Ask MR, where we answer your burning questions, hoping we’ll become the ointment to your life rash. Ask us a question by sending one of us a DM, emailing firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “ASK MR A QUESTION,” or simply leaving one in the comments.
“How does one make new, interesting, loving, and honest friendships in their twenties? I feel like everyone is ‘taken’ by a solid circle of friends and not interested in meeting new people. I’ve made some new friends since I went to uni, but they all live further away. I would love to have people close by to have dinner and drinks with, but where and how to meet these people? I have no clue. Hopefully you do. If your genius minds don’t know either, I’m scared what will become of me.”
To open on a completely transparent note, this is the third draft I’ve written of this letter. I’ve rewritten, tweaked, sought counsel from others, and what I’ve come away with is the realization that there’s no recipe for success when it comes to making friends as an adult. I know this sounds disheartening, but stay with me.
In the last decade, I’ve lived in three different cities in two different countries. With each move came dizzying periods of wanting friends, finding friends, having friends, repeat. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about friendships along the way, it’s that they very rarely exist in the real world the way so many (too many!) TV shows and movies would lead us to believe. When I was still in school, I assumed I would grow up to have a tight-knit group of friends who lived in each other’s pockets, constantly eating, drinking, and hanging out together. It was an expectation I carried with me for most of my twenties to the detriment of my emotional health and, ironically, my friendships. It’s an expectation I think you might be familiar with.
In your letter, you write that you want “interesting, loving, and honest friends” and “people close by to have dinner and drinks with.” The first expectation I’d like you to rethink is that these friends have to be the same people. You say that you have some new friends, but that they live far away. What are those friends like? Are they funny, kind, and genuine? If so, I would hate for you to exclude them from your pool of potential “interesting, loving, and honest” friends, just because they don’t live close enough to grab dinner after class. There are so many different kinds of friendships—online friends, work friends, long-distance friends—that all have the potential to enrich your life in their own unique way. To close yourself off to friendships that don’t fit your expectations of what it means to have, and be, a best friend is to potentially miss out on something really special.
By getting comfortable with the fact that your best friends may not be those who are physically closest or most available, you will hopefully find that you have space for more casual friends to do things like get drinks with. The joy that casual friends and acquaintances can bring to your life is so often overlooked. Not only can they bring laughter and company, each has the potential to grow into a close friend over time—something many of us forget requires patience.
If you want something tangible to hold onto while you embark on this friend search, you may find solace in the 2018 study that discovered it takes around 200 hours to make a close friend. What I personally love about this study is that it reminds me how malleable and ever-changing friendships are. Nobody automatically starts out as a close friend—it almost always takes time. Some friendships do happen in an instant, but those are as rare as falling in love at first sight (if that’s even something you believe in). So, I want you to look around. You might not feel like you have the close friend you seek right now, but do you know anybody who has potential? And if so, are you willing to give that friendship time and space to grow? You might be surprised by who comes to mind.
As for having people to grab food or drinks with: Do you know anyone who would go get a drink with you if you asked? If you can think of at least one person who would say yes, you already have the kind of friend you are searching for. Because—and I want you to remember this next time you’re feeling down—you don’t have to have dinner with a friend every week to be a person who has friends to have dinner with. You don’t have to meet a friend at the same cafe every morning to have a friend to grab a coffee with.
You finished your letter saying that you’re scared of what will become of you if you don’t find your people soon. My advice? Don’t be. Until you find the friends you dream of, you’re simply a person who is looking for friends—and there is nothing wrong with that. Admitting that to yourself means you will eventually find comfort in admitting it to others. Because, at the end of the day, the best way to find a friend is to act like you’re looking for one. It may seem like everyone’s social life is worked out except yours, but I promise that’s not as true as it seems. There’s no doubt in my mind that at least somebody you know in a tight friendship circle is open to meeting other people, they might just be waiting for you to make the first move.
Making new adult friends is famously hard because people and life are famously complicated. I can’t tell you where you will find your friend or how you will become close, but I promise you that it will happen if you open yourself up to the possibility of all kinds of friends, remember you’re not alone in your desires, and appreciate that these things take time.
Ask MR Identity by Madeline Montoya.