We should catch up! Navigating friendships in my thirties

There’s something difficult about moving to a new place in the twilight of your 20s. I’m sure it’s difficult at any time in your life, but in my circumstance I’ve noticed a few things that made finding friends a difficult task now I’m 32.

By 30, the majority of my friends were married, buying, bought or building a house and making babies. Time is preciously divided between immediate family, domestic duties, work, extended family (if your lucky) and those close friendships formed in the more carefree time-filled glory of our 20s.

I have those friends. But they’re now 4240km away on the other side of Australia.

You put your feelers out, but for someone who’s been burned before, those feelers get a little sensitive. You see people are nice, sometimes too nice, when you put in the effort to see if there’s a friendship click they’re not going to turn you away. But if life is too busy for the work required to build that friendship further, the acquaintance becomes awkward. You cross paths and exchange a brief but non-committal “how are you doing? We should catch up soon.” Everyone goes on their way and nothing happens, until maybe that acquaintance feels so guilty that they haven’t gifted their time to you, a time and place is finally agreed upon. So begins the cycle again. And there’s nothing inherently wrong with this, unless you’re trying to find connection in a new town, and it’s these moments that can make you feel like a desperado no one wants. The charity friend.

My problem is, if I like someone, genuinely like them, I try. I love connection so I reach out. Coffee dates, hang outs, dinners. And often, before I realise that every social moment has been orchestrated solely by me, it’s too late…I like them, and desperately want them to like me too. So I back off. I test the friendship, do they like me? Surely they’ll want to spend time with me if they do? And when no phone call or text is forthcoming it hurts, and I close off a little bit more to protect myself.

I can’t blame them. It’s not their fault, it’s more to do with my own insecurities. They’ve already got people in their life to invest in. It comes as no surprise that I’ve started to find the close friendships, the reciprocated ones, with other travellers, other recently arrived people. They’re the ones reaching out to share life with someone.

What’s more – I’m guilty. I’ve had charity friends, as if providing my company to them is a sort of service to Jesus. How patronising.

The answer for my life has been to fix what’s within, being content with one or two good/reciprocated friendships and letting go of needing validation from every other person I share caffeine with. Choosing to love on those occasional acquaintances, instead of loading them with expectation. But allowing other friendships the time and effort to develop – not patronising people with my time, but letting Jesus show me what actual connection and love looks like with his creation.

I don’t care if your floors haven’t been vacuumed for three weeks, or the rubbish bag is on the balcony because you couldn’t be stuffed walking the extra 10 metres to the big bin. I don’t care if you’re wearing track pants and sitting on the couch with your feet up while the kids strew torn newspaper over the house. I don’t care if there’s no coffee, or morning tea snacks. I just want to hang out and chat.

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