Bridging the friendship gap

High school pals are moving on … I feel left behind.

Our elder has a few ideas on how to reconnect with old friends and where to find new ones.

Dear EWC:

Hello!! I’m 19 years old and, in essence, I’m having trouble making friends. I had a group of friends in high school and since I commute to college, I still see a few of them. But they’ve also made other friends and have started going off in a different direction.

I feel left behind and, to be totally honest, I do begrudge them a little for starting to move on when I haven’t. I don’t want to but I’m so hurt about it that I can’t help but take it out on them, just a little (a snide comment here and there, for example) but I want to stop. I don’t want to be “that” person and I feel like it would be easier to stop if I just could make friends and get out there but I don’t know how. I have friends at school, sure, but none are the type of friends that I’d hang out with and I don’t know if they’re interested in making friends to hang out with.

My school is a commuter school and a lot of people just hang out with their high school friends that are still around. I have friends at work but, again, work friends are not exactly hangout friends. What do I do? I don’t want to be bitter about my high school friends starting to move on and I don’t want to be the person that couldn’t move on too. A lot of my friends have secondary groups of friends and boyfriends or girlfriends and I don’t and I just don’t know how.

Any help is very, very appreciated. Thanks.

TwoBitsWorth replies:

I have to say your feelings struck home. That’s because I experienced the same sense of being left behind when I went to college—one that also attracted commuters.
The good news is that you don’t begrudge your high school friends the chance to move on. That tells me a lot about your maturity. On the other hand, you are feeling a bit unsettled. Notice I didn’t focus on “in need of friends.” Let me explain why. Whenever you change your surroundings, old patterns may fade away and we love predictability. I mean, you probably had a favorite place to eat while in high school. Perhaps you went to sports events on the weekends. Regardless of your activities, things have changed a little and that to me only makes the task of finding new friends even more “important.”

I put that in quotes because how many friends do you really need at this point? One, three, more? I guess what I’m saying is you may be well served to identify the handful of friends who still may be available to you for activities. My guess is you may have half of the group you counted on before…or maybe even less. Even if you’re down two or three, keep them close—but not to the point of being possessive. Enjoy what you do with them as you grow your acquaintances. Notice I did not say friends. You need to start slowly and build relationships—first as acquaintances and then, over time, as friends.

What kind of people might you link with and where do you find them? Generally, people flock to things they like to do. What do you find interesting? Sports, music, work? This is where you will find people who may interest you. Yes, work may not initially be a source of pals but that could change. People you meet in classes may evolve from classmates to acquaintances to friends.

All this takes time, and you shouldn’t expect overnight success with people. Put another way, my guess is that some people have tried to make your acquaintance—with no luck. That doesn’t mean you’re not a nice person. It just means we naturally wait for the right personality mix. Meanwhile, why not really throw yourself into school and work? The result will be better grades, maybe more money, and less focus on socializing. Friends will come and new patterns will emerge. Really.
Also, do you think you are the only person who’s feeling a bit disconnected? Of course not… The only thing is that fellow students don’t go around with signs on their backs saying, “Feeling lonely and missing high school,” even though many are.
Okay? You will do great. Just have patience and feel good about the fact you qualified for school and are employed, Hope this helps. Feel free to write back.

Letter: 416526
Category: Friendship

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