Dear Ann Cannon • Ugh. How do you make friends when you’re in your 30s?
— Not in College Anymore
Dear Not in College • Sometimes it’s tempting for people my age (old) to romanticize what our 20s and 30s were like. We were fit! We had energy to burn! We still had good skin in spite of not using sunscreen! We didn’t ask people to repeat themselves! We didn’t feel like putting on our pajamas at 5:30 p.m. and going to bed at 7:30!
Spending time with my adult kids, however, reminds me of the challenges that you face at your age — and feeling socially isolated after leaving college can be one of them. So here are a few ideas that might help you:
1. Generate a list of all the things that interest you or that could possibly interest you. Then seek out like-minded people. This is where the internet can actually help instead of further isolating you. Go to meetup.com. Like to knit? There’s a Meetup group for that. Like to drink AND knit? There’s a Meetup group for that, too. And as long as you’re on the internet, participate on discussion boards. One of my sons met people who way later became his friends and coworkers in real time.
2. Speaking of real time, be a joiner. Join a book club. You can find one on meetup.com. In addition, local libraries and bookstores often sponsor book clubs that are open to the public. If you’re religiously inclined, join a congregation. Like to write? Join a writers group. You get the idea.
3. Speaking of joining, join a gym. Or something gym-ish. Take up kickboxing or Jazzercise or yoga or tap dancing. People often bond when they sweat together.
4. Take a night class. I met one of my dearest friends in a night class at Westminster College.
5. Volunteer. Go online to find service opportunities. Or become a docent at an art museum or aviary.
6. Get a part-time job at a place that dovetails with your interests, like a ski shop or a bookstore or a garden center in the spring. (I did work at a Taco Time once, but not necessarily because I like tacos.)
7. Buy or adopt a dog and go to a dog park. I’m only half-joking here. I remember meeting a young man with a St. Bernard puppy once. After I finished mauling the puppy (so much fun!), I said to him, “I’ll bet you get a lot of attention from the girls these days, don’t you?” Let’s just say the young man grinned from ear to ear. Dude knew what he was about.
8. Go to the places where people hang out. Like coffee shops, for example.
OK. Now that you’ve positioned yourself to meet people, it’s time to take the next step. Reach out. Smile. Introduce yourself. Be friendly. Strike up conversations. Extend an invitation to meet for breakfast or lunch. Connecting can be hard — even a little scary at first. But allow yourself to be vulnerable and see what happens.
Meanwhile, a few weeks ago I answered a question from a woman who wanted advice for dealing with her mother’s estate now that the mother is in a care center. As more than one person pointed out, I neglected the most obvious answer — ask the mother what she wants. Yikes! Of course!
I especially liked this response from a reader:
“I come from a family of six siblings. Our father recently sold his property and moved into an assisted living facility. He made all the arrangements on his own. My advice to Wants to Do Right is to have the mother make her own decisions. As much as possible, have her decide on what to do. Also, we found that selling the property and putting the money in the bank gives our dad a measure of security. He keeps the money for as long as he lives. It has been a smooth process. And we six siblings have been spared the need to be in a potentially divisive situation.”