4 Tips To Cultivate Community Where You Are
There I was, alone once again on a Saturday night. I was twisted up in my comforter as I scrolled aimlessly through my Instagram feed. I scrolled through pictures of places, people, and, yes, couples nuzzling up to one another. But, for once, it wasn’t the couples that pricked the corners of my jealous heart, but the friends. I was so insanely jealous every time I saw a group of girls huddling together, going out together for a night on the town, or even old friends from my college reuniting. Each perfectly executed picture and stylized caption was a reminder that I was all alone.
Yes, I was still able to call and text my college friends, but I couldn’t have them physically beside me to fill the void on a random Saturday night. It was like my entire Instagram feed was reminding me that I had moved to Lancaster four months ago and I had barely any friends to show for it.
I was so lonely for good solid friendships. They weren’t happening overnight like I thought they would. I had moved to Lancaster fresh out of college and had the naive idea that I would have a group full of long-term best friends by the end of the summer. Oh, and it would be a perfectly balanced group of guys and girls, just like on Friends. But instead of that new group of best friends, I had a much different summer experience.
I found myself overwhelmed with my first big girl job, so it was hard to make myself go to the young adult groups on nights after work. And the times I did muster up the courage to go, I always felt so awkward and so out of place, like I was constantly out of the loop or the one not getting the joke. On Sundays, I sat by myself in the back of the church and left feeling empty after each service as I walked to my car by myself while others raced off to brunch and other activities together.
I know that there are plenty of women out there just like me reading this post. Women who are looking to cultivate deeper friendships or communities in their areas. Though this is not an easy venture, I am here to tell you that after months of loneliness, I did eventually find those friends I was craving. But the road wasn’t easy. I had to put in the effort. If you are looking to find more authentic friendships right where you are, consider these four steps below.
1. Be the invitation
Making friends in college is easy because, for the most part, everyone around you is in the same boat. You all walk into freshman orientation wide-eyed and full of fears about college, desperate to find some friends and make some memories. Everyone wants to be your friend in college, so it doesn’t take much effort to make them in the first place. Plus, college campuses are constantly throwing events to connect people, and once you find your people, friendship is as easy as asking your roommate to walk to the dining hall and get dinner.
Unfortunately, the real world is not like that. No one is going to come up to you at a small group or young adult group or at work and say, hey, do you want to be best friends? Like kids used to do to one another on the playground. But here’s a little secret: even though it's not the same as college people still have the same basic human desires. They want to be invited.
That’s why the first step to making a solid group of friends is to be the invitation. You can wait for someone to make the first move and ask you to coffee, but it’s likely to result in you hanging out by yourself watching Queer Eye every Saturday night. However, you have the opportunity to ask the people you interact with to hang out. This can be as simple as if you just shared a good conversation with the girl behind you at church, follow up, get her number, and ask her to get coffee. It can be less intimidating to just ask someone in your small group to get dinner. You can even ask a group of girls you just met at your church to get together with you if you are intimidated by the idea of talking with someone one-on-one that you don’t know well.
I know it can be scary to ask someone to do something with you, but the rewards are so worth it. You can’t control if people meet you and ask you to hang out, but you can control what you do. And you have the ability to reach out to those people that you sense could be really good friends. Make it a goal to see how many coffee dates you can get in a month. When I was trying to make friends, I tried to hang out with someone I didn’t know every two weeks. Yes, we didn’t always click, but I was no longer sitting in my bed all alone on Saturday nights.
2. Get comfortable with rejection
Sometimes people just aren’t going to want to hang out with you. This can manifest in many different ways, because normally girls aren’t ruthless enough to say no point blank to your face. However, they might: ghost your text, beat around the bush but never set a time to hang out, or just keep making excuses.
When I moved to Lancaster there was a girl from my college who lived in the area. We hadn’t been friends in college, but I talked to her one time when I saw her at the gym and thought it would be easy to get her to be my friend. After all, we had so much in common just coming from the same alma mater. So I crafted a perfectly fun and inviting Facebook message asking if she would want to get ice cream or coffee sometime. She left me on read. Luckily, I never saw her at the gym again.
But, instead of obsessing over why she didn’t respond or thinking it has to do with me as a person, I realized it was a blessing. Because I didn’t want to be friends with someone who just pity went out with me or didn’t like me enough to get coffee. I wanted friends who loved me and appreciated me. Now, she could’ve been busy or not even seen my message, but even if she did, I know that she didn’t really know me well enough to reject me.
As you go into the process of putting yourself out there to make friends, you might get some nos. But just like what old women tell you with dating, every no gets you closer to the right one, or in this case, the better friends. So don’t waste your time crying over people who rejected the idea of you over who you actually are. Your identity is firm in who Christ says and called you to be. Lean on that when rejection gets tough.
3. Work on yourself
Have you ever thought about the qualities you wanted in a friend? Maybe you wanted someone who was loyal, a good listener, encouraging, etc. Now, have you ever stopped to take stock of how you are as a friend? It’s easy for us when looking for friends to idealize the type of person that we want, however, we need to be honest with ourselves to see if we would attract the types of friends we want.
Are we exhibiting the qualities we want to other people? Do we want a friend who would pray with us and encourage us in our faith, yet we aren’t doing that with any of our current friends? Use this time as an opportunity to work on your own friendship skills. You may be surprised by what you are lacking.
4. Follow Up
That’s right friends, unfortunately, it isn’t just enough to ask someone on a coffee date one time. You need to ask them again. If you think about it, a deep relationship can’t be formed over a one-hour coffee session. Relationships take time and continued effort, so if you hang out with a girl and you realize that she has potential to be a really good friend, don’t be afraid to invite her to hang out again.
Friendship is a lot like the early stages of dating, you are evaluating someone to see if they are worthy of your investment long term. Some of the girls you first meet, won’t be, and that’s okay - we can’t be best friends with everyone. God will put specific people for us to impact into our lives, so we don’t need to feel bad about the times we go out with people and just don't click.
But, just like with dating, you can’t go on one date with someone and then be ready to marry them. No, you have to go on many dates for many months or years to establish if they are the person for you. The same is true for friendships. So be patient. True, deep friendships don’t appear after one coffee date, or even two, but they are worth waiting for. Make sure that you follow up with the people you’ve hung out with. Don’t let your pride keep you from asking them to spend more time together if you had fun!
I hope these tips can help the girls out there that feel utterly lost finding community. I know that if I hadn’t taken these steps, I would just be as lonely as ever, laying in my bed every weekend. So put in the effort, put yourself out there, and take the steps to find those forever friends in your area today. I promise you that the process is worth it.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Rachel resides in Lancaster, Pa where she is a Digital Marketing Specialist. A recent graduate from Grove City College, Rachel hopes that her articles can help girls through hard times in college and also as they transition into the real world. In her spare time, you can find Rachel reading, hanging with her small group, exploring cute cafes, and longing for the ocean. You can find more of her writing at christiangirlcode.org