Moving in any stage of life is a challenge. Once the basic needs are taken care of and you are able to locate the grocery store, a couple of restaurants, the nearest gas stations and have settled into a routine, the next need comes into play. The need for community and friends. When I was growing up and moved, you were thrown into a pool of peers, almost like forced socialization. When I moved as a newlywed we had the freedom with time and flexibility to meet other young couples. As we transitioned into the early stages of family and moved, again, that stage of life seemed to naturally create an opportunity for friends, motherhood is a time of desperation that brings you together with others struggling in similar life journeys. Early stages of parenthood gave way to connections when the kids entered elementary school and often crossed over into the nearby church we attended. So making friends, while sometimes daunting, in each situation had an obvious “entry point.”
This most recent move, however, has created a new set of difficulties in the realm of friendship. We have moved to an area of the country that is more static with people moving in and out, compared to where we were in Texas. In Texas, there was always a new person who had moved to town and we all had been that new person at one point or another. We welcomed them, just as we had been welcomed. Invited to lunch after church, asked to join other families for a get-together, or every person just made a point to continually greet one another and talk to one another when we ran into one another. Community happened with ease. In our new home in our new state, people have their “set” circle. Comically it reminds me of “Meet the Fockers” and the “Inner Circle of Trust.” To break that circle takes an inordinate amount of time, which brings me to my next challenge. The current reality of my children’s schedules. They are active, smart and involved. I do not plan to change that, however, that severely limits my ability to direct my focus to other things. Namely the time that it would take to “break” into a circle. So I write this letter:
Dear New Friend,
My family came here by unusual circumstances. We were not prepared to move here. We thought our children would graduate from the school district where they had started Kindergarten in Texas.
The decision to be where we are now was one that took an adjustment. We left a lot of things that we enjoyed. Great schools, great friends, awesome grocery stores, incredible restaurants, and a church home. One unusual tidbit, I grew up here in Arkansas, graduated from both high school and college in this state, my parents, sister, and family, and youngest brother and family live in the state, along with an aunt, uncle, and cousins. However, we have not found community here.
Our kids are adjusting, but we worry. We really hope they won’t hate us and they will find life-long friends here and keep the friends that they left behind.
We didn’t come here altogether. It was so hard for us to make our kids leave the only home they had ever known that we tried for me to stay with the kids in Texas while my husband worked in Arkansas. We made the choice to become a two household-still marriage intact family (despite all the rumors of divorce that surfaced). We worked hard to make it work. It kind of did. However, the it kind of didn’t was what brought us together in our current residence as a family after a year apart. My kids still wish we had tried harder to keep up the two households.
Don’t get me wrong. Our kids are great. They have adjusted and made the best of things. They excel in their academics and extra-curricular activities. However, they aren’t making those deep friend connections I would hope they would have by now to the extent I had hoped, and I can’t help thinking that is because I am not making friends either.
I had great friends in Texas. I also have a few great friends from the places I moved before Texas. I think if you met them, they would tell you I am a good friend. Serious, but funny. Will love your kids like I love my own. Loyal like a labrador. Love my husband. Struggle with some of my childhood experiences. Love my immediate family fiercely. Probably brag too much about my amazing kids… see there?
I want to have great friendships here too. However, there seems to be a lockdown on getting into the friendship circles here that is like Fort Knox, and I don’t have the time or the will to figure out the combination.
I am going to lay it bare here in this letter. My hope is that someone will read it and like it. Maybe you will give things a shot or when you do read, even if you don’t live close to me, you will give that new girl at work, at your kids basketball game or at church a little more of a smile, offer her an invite to coffee, or just chat her up a bit and take the edge off of her attempt at making friends. Trust me, I have put on a brave face, attempted to insert myself into a “set” circle and been “ghosted.” (By the way, I didn’t realize at forty-six adult women can make you feel like a teenage loser like in high school!)
Back to a little about me. I hate to exercise but try to because I know it is best. I love to read but with my schedule, I have become an avid audiobook-phile. I like to craft but rarely do because of time. Not huge into cooking although I am not bad at it. Like to bake, but only from about October 1st to the end of February. I also love dark beers, a glass of most kinds of wine, a good gin and tonic, or a cranberry vodka. I am a huge college football fan but not so much an NFL fan. My favorite outfit is yoga pants, a soft t-shirt, and bare feet, however, most of the time you will see me dressed semi-casually in typical 40-something appropriate outfits with my TOMs wedges, wishing I was in my yoga pants, t-shirt and bare feet. I have two dogs, two cats, and a pet snake. I have a gift of learning a little bit about someone and determining based on that information what wine they like or would like… I have been given the name of #winefairy, and I carry that honor with pride. I love the idea of going to social events, trying new restaurants and experiencing community, but when push comes to shove, I am a homebody at heart.
Church has been a constant throughout my life, but the real relationship between me and Jesus has been more real in the past twenty years of my life than it was from age 0-26. If you were to try to put who I am on a t-shirt it would say “I love Jesus, I cuss a little, drink a little more, and love hard.”
In addition to all this, I am a public educator and am passionate about excellence in PUBLIC education. Other than Jesus, I believe education is the key to transforming lives. I am passionate about this part of my life, too.
So here it is. Take it or leave it, but this is who I am and I think it is pretty o.k. I am not sure why making friends has been more difficult this time. It hasn’t been for lack of attempts on my part.
If you have read this far, thank you. I hope as you read this it encourages you to be open, reach out to the “new people” in your path and invite them into your “circle.” This may not improve my current friend situation, but it makes me hopeful. After all, I am a good friend material who wouldn’t want to be my friend!