A (Not So) Successful Guide to Making Friends in Your Twenties

I haven't had many successful friendships, but you learn more from your failures, right?

I can’t pinpoint exactly when my best friend and I became “us.” High school was a blur of late theater rehearsals, poetry essays and awkward social encounters. I remember the moment when we first met, it was like a scene straight out of an angsty teenage sitcom. I snuck out of freshman Biology, bored out of my mind, and hid in the girl’s bathroom. I pushed open the door and there was a girl bent over the sink, rubbing her bellybutton with some rubbing alcohol concoction; it looked slightly infected. I knew her name and passed her in the hallway, but we’d never had a real conversation. We didn’t really have one that day either; I asked her if everything was okay and she reassured me that she was fine, continuing to clean the fresh piercing. Here’s where it’s not like a movie–we didn’t instantly become inseparable.

Our friendship didn’t come to true fruition until senior year, when we were both heavily involved in our school’s theatre program. I can’t really explain how it happened, but we became “us” in a matter of months. We would order takeout from Chili’s, combining every possible coupon we could until the meal was basically free, and proceeded to gorge ourselves while watching Family Guy reruns. We’ve seen each other through countless messy breakups, casual hookups and ignorant shopping sprees. Three years ago, she moved to Orlando, FL for an internship and still lives there. We visit each other periodically and while we cannot spend every waking second together, our friendship is stronger than ever.

Ever since she moved away, I haven’t been able to maintain many lasting friendships. Everyone I talk to says it’s especially hard to make friends in your twenties, but I disagree; making friends is hard at any age. When you’re young, it’s whoever your mom arranges to have over for a playdate. Yeah, your friends are hand-picked for you, but chances are they are boring little shitheads. Middle school doesn’t get much better, because now all those playdates have morphed into worse versions of their younger selves. And then there’s high school… fuck that place. It’s nothing more than a gross cesspool of pimple-picking, hormone-infested drones who care about nothing more than Snapchat stories and slim waistlines.

I turned twenty-one in March, and the past few months have got me thinking a lot about friendships. Every day, I see more pictures on my Instagram of friends on vacation, friends on road trips and at music festivals. Not going to lie, it gets me pretty pissed off, but I’m trying to rethink how I approach the subject. And, just because I haven’t had much success in the friendship department doesn’t mean I haven’t picked up a few tricks throughout my endeavors. Here are three relatively easy things to consider before diving head first into your next potential companion.

1. Chill the Fuck Out

You’re not going to make any friends if you’re a stressed-out, anxiety-ridden lunatic who constantly talks about how busy she is. Keep it up and you’re just going to come across as a coked-out loser living on white wine and Moleskin notebook planners. Take a break from being the “you” that you think people want to meet and just be “you.” Breathe and remember: having friends isn’t the most important thing in the world. Don’t let your need for companionship make you lose sight of the fact that you can be self-sufficient. I tend to torpedo every friendly encounter I find myself in. On the inside, I’m deeply insecure, so I attempt to compensate by exuding a fuck-ton of self-confidence. The confidence becomes nauseating and steers people away, and if it’s not that, it’s my need to fill every second of silence with specific jokes showcasing my diverse sense of humor. When meeting people, keep conversation light and general. Sure, throw in a few yucks about your favorite TV show, but don’t be so specific that you alienate their opinions and views. Don’t freak out, don’t lose your shit and don’t get ahead of yourself.

2. Get Out and Do Something. But Not a Book Club. They Suck.

I’m a person who likes my routine. I like an evening shower, a nighttime rerun episode of “The Office,” a pint of Halo Top and bag of cool ranch Doritos. But, I’ve come to the realization that as comforting as Michael Scott and cotton pajama bottoms are, I’m not going to magically make new friends sitting on my butt elbow-deep in a bag of Chex Mix. Call cliché bullshit on me, but going out is the perfect opportunity to meet people…unless you really want to try Meetup.com.

Check out the hot happenings around your hometown (my face broke out in hives as I typed that alliteration) and see what interests you. And here’s the part where I couldn’t be clearer…what interests you. Don’t go to a craft festival because you assume women with severe cat attachment issues will be there. More importantly, ask yourself why you’re seeking friendship with lonely, deranged feline fanatics. Take a good, long look at yourself sweetheart, this is not who you want to be. But, I’m getting off track. Go to things you have an interest in. If you like movies, attend a local film festival, characteristic for their culture and inexpensive tequila. Like to hit the bars? Try a pub, a dive-bar, karaoke bar or anything else that’s just a slight enough variance so you can convince yourself you’re being adventurous.

Image via The Road Trip Guy

But let’s be real for a second, I get that having an active social life increases your chances of being healthier, happier and married to a rich bazillionare, but if being a social butterfly isn’t your thing, then who gives a fuck? If you’re convinced you’ll be happier in bed, bathing yourself in face mask samples from Sephora and cheese curds, then do it. I’m just a self-indulgent writer who doesn’t know what she’s talking about, and for the record, I’d rather be with you right now. I love me some Wisconsin cheddar.

3. Know Who You Are and What You Bring to the Table

The happier and more confident you are, the more people will be drawn to your positive vibes. Don’t try so hard, just be yourself. I haven’t had much luck in the friendship department and over the past year I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s mostly my fault and I need to take the responsibility. I used to focus on what other people were doing: why didn’t she text me back or why didn’t he ask me to hang out again, but I rarely stopped to think about what I was doing. I’m not saying I’m a complete asshole, but everyone (myself included) has shortcomings they need to recognize and accept. I’m strong-willed, fiercely ambitious and have a pretty twisted sense of humor…seriously, I probably need to stop cracking so many dead baby jokes within the first hour of meeting someone.

All of these things probably make me undesirable to potential gal pals. And then, there’s my anal-retentive tendencies, my awkward social graces and crippling self-doubt. Phew, I’m surprised I just admitted that to a group of anonymous reader-strangers. However, I can say with total confidence that I am a good friend. I am compassionate, genuine and caring where it counts. I’ll listen to you drone on and on about the Starbucks barista you were convinced was hitting on you, even though I know “double foam” is not a euphemism for something sexual. Know who you are and be okay with that, because the more you accept yourself, the more others will too.

I know being a chill, adventurous woman who is 100% okay with herself is a lot to ask, but I know you can handle it. It won’t be easy, and there will be times ahead full of failure and defeat. You’ll meet some new people at Summerfest, convince yourself they’re your long-lost BBFs, and then never hear from them again. Heartbroken, but hell-bent, you’ll pick yourself up and start again. It’s what we (not so) grown ass woman are famous for: our uncommon resilience to get back up and try.

Tatianna Salisbury, Northern Illinois University

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Tatianna Salisbury

Northern Illinois University

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