Brandy Jensen, The Outline’s social media editor, has made a lot of mistakes in her life. Has she learned from them and become a wiser person as a result? Hahaha oh gosh no. But it does leave her uniquely qualified to tell you what not to do — because she’s probably done it.
I'm struggling with not having any friends after college. I was dumped a few months ago and I recently moved to a new city and I can’t seem to meet people. I'm working 72-plus hour weeks, so I don’t really have time to join clubs or see a therapist. I feel miserable and am looking for any advice on how to feel better and make new friends.
While actually not having a single person with whom I can hang out — even as an acquaintance — is new, I’ve been lonely and depressed as long as I can remember. With my old group of friends I always felt like I was forgotten and left out. I’m not able to hold conversations, and I feel like I come across as weird whenever I try to talk to new people.
All the generic self-help/talk to strangers/change-your-image-of-yourself advice that I see isn’t very helpful and there probably isn’t anything you can say that will make this any easier, but emailing you seemed like a better way to process how I’m feeling than Googling “I have no friends” for the fifth time today.
Here are a few things I have easily admitted about myself, in public settings: That I still experience immense guilt about my divorce, that I once fucked an actual clown, that I have struggled with suicidal ideation, and the time I woke up to discover a cheeseburger under my pillow, and then ate it.
Here is something that I rarely, if ever, disclose: I am often overwhelmed by a terrible, howling loneliness. Depression tends to flatten my experience of the world, and grief has lately made it sharp, but loneliness is the thing that really forecloses; it is the sense that whatever I am doing or feeling it will not be shared or understood, that I will be unknown.
It’s a hard thing to admit, and I’m very glad you wrote me about it. It’s strange the things we admit and those we don’t. Despite a general disposition toward vulnerability — on social media, at least, many of us are willing to freely say we’re depressed or anxious or want to die — we seem loathe to admit we are lonely. It feels like a personal failing — to admit we have trouble making friends, to bend toward care and be met with indifference. Besides, the message the world is constantly hammering out is that this is the era of connection! It’s so easy to stay in touch! If you are not constantly awash in the joy of companionship, well — that sounds like a you problem, right?
You say that you have trouble making friends because you say the wrong thing and come across as weird. Maybe you are strange and not a particularly good conversationalist, but have you met other people? The world is full of weirdos and snobs and people who went to Harvard. I am almost certain you’re no worse than them. I think your problem is both simpler and more deeply entrenched. You are an adult in a time when the architecture of the world is designed to keep us separated from each other all while telling us we are ever-less alone.
Also, give yourself a break. You just moved to a new city presumably for this job at which you spend all of your waking hours. Making friends post-college is difficult enough when you actually have the time to do it.
I won’t condescend to you by suggesting you take up running or quilting or bringing baked goods to the office. Nor will I tell you to embrace this time and really get to know yourself or some such bullshit; if your early twenties are for finding yourself, the rest of your adulthood is for forgetting what you found. I would urge you to make time for therapy, since a therapist is in a better position to offer specific and detailed advice and also everyone should be in therapy basically all the time.
Your feelings are not silly and you should not try to ignore them. I suspect long-suffered loneliness drives our worst instincts as people — spite and cruelty flourish alongside it. The yearning for friendship; our sometimes desperate needfulness; these are things we should embrace rather than be ashamed of. Please keep trying. It takes time but I assure that while making friends as an adult can be difficult it is not at all impossible. And in the meantime remember that while you are lonely, you are not alone in that.
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