Stop Waiting For Permission: Finding New Friends In The City

April 7, 2015

Finding Friends in a New City

One of the hardest parts of my breakup last fall was the fact that many of my connections in Chicago were mutual friends with my ex.  While my ex and I are on good terms (I’m pug sitting for him while he’s on a trip for a week) and harbor no ill will towards each other, I came to the hard realization that the bulk of my connections in the city were his friends from college, and it was a tough time to get through a breakup with few people to grab a beer with on a Friday night.

For the last 3 years of the relationship, my social life was on the backburner.  I was working non-stop. I got promoted twice at my job as a social media manager (yay!) and any free time on weekends was spent working on my photography skills, writing for the blog or just playing catchup on laundry and house chores.  Usually, Friday night would roll around and catch me off guard.  If nobody had invited us out, it was just easier to work.

Fast forward to the person I am now- single, living in a new neighborhood and not saving or planning for a 200+ person wedding 2,000 miles away.  Through the breakup, I learned it was vital to work on activities that would fill me up, not just wear me down.  For years, I wasn’t afforded the luxury of leisure time- but then, my creativity and hustle started to suffer.  Now I am realizing that my reserves aren’t endless- I absolutely MUST schedule in time to be active, to be social and to rest.

This month, I’m going to focus on the social aspect of this equation.  Another Friday evening seemed to catch me off guard- did I have plans? Nope, but my friends did, or they were out of town.  I do not want to be that girl who calls the same 5 people to see what they’re doing at the last minute “hey, you want to grab a drink?” at 5:40pm on a Friday.  Increasingly, my friends (myself included) are booked up in advance, they have partners, some have business trips or kids that mean that impromptu visits to the bar are less and less frequent.

Being a social media manager and blogger, I have friends all over the country and even, the world.  I can ping or email at any time to get connected- but I started to realize that having more friends locally and planning things regularly (not as an afterthought when the long workweek ends) is crucial to my happiness.  All work and no play make Shannyn a crazy girl.

 

It’s time to cast a wider net. So, I’m doing a spring challenge:  Meet new people.

Originally, I was trying out eHarmony to meet new people…meaning guys, and I started to realize that wasn’t really a solution. Yes, dating is fun, and meeting in new restaurants with guys from a variety of backgrounds and neighborhoods is great- but I hated eHarmony (read that story here) and really didn’t like using the website.  Additionally, if you decide a guy would be an amazing friend, but not a potential boyfriend or husband, they typically aren’t too keen on being put in the friend zone.  Navigating the spectrum of expectations was tiresome at times…so not really my ideal pool to meet people from, as fun as it was.

 

I’m looking at joining Junior League Chicago– which I went to a prospective member meeting last fall, but I felt it wasn’t a good time to commit with wedding planning, since the heavy 6 month membership season would be during crunch time for my wedding.  About a month later, I was calling off the engagement and now, my life looks much different.  It’s time to revisit this.

I’ve also circled back with Meetup.com.  I used to use Meetup.com back in the day to socialize my pugs back in southern California.  I joined groups since then, but never had the motivation to go.  I’ve found now that since my time is limited, I need to find just a few that really stir my curiousity and interest and focus on just a few really impactful groups.

Many folks attend Meetups with good intentions, then never go back…or they join way too many groups and don’t focus on building substantial relationships with regular attendance.  Like with a church group or a running group, you get what you put in. I have to be committed to building relationships, otherwise it’s just a casual thing.  So far, I’ve attended a few dog related meetup groups, but hope to attend some for women entrepreneurs, local businesses or 20-30 somethings.

The dog meetup groups have been really fun.  Usually people bring food & drink for the people, and some even bring homemade dog treats for the pups, it’s really fun.  I feel that I’ve missed out on a big opportunity previously by not taking advantage of the huge amount of diverse meetup groups in Chicago, you can seriously find something for everyone.  They even have co-ed naked yoga…but I think I’ll pass.

 

So, I ask you- as you’ve gotten older and your friends have coupled up, settled down or simply had insane work schedules..or maybe you’ve moved, how did you find new friends in your location?

 

I’m going to keep y’all posted on how Meetup.com goes, and I need ideas on how to meet people on my wavelength….so far, I’ve met some amazing pug owners, but I haven’t build networks enough to do things outside the meetup events.  Thoughts?

 

You, by the way, are awesome.

27 comments so far.

27 responses to “Stop Waiting For Permission: Finding New Friends In The City”

  1. Andrea says:

    I moved to a new city by myself and knew no one. I joined a coed kickball sports league solo (they always need women) and a coed football team of my coworkers husband. 8 years later I am still friends with a lot of those people!

  2. Kat says:

    I moved to a new city and went with the Meetup route. I’ve had a few misses with that, but I joined an amazing book club and I’m signing up to be the organizer for it soon. There have definitely been some Meetups I attended once, then avoided going again, but I’ve made friends and gotten to know a great group of people as well. Plus, it gets me out and trying new areas of the city!

  3. These are two of my biggest tips for meeting people in new places! I moved to Omaha, Nebraska from Pennsylvania not knowing a soul other than my husband. Junior League, Meetup, and Young Professional organizations in my city helped me meet so many wonderful people that turned into good friends. Two other suggestions: reach out to bloggers in your area, some of my best friends are bloggers I met when I moved to Omaha! Also: social media! I can’t tell you how many people I’ve met up with because of Instagram pictures or Twitter conversations. It’s awesome!

    • Shannyn says:

      Isn’t it crazy (and awesome) how social media connects us these days? I’m glad those options exist, otherwise it would be a lot harder to meet people. Thanks for sharing your tips!

  4. Christine says:

    Shannyn,

    Long-time lurker, first-time I’ve commented. I’ve read your blog for quite some time, but over the past couple months I’ve found it so RELEVANT to me. My boyfriend of 3.5 years and I broke up a few weeks ago, and for various reasons I, too, am finding myself without a large social circle.

    Expanding my social circle is a necessity at this point, and I’ve been working on doing the following:
    * Find groups on Meetup. I live in Milwaukee and find the “new to town” groups the most active with participants interested in forming friendships.
    * Joining a book club
    * Reconnecting with old acquaintances. I’ve met quite a few people over the past couple years, but never really had the energy/time to hang out with them. It’s a little awkward to ask, but I think no one really minds 🙂
    * Finding events on Eventbrite, especially mixers/lectures. Anything I find interesting and is free.

    I’m also considering taking a class through the local recreation center, although I’m having a hard time limiting myself to one!

    In order to stay on budget, I’m limiting my spending on activities that bring joy without breaking the bank. For example, I don’t find going to the movies very social and would rather spend time with someone at happy hour. I’ve also given up brunch and its overpriced eggs. Dinner seems more special to me.

    And if you’re ever in Milwaukee, let me know! Could always use another friend.

    • Shannyn says:

      I’m so sorry to hear about the breakup, but I am glad that my posts have been useful for you. Thank you so much for sharing what’s been working for you! It seems like Meetup is the way to go. I hadn’t thought of Eventbrite!

  5. Amarilys says:

    OMG! I am totally going to similar experience! Meetup up is great and since I live in NYC, I pay attention to events that I notice coming up and just push myself to be a “yes” woman 🙂 I am in my last months of my grad school program and have discovered cool events I had no idea existed on this campus because I was constantly busy or emotionally drained in previous semesters to try to have some sort of social life. I still have trouble building lasting connections with new people, but I LOVE just hanging with random folk who like the same activities I do 🙂

  6. even though I’m married, my husband tends to be much busier than me with his career… so I’ve also been looking for ways to meet new people. I actually tried meetup.com to try meeting up with other bloggers with no success. but i hear a lot of people have had a lot of success with meetup. 🙂

    • Shannyn says:

      I’m sorry to hear that-maybe other groups would be better? I hope you get to make some connections – it’s so important to have friends outside of any relationship (which I’m learning now!).

  7. Liz says:

    Can definitely relate. I’m an introvert/workaholic, and always depended on boyfriends to provide a “built-in” social life. Striking out on your own and taking the initiative to make plans and maintain friendships is scary, plus I think our generation struggles when it comes to face-to-face networking. Fortunately it has gotten easier with time. I know people who have had really good luck with Meetup and I’ve also met some great people through volunteering and networking events. Have another friend in the Junior League here in Chicago who loves it but it seems like a pretty big time/financial commitment.

    I could always use more friends; let me know if you’d like to grab a cup of coffee sometime 🙂

    • Shannyn says:

      Volunteering sounds like a great way to meet people! I know there are a few organizations like that on Meetup. Glad to hear your friend has enjoyed the Junior League – it’s something I need to look into again. Thank you for the recommendations and for the offer for coffee! When I get back to Chicago and settled in I might have to take you up on that. =)

  8. Yay for Junior League! I’m actually the incoming Community Committee Chair for the Portland, Maine Junior League and I can sing the praises all day long about the Junior League. I highly recommend it and I think you’ll love it. It’s a great way to network and give back to the local community.

  9. Jess says:

    Long time reader, first time (I think) commenter. I’ve been in my city for a long time, but have found my social circle shrinking as friends move or settle down and get married. One way I’ve met a ton of new people is through rec league sports. I like being active so playing softball or flag football was a good fit for me. I’m not a super star at all, but I’ve met really fun friends this way.

  10. Deni says:

    I too moved to a new city, and work out of my home writing blogs. So finding new friends was really hard for me as well. I found that volunteering for local organizations (museum, political groups, environmental groups) helped me get to know like minded locals and joining a women’s social group or two in Meetup helped as well. I also found that joining meetups that do something you have never tried before is a good experience. Don’t just go for the familiar, branch out into something you may be curious about but have never tried. I joined a knitting group and am loving it, even if I am just a beginner. Big cities can be tough to get to know people, so starting with neighborhood events is a good way to meet locals. Hope you find your group too!

    • Shannyn says:

      Thank you for the tips! Branching out and trying new experiences with new people sounds like fun. I’m happy to hear you had success with Meetup and volunteering!

  11. Chonce says:

    I feel the same way. Since I got my new job last summer and turned into a workaholic I’ve been longing to make my life less cliche and work-centered by meeting new friends and getting out every now and then. I tried GirlfriendSocial.com and met a few nice people, not sure if you’ve heard of it. Chicago is a great area to take advantage of meeting new people though and there’s of groups to get involved with. I live in the suburbs of Chicago so I’m a somewhat distant neighbor to you I guess. It would be awesome to do a blogger meetup together some day if you’d be up for it. Have a great weekend!

  12. Anne says:

    I feel you, I moved to a bigger major city and knew 0 people also. I have to say the greatest thing that helped me: always keep to my word/commitments. That meant, if I said I’d go somewhere or attend some meet up even if I really didn’t feel like it when the time came- I always made myself go anyways. That made the biggest difference. My closest female friend here moved back home in Dec so I had a lot of extra time to fill- since then I made 2 new solid friends.

    one I met through a couchsurf meetup (I love to travel so makes sense I’d find some like minded friends there, also met the guy I’m currently dating through one- very friendly people). The other through the site: girlfriendsocial.

    When I first moved I was a student and didn’t really have the finances to network (or transportation) yet now it’s a priority to me, and it makes me much more balanced when I have more good people in my life. I hope to have a solid group of close friends this year. I’m dating someone who has some close groups of friends, yet I really want to create my own also.

    Best of luck with the search!

    • Shannyn says:

      Sticking to your commitments is great advice! Talking yourself out of going somewhere can be too easy sometimes.

      Looks like I’ll have to check out Girlfriendsocial. I definitely think it’s important to have your own group of friends outside of your significant others. Thanks for sharing your tips and best of luck to you as well!

  13. I actually built a site for connecting people (sort of like Meetup, but more secure and doesn’t cost anything to start a group) when I moved across the country myself. Not sure if it will help, but thought I’d share 🙂

  14. Vivian says:

    Excellent Post. It is a lot harder to meet people after college. As we get older, we tend to shut off the friend making part of our brains. It’s something that we as a society need to work on.

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