I have “started over” a few times in life. My first experience with this was when I went to college. Even though I was literally only about 15 minutes from home, I was in a whole new situation. I felt like an adult for the first time — I had to make new friends, I had to decorate my own place, figure out all my own meals. I was close to home, but felt so far from it.
After college, I moved to Colorado Springs and started a new job. A few years later, I moved to Denver to go to grad school. In each of these sitautions, I had to start over — figure out where to shop, how to get around and — most importantly — find new community.
Adjusting to a new place and making new friends can be a difficult task. Every time I’ve moved, I have missed where I just came from, mostly because I had been comfortable there and felt “at home.” It takes work to start over and create deep friendships with new people. In case you’ve ever felt the same way, here are a few things I’ve learned about starting over and making new friends.
It takes time. I moved to Denver two years ago, and by this time I knew that making friends and feeling comfortable in a new place would take some time. I gave myself two months to start to feel at home. Six months later, I was shocked and disappointed that I was still struggling to feel like Denver was my place, like these new people were my friends. The reality of it was that I hadn’t given myself enough time. In my mind, I thought I’d be comfortable way sooner than I was. It took me about a year to really feel comfortable in this new place. It probably could have taken less time, but, in any case, it just takes awhile to feel at home.
It takes effort. You know those friends who you can laugh with, who get you, who you don’t feel any need to try with? Yeah, those friends don’t just happen. It takes time and shared experiences to be that comfortable with people. When you’re first getting to know people, it might be a bit awkward. You might run out of things to talk about. But that is OK, and it doesn’t mean you won’t be really good friends in just a few months.
When I first moved, I sometimes had to force myself to go to church. I didn’t know anyone, and I felt awkward sitting alone or trying to smile my way into sitting next to a stranger. It was awkward. But it eventually got better. I joined a small group, and I started getting to know people. I invited people I barely knew to come over to my house for dinner or to watch television. I went to events that people planned, even if I wasn’t sure I’d have someone to talk to. Honestly, it was hard. It was hard to put myself out there and to make constant small talk. I didn’t always enjoy it. But it was worth it. I now have some really deep friendships that I know I wouldn’t have if I hadn’t made the effort up front.
It takes prayer. Are you struggling to meet new friends or to adjust to a new place? If so, pray. Ask God for His help, for His wisdom. He is gracious and gives it freely to all who ask. This fall I’ve been learning so much about what it means to truly trust God in every area of life. The big things and the small things are important to Him, because we are important to Him. Ask the Lord to bring you a close friend. Share with Him that you’re lonely or uncomfortable. He will show up. He will provide. He always does.
Have you moved or struggled to meet new friends? What are some things that have worked for you when adjusting to a new place or people?