Friend Dating, Part 2: I'm Tired, Y'all
I'd only been in Europe for less than two weeks when I wrote my first Friend Dating post about navigating friendships abroad, being open to new experiences, and displaying enough discernment to know when it's okay to let some people go along the way. I'm just gonna be straight up with y'all: I don't think this friend dating thing ends. Like, ever - unless you become a hermit, and in that case, I hope you enjoy your silent disco dance parties in peace. I love connecting with people in meaningful ways, but the ramp up to it can be kind of exhausting.
And as I look around the country and the world, we're all a bit tired right now, aren't we? I've recently just started hosting a monthly womxn's group, and it's been an incredibly nourishing - maybe even life-changing - experience to create a space, to cultivate a loose community - but a community, nonetheless. While I cherish the Vilnius chapter of Girl Gone International, I kind of realized that the type of community I was seeking was something I was going to need to create. Not only has it taken getting out of my own comfort zone to facilitate such a space, but it takes a lot of bravery for people to show up, too.
As we move from pandemic to endemic, so many have forgotten how to socialize with a wider fray of people, to know it's okay to say yes (and no!) in different and possibly new ways. I'll include myself in this mix. I kept my friends and cards close during the brunt of the last few years, out of necessity and also through a very obvious and sometimes heartbreaking social stratification of differing values. Simply put: there was a big disruption. So, back to this new community, to friend dating. A common recent theme in these brave womxn's stories is returning to the social sphere vulnerably, experiencing overwhelm, and noticing loneliness. ... Loneliness isn't something we like to talk about as a society, is it? But it's here, and sometimes it's a more comforting friend than anyone else we could reach out to. So, friend dating can then take even more mental work and brain power - especially moving to a new country on top of everything. Not so easy to tie that one up in a neat little bow, huh? Okay, I'm tired again!
Tag yourself. I'm the socially happy yet exhausted one on the right.
One womxn named that she's someone who loves creating new experiences, cooking food, going on adventures, and she felt like a lot of her acquaintances had become, in her words, lazy the last couple of years - some sort of social atrophy. I can relate - not to the lazy friends, but to remaining active during the last two years, going on camping trips, building campers (okay, helping my husband build a camper), riding on the motorcycle. But something about this made my friend feel insecure, a feeling she's had to work through as the world opens back up. As she put it: How do you cultivate relationships with people who aren't as willing to show up? How do you not take it personally? I guess you just have to keep moving forward.
These were big topics in my group the last couple of weeks. And I think my friends are right: you can only move forward from that space when you're friend dating.
I've really enjoyed participating in a high productivity, low stakes co-working arena through Girl Gone International led by Ida Radovanovic. As the name suggests, it's an international group of women all focusing deeply on our various projects and then popping our heads up for air to connect with each other during our Pomodoro breaks. It creates a rhythm and a synchronicity, a shared experience. And I've created new friendships this way - not in Vilnius, but part of a worldwide community that combats whatever minimal loneliness I can feel. It's just one more way to friend date as an expat, you know?
And to be perfectly honest: I'm still navigating maintaining friendships with my friends in the States. It's quite hard with time differences, although I've gotten waaay better at things that used to overwhelm me (multiple technology platforms). I'm very much a work in progress, saying yes to what lights me up and no to what doesn't.
So here is a small manifesto, and maybe it'll help you with your own friend dating. Feel free to create your own, or use mine if you're a fellow expat:
I follow through with my commitments.
I use these commitments to cultivate meaningful relationships.
I say yes to creating new moments with new and old friends.
I let things and people go that aren't meant for me.
As an expat, I welcome both change and stability.
TL;DR: Making friends is hard work, but we got this. Whether you're an expat or not, I think you'll understand some of these concepts my friends and I have been working with - and I hope they're helpful if you're also friend dating. Because let's be real: it's tiring, honest work, but it can be life-enriching once you meet your people. So, vamanos!
Until next time, viso gero!