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When I was a kid, making friends was so much easier. I just looked at all the kids in my summer camp and picked the one that looked like friend material. I don’t know if child me had some kind of algorithm or criteria for what I was looking for when I scanned the twenty something eight-year-olds in my summer camps, but I always found one who became my friend by the end of the week. At elementary school there was a rush to see who could be friends with the new kid. I had a lot of friends. I guess I needed friend options so I would never be the odd one out for basketball passing drills in gym class. It was friend hoarding and everyone at my school did it. We wanted as many friends as we could get. It slowed down during middle school but I still made friends at the bus stop and my birthday parties had at least nine people at them even if some of my friends couldn’t make it. Through high school, I clung to my gathering of friends, made a couple new ones, but it wasn’t the first thing I thought when a new person came into class.

Then I graduated. One friend moved for school, another moved to be with family, another was working full time, and others were very busy with schoolwork just like me. My friends dwindled slowly without my knowing it. I went from nine to maybe four if our schedules worked out and my parties had two guests but it was a party of three or no parties at all. I didn’t live in residence at some far off university so I wasn’t forced to make new friends. I went to school and I went home. My friends managed to make new friends at school but the closest I got to new friendships were the lab partners that were friendly but not friends.

When I got into my third year of university, things had to change. Another one of my friends moved away for school and although we hardly saw each other when she worked in town, it came as a big blow to me that there was one less person to go to movies with. So I tried to put myself out there. It was slow going. I found that talking about the assignments was a good place to start. I didn’t have the same friend radar as I had when I was a kid. I didn’t know how to find and grab onto that one perfect person. It got easier when my class sizes got smaller and there were more assignments and profs to complain about. Shared experiences bonded us into school friends (the friends who are your friends in school but not outside of school). However, I was on a quest for friend friends and it took a little longer but now I have new friends to go to plays with and to have over for fire pit parties.

It’s harder to make friends when you're older. For me, talking to people became my greatest hurdle. I thought I grew out of being shy but in university it was like I was back to being a four-year-old hiding behind my mom’s knees. I learned that it’s okay to be cautious and scared to meet new people as long as it doesn’t stop me from meeting them. Even if it just started with “What are you writing the essay on?” or “I’m Amy” and didn’t go further than that. I kept the friends that were dear to me from grade school. They may be spread around the country but I know that if I need to, I can talk to any one of them. Now, I have new friends in my program that will read my writing, go to plays with me, and complain with me about the difficulties of being a university student. And I have these new friends because I pushed though and didn’t let my nerves get in the way.

 — Chef Amy

Finding Friends After High School

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