Seeking BFF

Written by Keeley, a current graduate wife        

 I recently read an interesting book about making friends which I thought I’d introduce to our readers at The Graduate Wife. The premise of the book, entitled “MWF Seeking BFF”, is that the author has moved to a new town with her husband and is attempting to find people who might blossom into life-long friends. Instead of waiting for this to happen organically (because that hasn’t worked so well over the first few years in their town), she goes all out. Over the span of a year, she goes on 52 “friend-dates” with people she meets through various venues, including an improvisation class, cooking clubs, book clubs, and of course, other friends. The book chronicles her experiences as well as how she processes the new relationships in her life, and she fills out her narrative with a healthy chunk of statistics and research on the art/science of making and keeping friends. While I certainly admire her motivation, willpower, and discipline in accomplishing this mammoth goal, I fully concede that as an introvert, my head would simply explode from all that social interaction.

See, the thing is that I’m not all that great at making friends. Meeting people, sure, I enjoy learning new faces and names and even have somewhat of a knack for remembering them. And once I’m friends with someone, she can definitely count on me to be there for a conversation, for a listening ear, for a walk in the neighborhood, for a cup of tea or an ice-cream cone. Especially an ice cream cone. As I read this book, however, I realized how much of an ordeal it normally is for me to make a new friend. Thinking back through my life, my best middle school buddy and my best friend through high school basically had to “hunt me down” (in their words) to become friends. I think the reason, partly, is because I have always been close to my family, and, having one larger than normal, there were always plenty of us around to hang out with. However, it wasn’t until college that I realized another reason I am hesitant to begin new friendships: vulnerability. It’s much easier for me to be friendly to everyone and to offer my friendship to those who express interest in it–getting to where I have a mutual trust and need for that relationship is what trips me up and must, in some way, scare me. I know this because one of my best friends in college and I, when we became friends, explicitly stated to one another that we weren’t interested in being half-way friends. If we were going to get-to-know one another, we were going to be the type of friends who never worried about intruding or being a drain on the other; we were going to be honest with one another and give one another our best attempts at friendship.

Since then, I’ve learned that this isn’t always possible when making new friends. While a heart-to-heart conversation like that is immediately within reach in the social greenhouse which is college, people in the real world like for things to just happen. When Jason and I first married and moved to his master’s program, I didn’t spend much time at all thinking about friendships. Between our new marriage and my work schedule, it honestly didn’t cross my mind. But when we moved to pursue his PhD program, I was pleased to find that the community here facilitates making friends like hardly any other place I’ve been.

That’s not to say that it has all been a dream–the first year we lived here I had about five friends that I regularly spent time with, and the next year they had all moved away. In the graduate life, I have found this to be one of the most challenging aspects of making friends. But from those five friends, I learned a great many things, not the least of which were how to knit, and the fact that I have a massive writer’s crush on Barbara Kingsolver. Since then, I’ve had many a walking buddy and reading cohort, and each of these friends I have learned to appreciate for what we bring to one another’s lives, however long our overlap may last.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention, however, that I have also found a “BFF” in the process–a friend with whom I spent so much time and we shared so much of our lives, that I know wherever we live, we will remain friends and remember how much more fulfilling and rewarding this stage of life has been because of one another. She has already moved away, which we knew would happen eventually with our both being graduate wives, but we stay in touch regularly, and I think of her frequently as I drive or walk past our old meeting places in my town. Like another one of my college friends, I think of her as more of a sister than a friend. It’s through friendships like this that I understand the bittersweetness of making, losing, and keeping companions through our lives. My childhood friends, my college friends, and my adult friends–they have all helped me to become more of who I am and challenged me to grow in ways I never thought possible. I may never go on 52 dates to discover another BFF, but I can certainly understand why someone would go to the trouble.

Have you found it easy or difficult to make new friends during this unique stage of life? How do you balance making new friendships with maintaining your marriage and/or work?

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17 thoughts on “Seeking BFF

  1. I am also an introvert. While most days I’m happy to be home doing my own thing, it does get lonely. I made a few friends in my husband’s department but last year two moved away, and the third has changed almost beyond recognition. Whenever there was a conference, not only was my husband gone, all my friends were too because they are in the same department. It seems like everyone’s significant others made their own friends, they don’t come to the department events like I do they have their own lives. I’m the youngest person at work by 30 years, while we’re perfectly friendly at work, no one else even lives in town and they go home to their own families, friends, and hobbies. I’ve maintained a couple good friendships from college and I can talk to them. But they aren’t here to hang out with, and they don’t understand what we’re going through with school. I’m the type that would rather have a few close friends than a lot that aren’t close. It’s hard.

    • Thanks for writing, Mary. I was nodding all the way through as I read your comment. Though it sounds like horrible advice, I have to think about what I’ve heard in regards to weather in places like Boston or Portland: “If you don’t like it, just wait a minute because it will change!” And that’s kind of how I’ve come to feel about my social life during my husband’s & my journey through grad school programs. Every year people leave, and every year new people come in, and you just kind of have to be open to what they might offer. Like you, I am content with just 2-3 close friends nearby; I don’t need many, but I like to have genuine friendships. So the good news is, you don’t need to look for many, but focus on those you find most mutually encouraging and edifying. I know you weren’t necessarily asking for advice, but there you have it–a few tips, worth what you paid for them!

  2. I have found it a little difficult to make new friends. I still had to finish up my last three semesters of undergrad when my husband started his program, and with a two-year-old, I barely had any free time. We live on campus so I’ve talked to a few other moms on the playground, but that’s about it. There were no other families in his program until this year, so there was no way to meet anyone that way! Now, I am working full time and we added another child. I’ve made maybe one friend from work (always good) and I really like the other wife in my husband’s program so I feel like maybe I’m starting to make some friends! I just feel like I still don’t have time for much though! I’m either at work or at home spending time with the girls and picking up the house. And I just naturally have a hard time making new friends, or I guess I should say initiating new friendships.

    • Thanks for your input, Lacey! Yeah, I think that having kids in the mix makes a lot of things more complicated, not the least of which is making your own friends (and not just being thrown together because you both/all have kids :) Best of luck to you in your journey–it sounds like you’ve got some good starts!

  3. I am SO glad you wrote this article Keeley! It is such a relevant topic for people like us who is in this middle stage of not being in school anymore nor an undergrad, but trapped somewhere between transforming from student life into Adult life in the “real” world. I have to say that it is true that you will be available to have a wonderful ice cream cone or a an ice-cream shake at SHAKE-SHACK! ;)
    I have to admit that I am however a bit of an extrovert although I do need my ‘me’ time everyday. I did have a hard time and sometimes still do when balancing work, and life after college. Especially since I moved to a brand new city to audition and look for work and being away from my home country it was mostly felt at this stage of my life. However, although there have been many days that I struggled to find ways where I could potentially meet new people to be friends with, as time went by it got easier to get adjusted to this life. Joining a good church especially with an active young adult section was very helpful to meet other people who are in your age group as well as it felt safe to make friends from there (you never know who you meet in a BIG city) ;)
    I cannot say, I have still found the ideal way to make friends, but I have got myself involved in different activities in the city that I am interested and sometimes bumped into the most interesting people that strikes up a conversation and sometimes lead into a friendship. It is however difficult to find time with work and other personal responsibilities to be able to go out there and meet people. But I do try my best and always pray that I meet good friends who will be able to influence me in a positive manner and that I can be a blessing to them as well.

    • Eranga, you are a friend-maker extraordinaire! I do wish I got into the City more often to hang out, but it’s probably better for everyone that I don’t live closer to the Shake Shack ;) In all seriousness, I think the tips you offer are great ones, and your personality and outlook do make you one of the best friends I’ve had. Miss you and hope you’re enjoying your visit with family!

      • Awwww…I so wish you lived close to the Shake Shack cz I will definitely be right there with you!!! :) Thanks and I am so thankful that you are in my life and we got to be roomies at one point! Miss you and see you soon! xoxo

  4. Keeley and Eranga– I miss both of you guys! Glad to see you are both doing so well! :) Maybe one day we can have a Connie reunion with everyone!

  5. Man, this is a tough one for me. I have in the “moving years” longed so much for a true friend. It IS hard for me to pursue friends and I never think of myself as possibly “cool” enough for the other person. It’s like I’m stuck in high school paranoia. I truly thanked God for meeting you at CRW. I will say that the experiences have made me more attuned to “the new kids”. Being the new kid stinks and if I can alleviate that by being a friend, even if not a BFF, then by all means.

  6. I’m right there with you ~ I “meet” people really well but have relatively little interest in pursuing serious friendships with new people, as most of my best friends are in my family as well. Many times, I question whether or not I want to expend the time and effort required to get to know people who may or may not turn out to be good friends, mainly because I have in my family the kind of people who have made me wet my pants laughing, who will cry with me, pray with and for me, who I already know love me and who I know I will love until I die. I am blessed.

    That being said, sometimes I think it would be nice, since most of my family lives elsewhere, to have someone to go get ice cream with! I get to stay at home with my not-so-little girl (3 tomorrow!!) and sometimes miss terribly the wonderful adult conversations I used to have at work with colleagues with whom I held common interests. We moved to a new place this past spring, and I’ve just now gotten thoroughly settled into our home and feel like really getting to know and spend time with other women, so I’m excited to see what sort of friends the Lord provides!

    And I can’t wait to see you again, Keel ~ we’ll have ice cream and trade book reviews, and you can show me Ursa Minor! ;)

  7. I am an extreme extrovert, so the idea of meeting 52 different people over the course of a year would be lovely. :) However, with the more places we live, I am finding it harder and harder to find that ‘BFF,’ especially now that my son is getting older and is starting to make his own friends. I am short on time! Combine that with the fact that I work full time, it doesn’t leave a lot of hours in the day for me to be social. I must say that I find it discouraging when my girlfriends (who don’t work or only work part-time) are able to spend time together during the week, and I am not able to. I always feel like I am missing out. Our crazy grad life doesn’t leave me much time to develop new friendships. BUT, I have learned a couple of things in our graduate journey over the past 8 years – 1. Wherever we live, I need/have to find an ‘inner circle.’ This group of girls become my confidants, and that takes time to develop. 2. I have to be intentional about friendships, because I’m short on time. If I meet someone I enjoy spending time with, I strive to spend time with them. 3. Some friendships are intense, but seasonal. I’d love to take most of my friends to the ‘friends for lifetime’ phase, but to be honest, you can’t be intentional with every friend you ever make, and keeping up with it all is exhausting (even for me!). I feel extremely blessed that I can pick 2-4 friends from every season of life (childhood, high school, college, early professional career, early marriage, grad school in 2 cities) that I can strive to keep in touch with on a regular basis.
    In the deepest part of me, there is a still an intense longing to be able to connect to that one individual that knows and understands me. However, as I grow older, and as we move around this nomadic graduate life, I wonder if it’s realistic? Thoughts?

    • I totally agree with everything you said, Mandy (except the extreme extrovert part!). I too, have been grateful to look back and come up with 1-2 friends from just about every “epoch” of life with whom I’m still in pretty good touch, and I really hope to continue that trend as we move and grow through the transitions to come. That’s one of the things that baffled me about the author’s original experiment, was that at the time she was also working full-time and a newlywed! As I said in
      the post, I had no social energy for anything but work and Jason our first year of marriage! So yes, I can certainly identify with your fatigue there. Thanks for sharing the wonderful tips. I definitely feel like a Part 2, or maybe a series is in the offing–whether written by one of us or a collaborative effort!

    • It’s hard for us part-timers too :) I work part-time but I work on weekends. I’m jealous of the girls that don’t have to. It seems like all the fun stuff that goes on is on the weekend, and it’s hard to even find time with my husband because he’s expected to be at school during the week when I’m off. Now that my friends are getting “real” jobs even if they moved somewhere close we can’t do anything with them because I’m working.

      • Yep! The friend whom I mentioned at the end had a super weird schedule as well, so our most common meeting times would be like Monday at 2 pm, Wednesday at noon, Thursday at 4…because we both worked on weekends and had crazy hours. I think that’s one reason it worked so well ;)

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