Faith Featured

We’re No Longer on the Playground

Written by Danell Will

You know what is hard?

Making friends as adults.

Seriously – I consider it as difficult as finding the perfect pair of jeans, which is, as we all know, next to impossible. Finding friends as an adult is so hard and at times a little bit lot awkward. Perhaps you feel differently. Maybe you’ve been with the same group of friends since you were 5. Well, to you I say congrats! I’m happy for you. I’m glad that you have not had to wind and weave among us friend-seeking folk because it can be a hard and bumpy road.

Why, you may ask, is it so difficult for a grown woman to find friends? My initial answer to that question is that I am no longer a 7-year-old on the playground – adults cannot saunter up to another human and simply say, “Hi. What’s your name? Do you want to be my friend?” without coming off a little crazed. I see my 4-year-old daughter do this consistently at the park, the pool, the library, and she more often than not gets met with a cheerful, “My name is Suzy. Lets hold hands and be friends forever.” It’s actually an enviable transaction to witness. Friendships for her are made in moments on a daily basis, while I have stumbled along these past few years grasping for hands. You see, I am a social person – I need friends. I yearn for friends. I desire friendly companionship. But here’s the deal… I want true friends. I have a lot of acquaintances and they are wonderful to have and can be very fun to be around, but true friends – they are hidden gems.

True friends hear the words you aren’t saying.

True friends know when you need a push or a gigantic shove.

True friends don’t ask you to put on masks to pretend you’re someone you’re not.

True friends accept your tears, your screams, and your (inappropriate) laughter.

Finally, after a few years of (sometimes frantically) searching for friends, I think I am beginning to understand how true and genuine adult friendships are made. But first, remember why you asked why it’s so difficult for a grown woman to find friends? Well, I have another answer for you. It’s because I (and I assume, many others) try too hard. We need to revert back to being that kid on the playground. Next time you’re at the park, watch the children playing together – they don’t do small talk or spend time with formalities – they get right down to business. They also don’t pretend to be something they’re not.

Take for instance my daughter. She isn’t a princess girl. Nope. When she’s on the playground she wants to pretend she’s a puppy… or a dinosaur. If you don’t like that game, that’s fine – she’ll go find someone who does.  It’s during the times that I’ve taken off my, ‘Look! I’m really friendly and can be a lot of fun’ or the ‘PLEASE BE MY FRIEND’ masks that I’ve made some of the most significant and meaningful friendships. Granted, I don’t believe we should cut out all small-talk and formalities, but I’m starting to think that the more time we spend on those things, the less we get to really know someone and the less friend-worthy we become. I understand that it’s scary to put yourself out there and go beyond the normal chit-chat adults tend to do. You may even feel vulnerable – I’ve been there too. But, oh, it is worth it!

Take for example my friend Lauren. I met her while I was working as a receptionist at a salon. During that time in my life I was in an INTENSE need for friends. I may haven even cried to my husband about it on a few occasions… remember, I told you how much I need friends. However, when I would see Lauren, my friend radar was not activated because I was in work mode. We would have lengthy and animated discussions about books during her appointments and then she would leave and we’d go about our individual lives. Then one day she introduced me to a series (it may or may not have been Twilight. HA! Who am I kidding? It was totally Twilight) and our mutual love of literature blossomed into a deep and life-changing friendship.

The one time I was gutsy enough to attempt the playground scenario it worked out in my favor. It was during my 2nd year of graduate school and there was a conference that I wanted to go to. However, I am always and forever on a budget so I was looking for someone to share a room with me. Although I had already been in the program for a full year, I still hadn’t made very many friendly connections. So, one night during the 2nd week of class, I turned to the girl who was sitting next to me and asked her if she’d want to share a room. She looked at me like I was a little crazy – rightly so as I barely knew her name. Yet, after only a beat, she said yes. Victoria took a chance on me and we’ve been friends ever since – sharing hotel rooms, grad school nightmares, and meaningful conversations.

 Sometimes an experience will propel you into thriving relationships. In August I had the chance to go to Pine Ridge Reservation with other students and faculty from my program. Something about the environment enabled us to break down our barriers and strongly connect with one another in the matter of a few days. A group of us emerged from the trip with a new sense of family and have affectionately deemed ourselves The Pack (don’t question – just go with it). We probably have more differences than commonalities but that hasn’t stopped us from becoming a strong support system for one another.

 Regardless of how long I’ve known these people (and those I have not mentioned such as our old neighbors and my long-lasting high school friend), they’ve all made me laugh until tears were racing down my cheeks. They’ve made me think and  wonder and feel. My friends are priceless to me. I am incredibly blessed.

Interestingly, I’ve realized that my kindred spirits have basically fallen into my lap when I least expected it. When it comes to making friends as adults, I believe we have to put our best foot forward, but even more importantly, we have to put our real-selves forward. My closest friendships only evolved when I threw out my agendas and had the courage to be the real (beautiful, but very messy) me and encouraged them to do the same.

Scary? Yes.

Worth it? Definitely.

About the author

Danell Will

Danell is a Kearney native who recently moved to Northwest Arkansas. She is the happy wife to a tall, bearded red-headed man and a mother to a feisty, but very loveable, red-headed 5-year-old girl. In May, she graduated with her Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and has since taken a short break from working and studying to be at stay-at-home mom.
She enjoys (in no particular order) dance parties in the living room, downward dog, a good cup of chai, books that want to make you stay up until 2am, meaningful conversations over a glass of wine, and reflecting on this messy, but always beautiful life.