I moved to Los Angeles—sight unseen—when I was in my 20s. After working in film and television production for many years, I married my husband and we had two kids, but I never found the deep friendships I knew growing up in Oklahoma. I had been told my loneliness would be cured once I had kids. Everyone assured me the sheer number of opportunities for mommy friends would abound once I was carting around a stroller and a diaper bag. But no matter how many Mommy and Me music classes or park activities I signed up for, I was years into parenthood before I made any real friends through my kiddos.
Oh sure, I met people—we did occasionally get invited to toddler birthday parties and playdates—and the social calendar was lovely, but it wasn’t leading to the deep friendships of my dreams. I can’t pinpoint why exactly—even now, I think back on some of those acquaintanceships and wonder why they never went beyond the most surface-level chitchat. I’m pretty sure it must have had something to do with the mommy brain fog, the frazzled state, the fatigue. All of us were drowning a little bit. Swapping some stories and sharing Goldfish crackers were about the best we could do at the time, and I have all the grace in the world for that.
When I was in my 30s with young kids, I was ready to make new friends. In my book, The Life Council, I talk about 10 friends every woman needs, and a “New Friend” may take the most effort. Making new friends is sort of terrifying. As with dating, there’s some risk involved. Some vulnerability. It might not work out. You may feel stupid or rejected. You may have to extract yourself from a possible new friendship that isn’t quite working.
Still, many people will go a long time without making any new friends. If you’re in a stretch or season when your life doesn’t change much—same town, same job, same church, same activities—then the opportunity simply might not present itself that often. Others really don’t have a choice. If you’ve moved to a different location or changed jobs or experienced other life changes, you either have to make new friends or be alone.
I met Patty on a first day of school. My daughter was switching schools and was the new girl in first grade in a class full of students who had all been in class together for kindergarten. The sweet, smiley teacher pulled Patty and her daughter over to the cubbies where Lucy and I were standing with wide, overwhelmed eyes, and introduced us.
Patty and I both had our hands resting protectively on our 6-year-old girls’ shoulders, and we eyed one another skeptically. My conscious thought was, “This woman will never be friends with me.” Patty is stunningly gorgeous, and she stood in that first-grade classroom at 8:00 in the morning with long, stylish bangs and a form-fitting outfit that somehow communicated that she had a lot more interesting things to do with her day than babysit these latecomers. I was intimidated.
The teacher sat Lucy and Patty’s daughter next to one another that first morning, and a week or so later, they started asking for playdates with each other. Patty was already a social butterfly at the school and was quick to include my daughter in every activity. Before long, I’d been introduced to dozens of other first-grade moms. I was fielding more social invitations in that first month than I’d gotten in years. Patty was there every time, raising her beautiful wrist to wave me over, patting the chair next to her, making sure I knew everyone else at the table.
She and the other women were meeting 36-year-old Laura, established writer and podcaster, mom of two, secure-ish in her style and taste, comfortable with the fact that she didn’t know everything, years into a therapy journey of healing and growing. Whenever I mentioned certain parts of my past in conversation—anything from my childhood in Oklahoma to my wandering days of working in TV and film—they were shocked or entertained. Some of those old stories didn’t square with the Laura they were getting to know. They couldn’t imagine it, but they also didn’t judge it. They liked the only Laura they knew—the current version.
I cannot tell you how freeing this was. I didn’t realize how apologetic I had become until I didn’t have to be anymore. As I had changed belief systems and political parties and ideas about God and parenthood and money and all the things that morph and shift in a lifetime, I spent a lot of energy online and in person with old friends and family, assuring them I was still the same person they’d always known. My undertone was that I was sorry I had let the world change me. My underlying plea was to still be loved. When I made friends who didn’t require any such explanation for why I was the way I was, it was an enormous relief. I didn’t realize how heavy it had become to carry the weight of others’ expectations.
It was nice to meet friends who weren’t witnessing me in the early days of a transformation. One can appreciate the bones of the before, but it’s nice to bask in the after.
This is the value of New Friends and why they deserve a seat on your Life Council. They’re not carrying the baggage of your past selves. They might hear a story about your old life, but they’re getting to know you a little wiser.
You may feel hesitant about making new friends because you don’t share any history or because it seems like a lot of work to forge a friendship with someone new or because your Life Council is already full. But don’t skip this one. Don’t miss out on what a New Friend can teach you about who you have become.
Taken from The Life Council by Laura Tremaine. Copyright © 2023 by Laura Tremaine. Used by permission of Zondervan. www.zondervan.com.
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