It was easy to make friends at school. I spent my formative years in a small coed prep school in eastern Canada, where the class sizes were small and most of us had moved up the ranks from nursery to high school together. When someone new arrived at the beginning of each year, there was a clamour to befriend these mysterious beings who didn’t join in on our pasts of shared experiences or remember that daft thing we’d done way back in Grade 1.
I found boarding school more difficult to stomach, partly because I was first introduced to the cold reality of cliques, and partly because of the language barrier. But I always knew my time there was transient, so I grin and bore it.
I arrived at university fresh-faced and optimistic that this was what I’d been working towards my whole life. My parents had, as all Chinese-Canadian parents do, recited that old adage that I could do all the things I wanted to do (watch TV on a weeknight, learn to play non-classical piano, go out with friends at night, sleep in at the weekend) once I got to uni.
University was the holy grail of social life aspirations for me. I could actually choose my own friends! We would have lively political debates over red wine in dimly lit, artfully continental cafes! We could sip strong black coffee from ironic mugs, talking til the wee hours about literature and art! We would listen to antique gramophone blues records! We would just multi-cultural dinner parties, where each guest would bring a homemade dish of some exotic delights! And above everything, I would be the one to choose these friends (or they would choose me) based on our shared affinity with good conversation.
Uh…no. First of all, I think I must have been under the impression I was going to university not in Scotland, but in the late 1960s. Also, I really don’t like black coffee. I need (soy) milk in there to make it palatable. What actually happened was shots of aftershock in the students union, a shared kitchen in halls that my neighbours regularly drunkedly set on fire, and me once kissing a 7ft tall violinist who I then made a ham-and-cheese sandwich I stole all the ingredients for from the shared fridge. Classy. I studied art history and I cannot remember one single lively discussion about art outside of tutorials. Oh, and fanciful dinner parties? I think someone made a veggie lasagne in halls my first year, which we ate half of and watched the rest rot with morbid fascination in the fridge for the rest of term. At least I got the wine part right. We drank wine. A lot of wine. I didn’t even discover gin until my final year.
But still, at uni my prerequisite for new friendships was “didn’t have shit taste in music” and “likes to drink shots”. It’s easy to meet people when you live in a small university town somewhat isolated from the nearest “proper” city. I got to know and am still good mates with so many lovely people I met during my four years, but I’ve also lost touch with just as many.
Now it appears I am an allegedly fully-functioning adult, at an age where I have a decent job that pays above minimum wage, and perhaps I should consider becoming a responsible human. Only I don’t want to. And how the hell does one make new friends when one is at that awkward age? Do folk stop making new pals once they’ve passed the quarter century milestone? Are all new friendships forged only with acquaintances we’ve “known for years” but never “properly hung out with until now”, or is it still acceptable to go up to a random person on a whim and ask if they want to be friends?
Not literally, of course. That’s probably a little creepy.
I’ve met so many lovely people in the past few years, and conversely a few not-very-nice-in-fact-bloody-awful people as well.
Some of my closest friends now are people I didn’t even know a year ago, who I met despite some pretty hefty social anxiety issues I have about meeting new people. I’m constantly paranoid that I seem so much better “on paper”, and that in person I’ll be a crushing disappointment. I constantly worry that people won’t like me IRL. I talk too much. I talk too fast. The words coming out of my mouth sound nowhere near as intelligent or interesting or confident as they do online, and I have an irrational fear that once someone has met me, the illusion will be shattered.
There are so many people I’m looking forward to meeting this year, friends who I speak to so often but have never seen face-to-face.
It’s only been recently that I’ve gotten over this. Since I started blogging and meeting other bloggers like Emily, Katie, Sophie, and the rest of the #ScotGalGang. People I can chat to online and tell anything to, but who I also hang out with IRL. They accept me for all my glorious weirdness despite the fact that sometimes, I’m really not that fun to be around.
Maybe making friends as an adult isn’t as scary as I thought.