By Brittany Senseman - MA, LPC-S, Principal
The summer before I turned 6 years old, I moved from West Texas to Houston, and it was a little rough at first. Where I used to live, there were lots of kids to play with who lived on my street. We just walked to each other’s houses and ran around all day. At my new house, I knew nobody; and because it was summer, there was no way to meet anyone at school. I got super bored and lonely very quickly… like I said, it was rough !I used to ride my bike through the neighborhood looking for kids to play with; and even if I saw some, I was too embarrassed to just walk up and say, “Hi.”
One day, I was again riding my bike in the cul-de-sac in front of my house, feeling completely miserable and alone. In a moment of desperation, I yelled at the top of my lungs, “I WANT SOME FRIENDS!” To my surprise, a few minutes later, a boy who lived across the street started riding his bike in the cul-de-sac, too. Long story short: We became friends, and he introduced me to the other kids in the neighborhood. Hooray for a happy ending! So, why am I reminiscing about my childhood? Well, it’s because I think friends are important and because there may be a lesson in this memory. Friends matter because we are social creatures – we need people! Notice I’m saying friend with an “s” and people… not person. There is no way one individual can meet all of our needs, so we need backup.
But there are times when it’s difficult to find these friends. For those of you who are in the middle of a move due to work or school (which often happens in the summer), this may be particularly pertinent for you. Am I recommending that we start yelling in the street randomly when we’re lonely? Not quite, but sort of. Let’s look at my story a little more… Not much embarrasses an almost 6-year-old because she doesn’t know enough about social mores to feel ashamed. That said, I totally knew that it was weird to yell about my personal sorrow in the middle of the street. So why did I do it? I was desperate, and I knew that yelling couldn’t make anything worse. I assumed that anyone who happened to be home and heard me wouldn’t run out into the street, point their fingers, and laugh at me.
And I was right! I have generally found that people actually go out of their way to not make others feel ashamed. I think this is particularly the case when they are strangers or not close friends. When there is a higher degree of intimacy, some license is given because trust has been established. What this means for you is that when you’re trying to make friends, your risk of embarrassment is actually lower! Another thing to keep in mind is that many people around you are also trying to make friends and want to connect with new people. You’re not alone - I promise!
In summary, I’m encouraging you to be brave and strike up a conversation with someone you don’t know well or to join a book club or a workout group. Put yourself out there. Allow yourself to feel a little lonely and let it motivate you to make a change! In the August newsletter, we’re including some ideas on where you can go to meet new people. So, pick a few that appeal to you and go for it! I wish you well in your figurative yelling in the street! 😉