Mainewhile: You've got to have friends

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I like Brunswick, and I am glad I moved here. It’s a pretty town, great schools, good walking trails, funky little theatre, and more restaurants than a person needs. It’s a nice life.

There’s just one major missing piece: friends.

I don’t mean to imply that people here are not friendly. They are. Very. At various get-togethers and committee meetings I’ve met many smart, funny, interesting people I genuinely like a great deal. I’ve made some very nice friends. But no friends.

Am I making sense?

None of this, of course, is the fault of the town. It seems to me it is more a product of the age – or perhaps a product of my age, because clearly I am not alone in my aloneness. Several articles have crossed my news feed lately discussing the difficulty of making friends once a person is, let’s say, “established in their adulthood.”

Making friends is simple in childhood, and young adulthood is a veritable cauldron for forging relationships. The bonds with the friends from my 20s are ironclad, despite wildly divergent lives, careers, and geographic locations. Equally strong are the friends I made as a new mom, when we were all sleep deprived and equal parts enchanted and baffled by the small, strange humans suddenly ruling our worlds. We remain close despite the fact our babies are now young adults busy forging their own new senses of self. Those people are “lifers.”

In fact, in thinking about it, shared crisis seems to have been the key element in all these deep relationships. I don’t mean “crisis,” as in the sky is falling, but they were moments of radical upheaval in routine and fundamental re-definitions of self. The last, or most recent, moment of creating deep friendships came with a very stressful, time-intensive job that required deep commitment as we all worked tirelessly towards a common goal. So, yes, there again are those same common factors.

Perhaps then, the hurdle in making new friends as adults is that our lives are too secure? Maybe we are too established in who we are? Maybe our edges are so well defined it’s hard to accommodate the contours of another? I’m not sure. Maybe we are all just too busy.

What I do know is that it stinks. What’s more, study after study indicates it is bad for us – as in actual health impacts and a shortened life expectancy. We humans are social creatures. We need our pack.

So how do we make friends?

Upending our lives to create chaos and space might work, but it’s hardly an ideal solution. Social media, once touted as the social solution for a busy age, seems to have fallen short of its ideal. Most of it seems really toxic. I spent the greater part of last week pulling apart two “friends” (neither of which has ever met the other) who had decided to enter a duel to the death with words. Neither one, you won’t be shocked to learn, managed to persuade the other they were right. What they did manage to do was become “the enemy,” which just seems sad and pointless and makes me want to go live in a cave.

So how do we do it? How do we soften up our edges enough to make room for someone else? Even, perhaps, someone with whom we disagree on things? How do we create space for laughter and trust and acceptance of another?

I am ready to make a new friend.

Brunswick resident Heather D. Martin wants to know what’s on your mind; email her at heather@heatherdmartin.com.

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