The Art of MeetUps & Making Friends
This week, for the first time, I felt a sudden bout of homesickness.
After travelling back home to visit my family and friends for the first time, I realised that leaving them behind in pursuit of this grand adventure is a heavy price to pay. The friendships I have back in the UK are the result of years and years of growing through life’s experiences with a select few wonderful people. From my school friends who I’ve known for over 15 years, to my grad scheme friends who were there when I was going through some pretty pooey times in London, my life in the UK was filled with the most awesome bunch that I now can’t just pop round and see. The past few months have been so exciting and new that it’s only now that I’m feeling the impact of that in a tangible way.
The great thing about moving abroad these days is that you can bet your ass that the internet will help you fix things. So, determined not to be a social hermit for much longer, I went online in search of ways of making friends.
It wasn’t long before I set about signing up for approximately 90432864376247 MeetUps across the city. For those of you who don’t know - MeetUp.com is a network of self-run local groups where people with shared interests basically run local events to meet, mingle and learn with each other. Within the space of about an hour I’d signed up for MeetUps ranging from photography to rock climbing (I shit you not…). I had a calendar packed with social activities - all that was left to do was to actually go to them.
I would say I’m a shy extrovert. I love being with other people, but the thought of being the new girl somewhere literally fills me with dread. The thought of being the new girl somewhere and turning up alone…not happening. Problem is, I can’t drag my boyfriend to everything with me (believe me, I’ve tried, but there really is only so much that you can sell a ‘girls only henna night’ to someone with a Y chromosome).
So, I bit the bullet and I went. Alone. To a social event. With people I don’t know. Multiple times….
And you know what? It’s been fricken awesome.
This week alone I’ve met people who I’d count as some of the most interesting and inspiring people I’ve ever met. I’ve connected with people from all walks of life, and I’ve learnt so much about myself (and others) in the process. I’ve been motivated to pick up old hobbies that I’ve let slip, made plans to pick up new ones, and I’ve just generally felt so energised and happy.
The great thing about MeetUps is that you're certain to have a base level in common with the people you’ll meet. I think that’s a pretty unique position to be in when you’re in the difficult business of making friends. So even if you inadvertently find yourself the only girl in a room full of fifty-something year old men (true story…low point…), well, at least you can fall back on the topic of the MeetUp as a conversation starter.
Every time I was about to go to a MeetUp I almost talked myself out of it. I almost didn't go to every single one. But each of them has brought someone new into my life that I’m so glad I met.
This whole experience has taught me to give less fucks about looking stupid. So what if I have to turn up to something alone ? When you’re new with no other way to meet people than to just get off your arse and feel uncomfortable for a while, well, it’s worth it. It’s also just a really fun way of trying out new things in parts of the city you probably wouldn’t otherwise visit.
Here’s the thing that nobody tells you about moving abroad: it can be a pretty lonely business at times. Don’t kid yourself that it won’t be tough. But the wonderful thing about loneliness is that you can fix it, and the process of fixing it can be fun, exciting and so rewarding.