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Making New Friends When You’re Older

Aging is pretty depressing. Fortunately, unless you’re a hermit living off the land in a deserted cave, you don’t have to age alone. As you get older, though, sometimes meeting new people can be intimidating. You feel like the window of opportunity has already closed, and small talk is the equivalent of torture. I bought into the belief that it was pointless to try and reach out to people after my freshman year because no one was still “looking” for friends. I’ll save you the time and tell you that that mentality is a steaming load of gorilla feces and I have the friends to prove it.

It’s kind of a cliche, but the number one action you can take to make friends when you’re older is to keep putting yourself out there. I know it’s hard, especially when you already have a pre-established group of friends and don’t feel like doing the extra work. I can guarantee that no one is going to notice you if you don’t out in the effort, though. For me, this involved walking across campus and going to a lot of social functions I didn’t feel like attending when I could have been in my room with some easy mac and The Bachelor. Once you establish yourself as a familiar face things get easier. Sometimes it can be easy to be overambitious and barge right in, trying to make an impression on everyone right away, lest you lose any more ground. Patience is a virtue, though (one that I admittedly have very little of), and if you wait until you’ve at least established yourself as someone who’s sticking around, you’ll have a better chance of building long term relationships.

It’s not impossible, but building a friendship out of nothing isn’t easy. It sounds silly, but I often make a mental list of predetermined topic to speak to new people about, often things I know that they’re interested in. When you’re faced with someone new, especially someone you want to impress, nerves can make your mind go blanker than the space Taylor Swift wants to write your name in. Helpful hint: people like to talk about themselves. You can be the most humble, unselfish person on the planet, but it’s human nature to like to prattle on about what’s important to us. If you take an interest in others, they’ll take one in you.

Don’t go overboard. Avoid topics like politics (no matter how angry you are at Donald Trump) and personal information. I remember having a movie night with a few friends, one of them bringing over a guest I’d never really met before. She was a freshman girl in one of my literature classes– nice enough, and a lovely person, but almost immediately after we’d been introduced she started chronicling her former drug use issues. Now, I have nothing but respect for people who have managed to overcome addition; however, it’s not something you lead with. Because she told me something so personal right away, I found her whole vibe off putting. It’s tempting to share, but try to keep a cap on it until later.

Don’t be discouraged. It sounds cliche, but it’s never too late to make friends!

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