Today is the first anniversary of my move to Portland, Maine, a move I made when retiring after 26 years as a U.S. diplomat. I know most people move somewhere warmer when they retire, but I’ve never done things the conventional way, and I’m much more fun when not suffering from heatstroke.
I first visited Portland as a stranger on a “retirement reconnaissance” mission, but subsequent visits allowed me to make enough connections to fill a celebratory party a month after my move. I thought nothing of it – isn’t making friends what you do when you move? Open boxes, curse yourself for not having decluttered more, and then go out and meet new people?
I soon realized, however, that not everyone has a similar experience. Several people believe that it is harder to make friends later in life, and the thought of having to make new friends often prevents people from taking steps such as moving to their dream location when they retire.
I encountered many individuals in their forties, fifties, and sixties who were facing major life transitions necessitating a shift in how they did things. Some found themselves moving back to their hometown to provide eldercare, but no longer had friends there (or didn’t want to fall back into high school patterns). Some were beginning to understand that their current friends didn’t support their lifestyle changes (such as becoming sober or losing weight). Others watched as their children grew up and moved away, realizing that their own adult friendships had evaporated while they focused on parenting. Still others were reeling from the death or divorce of a spouse who once served as the center of their social life.
Facing my own transition, I wondered why I wasn’t struggling in the same way. I’d love to be able to claim that it was because I remind people of Gal Godot, but a quick look at my photo will make it clear that such is not the case. It dawned on me that each time my job moved me from one country to another, I subconsciously learned how to make friends from scratch. After all, if you just sit around and wait for a friendship to happen, it might not materialize until a week before your next move. Without intending to, I had taken a 26-year-long course in how to take proactive steps to form a meaningful social circle…and now I want to help others do the same.
That’s the origin story of the “Expanding Your Social Circle” workshop I teach. I envision continuing the conversation via this blog, a place where we can discuss friendship-related issues, share stories, and help people find ways to connect. I welcome different backgrounds and perspectives, and look forward to getting to know my readers as conversations develop.
What friendship-related issues or questions would you like me to address in future blog posts?