Monday, March 24, 2008

Jump Start Your Social Life in a New City

Being in a new city can be really tough -- in my whole life I've never lived in the same place for more than six years, so I've got lots of experience with it. My most recent move was three years back when I moved to a new city -- with no friends, no job, and no place to live. Of course my first goal was to find that job and place to live -- but then what? How do you find a new social life?

Tip #1 -- You're going to have to be a LOT more social than you're used to if you expect to get to know anyone.
This means going out a lot until you find a place you like, then going there frequently. It can be a bar, a park, or even the public library . . . you just want to make sure you have the opportunity to interact with people outside of work, hopefully with people who share your interests. Of course, that doesn't mean you can sit in the stacks of the library reading obscure literature and waiting for someone to come up to you. Nor does it mean you should drink like a fish and accept a dare to do a topless lap around the bar. The key is just to get OUT of the house. It's too depressing to stay cooped up all of the time, so get out during the week and then plan to spend the weekend nights home alone. That way you can avoid the most stressful of evenings, when everyone seems to be out with others, and people who are out alone are viewed askance. And no matter how dogged you are, it's going to take longer to find new friends than you expect. Most people say it takes at least a year to find a groove.

Tip #2 -- Moving is the perfect time to reinvent yourself, but think about who you want to be AHEAD of time.
Ever decided you wanted to be a vegetarian, but were afraid of what your friends would think? Or maybe you wanted to start shooting photos instead of deer, and abandon your Guns&Ammo past? Perhaps you were thinking of becoming a kayaking guide, a career that lacks prospects in the Midwest? Moving gives us all a chance to become more of who we want to be without the pressure friends can put on us to conform to their expectations. No one in the new place will know you haven't been a picture-snapping-veggie-kayaker for years -- they won't think anything of it. But be careful, like everything in life you have to do what makes you most comfortable. If you're faking your way through an awkward persona you're not going to relax enough to meet anyone.

Tip #3 -- Moving is an opportunity to get rid of the dead weight -- but hold onto your real friends.
Moving is an excellent chance to "lose touch" with people who just aren't worth your time in the first place -- and it's also easier (not easy, but easier) to end a bad relationship that way. Especially if you move twice in a short period of time, and neglect to give them your new phone number. Not that I've ever done that, of course. Ever. Just make sure you keep in touch with your real friends, because they're the ones who will cheer you up when you drink-and-dial them at three in the morning on a Wednesday.

Relocating is a tough proposition, but if you go in with the right attitude it's a total adventure. Sure, there's a chance you'll risk everything to pursue a dream and end up hitchhiking back to town with your tail between your legs. But there's also a chance things will work out great -- maybe not as you expected, but great nonetheless. So when it's especially tough, you feel completely friendless, and you think nothing can make you feel better, sit down for a minute and contemplate the immortal words of Jack Handey:

"We used to laugh at Grandpa when he'd head off and go fishing. But we wouldn't be laughing that evening when he'd come back with some whore he picked up in town."

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