I Dedicated a Year to Building Friendships—Here’s What I Learned

Time to put yourself out there.

By Molly Kendrick

Over the course of seven years, I moved to a new city, had a new baby, and left my 9-5. In the summer of 2020, that left me in a strange place. I looked around and realized that I had lots of acquaintances but very few close friends and NO friends with kids. I am a pretty classic introvert, and I would run in and out of the preschool pick-up, sunglasses and baseball cap on. If you’re wondering whether or not I knew how to make friends as an adult, well, hopefully that description provides enough insight.

I had always been someone who makes friends easily, but sort of just by circumstance. I spent a big part of my twenties working at Starbucks, a job where you inherit a group of friends and a community. After leaving that job and moving to Austin, I dedicated myself to building a career. When I left that career to go on a year-long maternity leave, I realized that I hadn’t cultivated any female friendships in my new city. I didn’t feel particularly lonely, but I did feel like it was something that was lacking in my life. I also knew that my toddler’s life would be enriched if I could extend myself. 

So, I decided that 2021 would be the year of building relationships, and *spoiler* I’ve succeeded! I have several close friends who are moms, but honestly, there’s so much else that bonds us. If you are feeling like I was, read on for some of the insights I’ve gleaned over My Year of Friendship—plus the steps I took to learning how to make friends as an adult.

Featured image by Michelle Nash.

Cassandra Lavalle party_how to make friends as an adult
Image by Michelle Nash

Find a Starting Point for Friendship 

When I decided I was going to try to make more friends, I felt overwhelmed and stressed by the prospect. For one thing, I just didn’t know how to go about it. I have always been the kind of person who mostly had other friends who were like me (a tattooed hipster with a very large coffee permanently in my hand). I knew that I had to expand my scope. I started having other moms from our preschool over for playdates. It was uncomfortable at first, and there were definitely some where the conversation didn’t flow. But here’s the thing: I survived the awkward, uncomfortable moments all in the name of friendship—and trust me, you will too.

Part of this simply comes with the territory of learning how to make friends as an adult. I had playdates with people I didn’t click with, and that was fine—I just moved on. On the other hand, there were also those playdates where I sort of clicked with the person. I kept inviting them to hang out and a few of those friendships took off. The experience taught me that I didn’t have to instantly love someone for it to turn into a relationship down the line. 

Olivia Joffrey party_how to make friends as an adult
Image by Julie Pointer Adams

You Don’t Have to Have Everything in Common

Of course, I had other playdates with moms who I just… vibed with! Interestingly enough, none of these women are people who I would have predicted I would be friends with. We had very little in common, different backgrounds, views, interests, etc.

But I discovered that, when it comes to friendship, you can share vastly different stories and perspectives, and still enjoy being around each other.

While it might seem like a no-brainer to some people, for me, this truth of friendship came as a surprise.

bridal shower group of friends_how to make friends as an adult
Image by Kelly Scogin

Go After What You Want

When it came to learning how to make friends as an adult, there was an unspoken obstacle I knew I needed to overcome. In the past, if I put effort into initiating things, I expected the other person to do the same. Well, I can confidently say that I’ve learned to let that go—and it’s definitely paid off. 

I have people over to our house all the time. My husband and I invite people for dinner, we have playdates, and we plan trips. Sometimes, I feel resentment start to build up if it seems like people aren’t initiating hanging out. When that happens, I remember that if someone doesn’t want to hang out with me, they will say so (or decline an invitation)!

I like to be invited to things because it makes me feel good. I know that it also makes other people feel good when I invite them to do things, and so I accept that this is a time in my life where I might be initiating a lot of the hanging out, and I’m fine with that. I’ve realized that if I want to be having playdates for my daughter, if I want to be going to dinner with other couples we like, or if I want to meet someone for a drink, I need to make that happen for myself instead of sitting around and wishing someone would invite me to do it.

outdoor summer brunch_how to make friends as an adult
Image by Michelle Nash

Commit to Making Creating Space for Friendship

Nowadays, I am back working full-time and my daughter is four. It can sometimes feel like I just don’t have time for friendship, but if I want to have time for it, I make time. I try my best to be available for people, and I’ve felt more connected to others by simply saying yes if I’m invited to something. If I’m free, I try my best to accept invitations that I would have declined in the past. By agreeing to do things that, at one time I probably would have resisted, my daughter has made some of her closest friends. A lot can be said for simply putting yourself out there.

I see a lot of mom culture memes about wanting to be left alone at the park or wanting to be invited to things but not actually wanting to go—that kind of thing. It makes me sad, because that was me at one point. It reminds me that my past approach kept me from having the kind of close and caring friendships I have worked hard to cultivate. 

We need witnesses to our lives, people we can call upon when we need help, or want to toss around an ongoing issue. 

I am someone who places a high value on friendship, and I believe that we need each other. I think that it’s easy to put too much pressure on marriages by having our partner play every kind of role for us. But, I experience ease in my marriage when my husband is not the only person I have to bounce ideas around with or vent to at the end of a hard week. 

If you are feeling like I was back in 2020, I would encourage you to get uncomfortable. Invite someone who you don’t know well to coffee and see how it goes. It might be the birth of something new. It also might not be, but in my eyes, that’s a risk worth taking.