Report from the Front Line

Things are getting better since my last post about being unsure how to find like-minded friends. Not to say that I’ve gotten friends in a magic amount of time, I’m still right where I started, I think… but at least I’m feeling good about it. I think the whole sun staying in the sky past 4 PM is helping.

My last blog post sparked a great response on Facebook about attending events that I enjoy, such as swing dancing. A comment here on my blog mentioned that either helping others, or accepting help, is another way to make friends.

I’ve decided my first attempt is to become more involved with the swing dance community here in town. I already attend the weekly dances; they have a monthly dance where people come from all over the state (and sometimes even Indianapolis!) to dance. I happened to be suffering from food poisoning when I attended this month’s dance on Saturday, so I ended up dancing one, sitting two, and then gave up after two hours and went back to bed.

But I went out! And people were excited to see me! We are making progress.

I’m also accepting more invitations to things in general, such as when my sister proposes her crazy schemes. Like speed dating. I swear, the only way I can make this ok is by going into it as a researcher.

  • How are young professionals making time for relationships in this modern, digital age?
  • How is this experience designed by the organization putting the event together?
  • What are the first five questions people ask when trying to make a  connection?
  • How does anyone make this not the most awkward thing  you will ever do on the face of this earth?

I hope you all are ready for my report from that awkward adventure.

Self-Ethnography: Friends

Since moving back to Columbus, I have faced a number of frustrations: finding a job, getting a job, transitioning from the freedom of grad school to corporate life, getting my own place, and something I didn’t think would be an issue… making friends.

I have no idea how to make friends outside of the school environment. This has been pretty frustrating over the last eight months. I’m not the bar fly type, so that’s out. And the people who I would want to hang out with are probably already having the board game & crepe nights that I envisioned having with my new set of Columbus peeps.

My dad mentioned to me the other day that I might need to focus more in making friends in town. I have a number of friends spread across the nation, and thanks to Twitter, email, Facebook, Skype, and texting, I can stay connected with them. But I’m not investing in my current location; I’m missing the time I could be spending with them.

Last night, around two in the morning, I woke up and realized this is, in fact, a design problem. How does a young professional make friends in a “new” city? Is this problem facilitated or aggravated by technology?

So here I go, documenting my self-ethnography.

Assumptions

It wouldn’t be right without documenting my assumptions, right? I am assuming that in order to meet people, I need to…

  • Leave the computer.
  • Leave the apartment.
  • Introduce myself with a smile.

Initial Attempts

I’ll admit I haven’t been too keen on going out to meet people. I seem like a people person, but I get my energy from backing into a corner and reading a book. Being social is something I work at. So first, I am addressing my initial assumptions: that I need to leave my computer and  apartment.

I have, since moving to Columbus, joined:

  • Meetup.com as a way to find people with similar interests.
  • Swing Columbus so I know once a week, I am guaranteed to leave my apartment for an evening.
  • Lifestyle Family Fitness to deal with my increased seasonal affective disorder this year. It hasn’t been unbearable, but this winter has certainly affected my mood, which will have an affect on my ability to make (and keep) friends.

I am also spending more time with family. I’m very family-oriented, so I was surprised at how difficult it’s been for me to transition back from grad school. I try to spend at least one night a week with my parents. I find that if I don’t, I unhinge the same way I do if I don’t get my physical activity through lindy hopping or going to a gym.

Results

As yet, none, really. I have my local BFF Adrienne to call on Friday nights for our dinner date, which is awesome. I met her through one of my students from grad school. So that has nothing to do with my current efforts. Still, it’s nice to have someone to call.

My frustration comes from not having a crew of friends like I did in grad school… yet. I assume because these are events that I go to… and not necessarily the type of thing where you invite people to hang out on some other day of the week.

Maybe this is an impossible task. Maybe this sort of gathering of friends doesn’t happen in the adult non-school world. I have no way of knowing because I’ve never had to transition to this non-academic life before. I’m also wondering if maybe I’m not investing in my current location because I don’t know how long I will be in this city. What if I leave in three years?

So now I put the question to you: those of you transitioning, or have transitioned, what are you doing to invest in your current location?