I feel like I've woken up with no friends - what can I do to get by?
September 3, 2013 4:26 AM   Subscribe

I'm a 22 year old male. In the past month I've moved to a new area, lost my best friend and gone through a breakup. My friendship had been so broad and close that I neglected my other social connections. I'm also new in my job and haven't made any real connections there. Ultimately it feels like, in the span of a few weeks, I've lost all of my social outlets. I feel desperately lonely and unsure about what the hell I can do. I'd appreciate any advice on how to get through life day-by-day as I piece myself together.

I'd been friends with a guy since we were about 15; we went through adolesence together and were close like brothers. He was always the leader and could be pretty controlling; he often likened himself to being my mother. I think he got a lot of self-affirmation from influencing me. Nevertheless he fell into Ayn Rand and Objectivism; when that happened we had a lot of arguments about morality, etc. In the end he won me over to the extent that I 'tagged along'; I found it a very useful crutch for getting over a breakup that I was going through at the time. Nevertheless, I didn't really suit Objectivism: At his urging I broke things off with my 'irrational' parents and he and I adopted this 'us against the world' sort of mentality. He would often criticise my life choices and paint himself as the 'rational' being I should aspire to be like; really I only had his word for it that he was indeed 'rational' as there were no other Objectivists or even friends in our circle to hold him to standard. He told me he was benevolent whereas I was not. Nevertheless he did have a strong influence on me and I think it made me a significantly worse person, inclined to judge and dismiss others on the basis of 'irrationalities'. The damage to my family and my relationship was quite severe.

It evoked a lot of conflict in me and, after an intervention from my parents as well as a lot of tensions with my friend, things had really come to a head. We went on a holiday to Asia together and he drove me insane with how he treated other members of our tour group that I was getting along with just fine. Suffice to say our friendship did not make it through and he made it clear that we were to not speak again.

Beginning just before this I went through a breakup that wasn't exactly clean. It still hurts but I think I can accept that it wasn't really going to work, though my personal problems certainly accelerated things. Our split had been amicable but we tried the 'friends' thing when I got back from Asia. That proved too difficult and awkward for the both of us and I was told yesterday that it would be best for both myself and this girl if we never spoke again (ouch).

Additionally two weeks before going to Asia I moved to London. I am in a house-share so I do have some social avenues there but I really haven't 'clicked' with anyone.

Suffice to say this means that over the past month I have lost my primary friendship, which I had nurtured at the expense of my others (it had been all I needed at one point), my relationship and I am now living in a new area. It feels like three of the most stressful social strains one can go through have hit me simultaneously!

I've tried reaching out to old friends and acquaintances and, to an extent, I've been successful. But geographic/life issues mean that any meet-ups are sporadic. I'm faced, mostly with empty weeks. Some people I've tried to talk to (old friends and new acquaintances alike) seem to have been scared off by my 'eagerness', so to speak. I don't know if it's a good idea to admit that I am just desperate and lonely. I am also conscious when I meet people that recent events have made me *very* self-centred (here I am on the web whining about my problems - of course I'm thinking about me right now!).

The crunch is that every morning getting out of bed is a struggle. I look at the oncoming day as a massive empty labour. When I get home I have video games but I can't sit in my room and play them. I feel lonely and want to meet people but I have no idea how to go about it when I think I literally reek of desperation. I'd appreciate any advice or experiences people might have. I imagine the natural solution to this is 'keep your chin up and take your pennance'. They say time heals all wounds so maybe it's a case of stumbling through.

I'll also add that the above are my literal *immediate* concerns (namely getting through the day). I do intend to take time to, when I can do so without feeling emotional, get introspective and think about why I have gotten where I have. I am sure I likely have become self-centred and perhaps I have treated others badly.
posted by Henners91 to Human Relations (16 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
You are in a house share and you want to make friends? Cook everyone food one night!
posted by oceanjesse at 4:30 AM on September 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

Go and sign yourself up for a bunch of classes / clubs / sports that interest you and where you will meet people.

For example: London has a bunch of juggling clubs and jugglers are lovely friendly people.

When you find a bunch of people you like, invite some of them to do some kind of low key thing with you (pub after class, trip to a match/performance relevant to the activity). The activity provides you with an instant topic of conversation.

Find all the "what's on locally" lists and comb them for interesting events. Standup comedy, open mic night, meetups, late night bat walks, whatever. Go to things like this, even on your own, and just talk to the people you meet there. More for just practicing talking to people and filling the social void than necessarily to make friends, although who knows, you might!
posted by emilyw at 4:45 AM on September 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Find a club or a meetup or class and go. If you are concerned that you are really self centered when you talk to people right now, a club or group based around a specific thing will curtail that because the point is to be talking about the club subject matter, not yourself. (If you know what I mean).

You're really caught up and upset over your past sins and not-so-great treatment of others. Rather than beating yourself up for it, shake your interpersonal etch-a-sketch and start totally over. You're in a new place with a new job and everything is new. You get to be new too. The new you can be all the things you hadn't been. Since not many people know you it is super easy to reinvent yourself! It sounds hard, but it really isn't. I did it when I started university. I basically created a me that I wanted to be and acted that way. It was a bit of a put on at first, acting of sorts, but eventually it becomes who you are. :)
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 4:46 AM on September 3, 2013 [6 favorites]

I've been through more or less exactly this at least twice, and once when I was your age. At twenty-two, I pretty much think the answer is to find a scene to get involved in. Doesn't matter if it's music or knitting, I can assure you that there are lots of 20-somethings with lots of spare time who are looking for friends wherever you live, doing whatever it is you're into.

I do not think being introspective is the answer, and it's basically the worst thing you can do when you're already depressed. Just get busy, instead.

And yes, when you get to your twenties you start realize that your friendships, no matter how 'close' are going to be somewhat ephemeral. People are going to move, develop new interests, start families etc. "Making friends" is something you do for the rest of your life, and doesn't stop when you're in college.
posted by empath at 4:52 AM on September 3, 2013


Good meeting people options: food serving at a homeless shelter, teaching at a youth club, doing community gardening.

Citation: I met one of my dearest friends 10 years ago when we were both volunteering at a homeless shelter.

I am in London as well, and have volunteered in a few places - memail me (or shout out in a reply if you're not familiar with memail yet) if you want a few recommendations.

Good luck, and well done for taking the initiative to improve things.
posted by greenish at 4:53 AM on September 3, 2013 [3 favorites]

Be a "regular."

Anytime I move to a new place I try and find a bar, a coffeeshop, a weekly performance event, or something else that I can regularly do. Go often. Tip well. Be friendly. Learn people's names. Then you can make friends with staff and other regulars, and just have a place to go where people know you and welcome you.
posted by amoeba at 4:56 AM on September 3, 2013 [11 favorites]

Oh, and right now I would focus on making acquaintences, not friends. Look to meet people, lots of people, lots of different types of people by doing lots of different types of things. Spread your social net as wide as possible. I totally understand the over eager "OMG PLEASE BE MY FRIEND" reflex when you meet new people, and yeah, people probably pick up on it. It is natural and understandable. You're lonely, you want a close friendship again. The reality is that takes time to build and develop. Probably less than you think, but it does take time. So for now, your priority should be to just be out with people, and meet lots of people. The more people you are around and the more people you meet the more likely you are to meet some people that you do click with and are more likely able to be come friends with in time.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 4:56 AM on September 3, 2013 [9 favorites]

You sound bright, not bitter, introspective, self-aware, communicative, and you've done / are doing some interesting things. Won't be long before all that leaks out and someone notices.

Good for you for outgrowing Rand. Not all her ideas are bad ones, but it seems to appeal mostly to teens, YA and folks who stop there. You are moving on up. All good. You probably did your friend a favor breaking up with him, too. Co-dependence demands two peeps. Doesn't sound like either of you were progressing before the split.

It also sounds like these tectonic breaks you had were necessary, and yeah, hard. Adulthood sucks, but now, you are your own best friend and it sounds like you are doing a decent job of the startup. (Wait till friends and family start dying unexpectedly and often. Jeez. Major suckage.)

Shared projects are good places to develop friends and acquaintances. Any volunteer opportunities close by? Mentoring? Tutoring college kids? How about classes? Toastmasters? (They are everywhere, I am sure. Scheduled socialization with payoff in skills development.) Professional organizations? Hobby groups? Maker spaces? Where can you use your skills AND meet peeps at the same time? Music? Poetry slams/clubs.

I work from home and live a fairly isolated existence in a rural state. I have a policy of seeking out and helping out neighbors, specifically with technology or little nuisance home repair jobs. Not only do I LOVE solving little problems, it's a good get-closer move and works. Cements casual connections and builds local community and interdependence.

Here in the states, I tell kids if they want to be popular in their 20's, buy a pickup. You'll be surprised at how many friends you suddenly have. Probably not an option there, but if you have something unusual that many people want, it's a good pull.

If I lived in London, I'd never leave the British Museum, and could be perfectly content alone for a year or two, I think! History everywhere. It probably doesn't help that Brits are content to be alone with you, as opposed to together with you. They have that vibe, but if you disturb it at all, they are super friendly, IME.

You're in a good place, with good innards, having a new and brief time of uncertainty. That one feature is a 'friend' that will be with you a long time, and marks adulthood kind of clearly. Power on. Be patient and confident. This will soon resolve.
posted by FauxScot at 4:57 AM on September 3, 2013 [10 favorites]

In a way, moving to a new place is good for you - if you go to a pub or cafe by yourself and meet people, you have perfectly good reason that you are there alone, and a great conversation starter: "I'm new here, where is a good place to go to ___?"
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 5:02 AM on September 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

You might find it helpful to try some group activities that you are actually interested in, so that your mind will be on the activity, and conversations with other people will happen organically. That way, your real self comes through, and you find people who will be the right friends for you.

Volunteering is also good for this kind of thing. You'll have to talk to people to ask for information and so on.

OK, so you're a twenty-something guy in London. For goodness' sake. Do you know how many prospective girlfriends and other friends are out there waiting for you? Effing THOUSANDS. You are SO LUCKY to be in this position. Forget your irrelevant back-story and get out there.
posted by Grunyon at 5:03 AM on September 3, 2013

You seem like you are feeling like you are in a state of emergency right now - close friendship and relationship gone, lonely,a little depressed, not sure what happened exactly or why it happened. I would first try to take a step back and realize that a large portion of what you are going through - despite the particularities with your friend and his whole objectivism/ayn rand fanaticism - is actually something that most people experience over the course of their lives. It is hard to make friends, and there will be times when the relationships that we once depended on are over or in transition for one reason or another. So, try taking a deep breath or two (right now) and just realize that in this moment, you are fine and the situation that you are faced with is actually quite normal, and just requires some patience on your part, and maybe some willingness to spend some time recharging and attending to your own needs. Look at this as an opportunity to find out more about yourself - how you operate internally, what you enjoy spending time doing, where you can make a contribution to the world around you.

I get the feeling that you really do value relationships and the people around you and that you are someone who is loyal and caring, and maybe therefore seek out super intense relationships that can satisfy your desire for a feeling of connectedness with the world. That's great, but I would recommend working on realizing that you can feel socially connected through 'lesser' relationships as well, if you work on cultivating a firmer sense of yourself and your own independence.

Just my initial reaction as someone who has faced similar periods in my life, hope it is helpful.
posted by thesnowyslaps at 5:06 AM on September 3, 2013 [3 favorites]

Oh and OKcupid is amazing when you move to a new city, btw. Just make sure you include it in your profile. Even better if you start a new account. "I just moved here and I'm always looking for fun things to do" will get women actually initiating conversations with you, which rarely happens as a man on okcupid. I know this from personal experience. You might not make a lot of friends that way, but you'll probably be less lonely.
posted by empath at 8:00 AM on September 3, 2013

Response by poster: Well first of all I guess I should say thanks for the replies. Given that this was my first post things were a lot more up-beat and supportive than I'd have thought...

I think volunteering is a good idea though I've never at any point in my life given it any thought before. I can't say I have any idea about *what* you even volunteer to do nowadays. I'll drop you a message, greenish, with some questions.

As for joining clubs - I guess that deserves some thought. Beyond miniature modelling, though, I can't really think of any interests I have that others share!

I think the advice to find a 'haunt' was good. I do sometimes like to read in Bars; maybe if I picked a favourite and went there semi-regularly I might strike up some conversations. I'm pretty introverted as a person but I'm not afraid to talk to people.

I can't say I've any idea how one becomes part of a 'scene'... I may be relatively outgoing with new things but I've never blended well with music, trends or any kind of group.

Anyway I wrote this during my lunchbreak in a desperate bid to vent and I'm grateful for the support I've gotten. I was reading this throughout the day and it really did make me feel better, even if it was simply good to see that I'm going through a common stage in life. I'll remain attentive for anymore advice people might have :)
posted by Henners91 at 11:37 AM on September 3, 2013

I can't really think of any interests I have that others share!

You don't have to already have the interest! You just have to not be averse to acquiring it.

When I first went to a juggling club I didn't go because I already juggled. I went because (like you) all my friends had vanished for various reasons and I wanted a sociable thing to do. Fifteen years later, I haven't juggled for years but fully half of my friends are people I met through juggling.
posted by emilyw at 12:44 PM on September 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: 'You don't have to already have the interest! You just have to not be averse to acquiring it.'

Wow. That's my 'wise quote' of the week, I think. At the very least I think that should spur me to look at what clubs are out there. I can't say juggling is particularly appealing... but shooting, archery, books, public speaking... these are all things I can imagine at least trying.

I guess it's no different to the events they used to run at University - y'know, try a club out... Sailing, Caving, Aikido; these are all things I tried there!
posted by Henners91 at 1:33 PM on September 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


I've been to tons of great meet ups in various cities (including London when I was living there) and started one in another large European City a few months ago.

I've met some really really nice people there. If you don't meet your new close friends right away, just keep going. Some groups (especially the expat social ones) seem to have a core group who use the meet up as their social life and don't invest in hanging out with people outside of the meet up. I think that's mostly super busy expats who know that they'll be leaving after a few months.

But barring that, I have used meet up to make friends in every city I've lived in.

I've even got a couple of friends who moved to London and were super lonely and needed friends, I told them to join meet up and boom: they were out the next weekend on a girls picnic in Primrose Hill. Problem solved.
posted by misspony at 6:11 AM on September 18, 2013

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