“Even if you are on the right track you’ll get run over if you just sit there.” ~Will Rogers
How is this happening again?
Lying in bed watching The Mentalist at 8 P.M. on a Saturday night, my mind begins to wander.
A year ago I was so happy. I spent almost every night hanging out with amazing friends and now I’m here, alone watching TV.
As my heart sank into my stomach, I shook my head, suppressed my feelings, and pushed play to start the next episode.
A few years earlier I moved to Santa Fe, NM, a state I had never even visited before. Excited to start a new journey, I set out to meet new people and create a life full of amazing friends.
Although that’s exactly what happened, the first few months were extremely difficult. I spent a lot of time trying to make new friends while having zero success. After a couple months, this went from frustrating to depressing.
Luckily, I was able to solve the problem and learned how to make new friends from scratch. It was amazing. I was having some of the best times of my life.
Every week I had friends inviting me to birthday parties, barbecues, camping trips, river rafting excursions, and typical nights out on the town. And when I invited people to places, like my New Year’s Eve party, people showed up.
It was a high I’ll never forget.
After an exhilarating two years in Santa Fe, I moved back to Huntington Beach, CA, the city I was born and raised in.
I was excited for yet another new page in my life. Huntington is a beautiful city with great weather (and waves!). My family, best friend, and other great friends live here.
Kim, my girlfriend at the time (now my wife), and I decided to have a long-distance relationship and I chose to save some money by living with my parents.
The next year was a disaster.
It might not have looked terrible from the outside, but I was eating myself alive on the inside.
Even though I had friends in the area, I was only hanging out with them about once every two months. And about just as often, Kim and I would travel to see each other.
But that was it. The only other people I hung out with were family members. And as much as I love them, this was not healthy for me.
I may have seemed happy, but I was faking it. I was hurting. Instead of fixing it, I kept going with the status-quo.
This feeling was very similar to the one I had when I moved to Santa Fe. A feeling of sadness, hurt, and longing that comes from a lack of spending time with people who make you feel alive.
But this time was different. I knew I could make friends if I wanted to and I already had friends living here. I just didn’t make the relationships a priority like I should have.
My laziness was striking me down and I got stuck in a comfort zone of my own making.
It was easy to say yes and go out with friends when I was living by myself in Santa Fe. But living with my parents made it a little less appealing, which was enough to prevent me from doing it. I’d think to myself:
I’ve already showered and I’m in my comfy clothes. I can hang out here with my parents, have a couple drinks, and watch this movie, or I can get ready again and meet up with my friends. Ah, I think I’ll just stay here tonight.
That’s literally how many of my nights played out. And it was similar for the day time too. I’d decline an invite to go surfing because I already showered or because I was about to go to breakfast with my parents, something I easily could have skipped.
When we finally moved Kim out here to Huntington, I thought my problem would be fixed. Instead, it was more of the same. Mexican food with my parents, cooking chicken piccata with Kim, staying home watching Prison Break, and trail running by myself in the wetlands.
As much as I love hanging out with Kim and my family, I need that outside energy with friends who share some of my deepest interests and passions. So finally, after way too long, I made this realization:
I need to spend more time with people who make me feel truly alive.
My parents and Kim do fill a big part of that need. But I need other friends to fill the rest.
I started making changes to my life that helped me meet new people and spend more time with existing and past friends.
I joined a music production class. Kim and I played on a beach volleyball team with her coworkers and a separate flag football team with strangers. I also joined a soccer team.
I started hanging out with my friends more. I’d text my buddy during the week and say, “Hey, wanna grab sushi Friday night?” I’d send another text to my surfing friends and say, “Surf’s supposed to be good Saturday. Who’s down?”
On top of that, I’ve been reaching out to people I lost touch with. I recently hit up a friend who I hadn’t talked to in years and said, “Long time no see. Miss you dude. Hope all is awesome. You still running?”
That text conversation ended with my wife and I scheduling a San Diego day trip and a twelve-mile running adventure for my buddy and me.
I’ve even been getting together with friends I haven’t hung out with since high school!
Ever since I put more focus and effort into spending time with my good friends, while still maintaining healthy relationships within my family, my life has improved drastically. I’m happier and more enjoyable to be around. Even better, I’m back to being my old, goofy self again.
What steps can you take to make sure you don’t fall into the same trap I did?
If you’re not careful, the same thing can happen to you. In the moment, it’s easy to stay home and watch Netflix because that’s easier and more comfortable. However, in the long-term that can be detrimental.
Here are three steps you can take to get you on the right track:
First, determine whether you have the right people in your life to keep you happy. Do you feel like you can be yourself around them? Do you feel free and alive when you hang out with them?
Second, figure out if they are willing and able to spend enough time with you. Invite them to hang out and see if you can fill the free time you set aside for hanging out with friends.
If you haven’t spoken to the person for a while, try pinging them first. Shoot them a text, a Facebook message, or even just comment on one of their posts. The main things you want to get across are that you miss them, you hope all is well, you’re curious how they’re doing, and you were thinking about them and wanted to say, “Hi.”
If you’ve been in touch with them lately, just shoot them a message and say, “Hey, let’s get together soon. I was thinking of hiking El Morro this weekend. Interested?”
It’s good to invite them to do something specific that you know they would enjoy. If you just ask to hang out, it might be hard for them to imagine what you would do together, which can make them less likely to accept. And if they do want to hang out but can’t or don’t want to do the original activity you proposed, they’ll likely respond with a different idea, still giving you a chance to hang out.
Third, if your friends don’t have the time or you’d rather hang out with different people, it’s time to consider meeting new people. Join a photography class, sign up for a kickball team, find a book club, or attend a young professional’s social mixer.
Go out into the world and meet new people. If you can find people while doing activities you already enjoy, even better.
Once you understand how important your friendships are, you’ve cleared the first hurdle.
From there, it’s on you to stay proactive to create and nourish the relationships that are so vital to your well-being.
It might take a little more effort to pick up the phone, text your friend and schedule a hangout, or get outside and join that soccer team, but when you look back on your life you’ll be thankful you did.