Wednesday, 27 February 2019

How To Make Friends and Not Alienate People

Once upon a time, in what seems like a lifetime away, I was offered a job which meant moving 250 miles and 5 hours away from everyone I knew. I was two years out of university with not a sniff of being paid for what I had a degree in, and this was the chance to take a step onto the career ladder in PR & Influencer Outreach, so naturally I jumped at it.

Moving to a new city where I didn't know anyone didn't really come into my mind when I made the decision, just overwhelming excitement at the prospect of a new adventure and a new start in Manchester. Once I had moved, started my job and found somewhere to live the reality of the difficulty of feeling settled and making friends really began to set in. I am by nature quite a chilled out and easy going person, however found a lot of the people at work and my housemates were from Manchester and had their friendship groups, and social life, sorted a very long time ago. This often led to me being the person to initiate plans and having to make the first move of making work friends real life friends too.

When you feel like you are the one constantly asking if someone wants to go for a drink after work, or for brunch at the weekend, you can quickly become disheartened and feel like your friendship is a one way street. For the most part I don't think this was malicious or intended on other peoples behalves, but is a very real part of moving somewhere where you don't know anybody in your mid twenties. 

Another thing that I found difficult to deal with for the first few years was seeing my best friends from home doing normal friend things I would have usually been included in; spontaneous nights out, getting last minute tickets for gigs, cooking dinner with each other, celebrating good relationship/work news the same day it happens, I missed a lot of moments that can define a friendship.

Luckily I have an amazing girl gang at home who after five years of living at the other end of the country I still call my very best friends. Both I and they made the effort to keep in touch, arrange trips to see each other and go on holidays, and I wouldn't swap them for the world. On the flip side I also found other friends who I had spent years travelling to London and back to see from Hampshire, before I moved to Manchester, only made an effort to talk to me when they wanted something (i.e a bed to sleep on in Manchester). At the time I would have classed them as best friends, however the reality of moving away showed me that these friendships were very one side and while a hard lesson to learn, sorting out the wheat from the chaff was invaluable. 

If I could do my time in Manchester differently I would try my best not to worry about being the person who always arranges plans, be more sociable both inside and outside of work, and go to different networking events to meet new people. However at the time I struggled a lot with social anxiety, which is something that travelling has really beaten out of me. When you're put in the position that you either make friends or spend your entire trip alone then you quickly learn how to start a conversation. I actually think it must be impossible to not make friends travelling, I have had conversations with people in the weirdest and most wonderful of places; at petrol stations, on boat trips, in hostels, queuing for post night out food, hanging around reception when the WiFi goes out, the list is endless. 

It has also opened my eyes to the best in people, a simple hello or question can start a conversation and most people are amazingly open and friendly if you just give it a try. I have also learnt that I have more in common with a much wider range of people than I ever thought possible, whether it be a TV show, politics, a lust to travel, there is always something to talk about. I am often quite an opinionated person when it comes to certain topics, something which can be difficult when trying to make new friends. My approach to this is to take other peoples opinions on these subjects with a pinch of salt, and if I find it really jarring to just move on, such as the time the daughter of a meat farmer started lecturing me on why my life long belief that eating animals is wrong was incorrect, when all I had done was sit opposite her at a hostel table without meat on my plate. Thank you, next.

As I write this I am currently looking for jobs in London when I return from travelling, I am unbelievably excited to be starting another new chapter on my return, and to have the majority of the people I care about most within a few small hours travel. I know there will also be lots of new people to meet, friendships with people I have made travelling to follow up, and friends of friends to hang out with too. The one thing I will take with me from my experiences in Manchester and travelling is the knowledge that there's one small word that can start something amazing: Hello. 

After Thought: Immediately after finishing writing this blog post a girl came over to me at my hostel and said she liked one of my tattoos. We got chatting and are now going out for the evening together, hopefully a new friend in the making from something so simple and a spectacularly well timed example of how being open and willing can lead to something great. 

Thanks to Kim for giving me the idea to write this post. 

Photographs taken at Finns, Canggu, Bali. 


Tuesday, 19 February 2019

The Pressure of Being Single and Nearly 30

As cliche as it may sound, there comes with the ever looming 30th Birthday a certain pressure from society to have achieved a tick list of things; buying a house, a certain step on the career ladder, getting married, having children, the outward appearance of having your shit together.

The one which I feel myself and my single females friends getting increasingly more frustrated with is the items on that list that require falling in love to achieve. As more of my friends fall in love, buy houses and get married to their partner of a billion years the more I feel like Rachel in Friends, frantically working backward from 35 and realising to be in the same position as those around me by that age I would need to have met the love of life, um, now actually.

Before you think it, there is absolutely no bitterness involved, weddings as it turns out are my absolute favourite thing ever and make me so blissfully happy I think I might enjoy them a little too much. Both of the weddings I have been to of close friends are amongst some of my favourite memories and I cried happy tears from the overwhelming presence of love on both occasions, those days still make me smile thinking about them now. 

Dress: Spell and the Gypsy Collective 

It is more the pressure to find that special someone and announce it to the world in a gleeful social media post that I struggle with. Particularly so with my recent decision to go travelling. From my mother telling me all of her friends daughters who have gone to Australia didn't come back because they met a man, to friends asking about 'the man situation' on the reg, and even before I went away, to absolutely everyone I spoke to about it going "you might meet a guy!" with an excited squeal. The prospect of it was indeed very exciting, and don't get me wrong there have been some incidents while away that now allow me to drink to something new when the inevitable round of 'Never Have I Ever' happens at a hostel bar.  (Sorry Mum if you're reading this).

But I didn't go travelling to meet the love of my life, nor am I on a 24-7 right swiping Tinder quest to meet men as is the impression I get I should be. I am however on a mission to fall in love with myself again and find something that resembles inner peace and gratitude toward the world. I think I am getting there, even in the short three months I have been away so far I have fallen in love with the world, and most importantly myself all over again. I don't recognise myself from the woman I was at the start of this trip, let along before it. I am stronger and more fiercely independent than even I ever realised. I am confident when I want to be, and happy to take a back seat at times too. I am as capable of making friends with a wide variety of different people as I am navigating my around the other side of the world by myself. 

Often I find myself wondering if this frame of mind will continue when I get back to the UK, and if my resolve of being happy within myself and working on myself will continue. A question I can't yet answer, but I sure as hell know that I won't let this feeling go without a fight. I am also certain it will take some sort of magic for a man to sweep me off my feet again. Not because I don't believe in love, but because I believe myself worthy of only something that comes along once in a lifetime. Something that is worth waiting for, and something I would never have to settle for. 

There might be a lot of pressure for this to happen by a certain age, but I have always believed it happens exactly when it is supposed to, even if I might forget that at times. In the meantime I am making it my mission to make myself as happy as possible, and enjoy my time around those I am already head over heels in love with; my friends and my family and myself. 
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