Five years ago I got married and moved countries. It was not the first time I had moved countries – our family has always lived between Kenya and Uganda – but this transition was quite disorienting and one of the reasons I found it so was the fact that making friends this time round was so much harder.
The first time I moved was when I had completed primary school in Nairobi and was starting form one in Kampala. My main worry then was what life in a new school and new environment would be like. I missed my friends and worried about making new ones. I however quickly made friends, some of whom are still my friends to date.
I expected the second move to be the same. Kenya was the country I was born and lived in for a good chunk of my childhood, surely it should not be that hard to make friends. I was older and expected that with this came loads of wisdom including, but not limited to, wisdom on making friends easily. These expectations were quickly dashed.
Here are five things I have learned about friendships as an adult as a result of this move and experiences I have had since.
1. It is harder to make and keep friends as an adult.
While friendship when you are younger is somewhat easy, the same cannot be said as an adult. First there is a lot of awkwardness that comes with making friends as an adult. A number of questions go through your mind. Do you ask someone directly “Can I be your friend?” Do you put yourself out there and invite people to your home or maybe events? What if they do not show up? Should you go for that event you have been invited to where you know no one other than the inviter who is also really an acquaintance? Where does one even meet potential friends? In my experience, the fear of rejection is real. One always feels like no one is looking to make new friends; I mean the people you are looking to making friends with are probably content with their childhood and longtime friends. This, though not true, can keep nagging at you and makes it a lot harder to take the leap.
Keeping friendships going as an adult is also hard. One of the many reasons is the lack of proximity. When we were younger, whether we made friends at school, church or in the neighborhood, these were people we spent time with daily or weekly. We didn’t have to make intricate plans on when and where to meet, there were no schedules or prior commitments, we literally just lived life together. As adults, there is a lot more to consider. Life gets busy with work schedules and family commitments, that often, friendship is put on the back burner. You keep planning dates that do not materialize and before you know it, it’s been months since you saw your friends.
2. Some friendships are for a season.
This cannot be emphasized enough, yet it still hurts or gets awkward when a season of friendship comes to an end. Friends drift apart for different reasons. It could be a move as it was in my case, it could be that you have both grown and changed, it could be that one of you took the deliberate decision to end it and this could also be for a number of reasons. The end of a season of friendship does not always denote the end of a friendship. It may mean that the nature of your friendship has changed. Maybe this person was your closest friend at some point but now is not. It does not mean they are not your friend at all. Adult friendships keep changing as do the seasons of life. Some, however, are friends through all the seasons. These though rare, are precious.
3. Friendships are important.
Friendships are important. They make life richer and are important for our growth. It is easy to forget this and let the busyness of life get in the way of building meaningful friendships. Like most good things, it takes effort to nurture friendships. It may not come easy, but it is definitely worth it. Take the time to call and check on your friends. When conflicts arise, take the initiative to resolve them; sometimes all it takes is for you to reach out for a misunderstanding to be ironed out.
Put the work into making new friends. Don’t wait for an invite to be extended, be the one to extend it. Be open to all possibilities. Sometimes you miss the profound friendship right before your eyes because it does not match your preconceived ideas. Avoid comparing your new friends to your current or old friends; you already have that. Try something new!
4. Be the friend you want to have.
Lately there has been a rise in ‘cancel culture’ especially on social media. Cancelling toxic friends, cancelling high maintenance friends (Yes this is a thing), cancelling friends who don’t check on you, just so many ‘cancellations’ going on. But have you ever stopped to really think about whether you meet all the standards you set for your friends? Perhaps you are the toxic friend! It may turn out you are actually the high maintenance friend you are accusing someone else of being. Instead of setting all these standards and qualifications of what a good friend is, why not be that kind friend to your friends. Be the one who relentlessly checks on your friends, who is there for them, who cheers them on. Be the kind of friend you want others to be to you.
5. Choose your friends wisely.
It is important to be the kind of friend you would like others to be to you but that does not mean that you should not use discernment while picking your friends.
Some friendships do not serve you and you should use discernment and wisdom to see this and either end the friendship or not even initiate it in the first place. This is where communication and self-awareness are vital. Tell your friends if you feel negative vibes from them or if things are falling apart. If you find yourself broken down rather than built up by a friendship, walk away.
I did finally get over the awkwardness and I’ve made some great friends since I moved. Friends who were there for me through my pregnancy and childbirth when my family could not physically be there, who are there through loss and grief, and who are present even in the mundane.
They are worth all the hard and awkward.
Yunia Kazibwe is the founder of Adulting Out Loud. She is a wife, and mother to an amazing little girl. When she is not writing for the blog or recording for the podcast, Yunia loves spending lazy days with family, watching movies and catching up on a good series. Though she doesn’t currently have one, she loves cats.
Yunia prefers texting to phone calls, enjoys taking walks, and her favourite snack is popcorn. She often plays pranks on people, and only stops laughing to catch a breath.