Finding friends in high school and college was too easy. Through classes, extracurricular clubs, and jobs, I was clumped together with people I had something in common with. After being forced to spend a ton of time together, friendships organically grew.
I assumed the amazing people I’d met at college would stay in Chicago after graduation. I was wrong.
My friends, mostly journalism majors, took jobs in distant media markets, like Santa Fe and Champaign. By September, I was spending all of my free time with Netflix and my boyfriend. Like any normal human being would, I missed having a group of people to hang out with.
I found myself thrown back into the world of dating, except this time, I wasn’t looking for a boyfriend. I was looking for a group of friends who shared a few interests and wanted to spend time together.
My first attempt at friend-making was when I went to the Jewish Federation young adult happy hour. I’m Jewish and like doing Jewish stuff, so I figured I was bound to meet my new bestie there.
I was totally wrong. Everyone came with their friends from college and talked to other groups of Big 10 grads who came together. I spent a half-hour awkwardly talking to a guy I had nothing in common with before leaving uncomfortably early.
I then joined a young adult softball league. Everyone on my team was way older. Ready to give up, I downloaded Bumble for the BFF setting. Like a dating app, you swipe left or right on potential friends based on their profiles. It was super weird, and by then, it was winter. Nearly everyone’s profiles were outdated from the summer — it seemed like nobody was really using this service anymore.
So I turned to ancient Jewish tradition for help: I forced myself to attend as many Shabbat dinners as possible. Shabbat is important to me, and I figured I already had something in common with people who enjoy carving out a few hours every Friday night for good food and wine. Through OneTable and my neighborhood synagogue, I found dinners for #millennials like myself looking for a Friday night meal.
The first few dinners were awkward. I met a lot of bros working in finance or tech who had nothing else to talk about except themselves and their blooming careers. I seriously contemplated my new strategy and considered skipping the next Shabbat dinner I had signed up for.
But I forced myself to go, and ended up sitting next to an amazing group of people. Conversation was completely natural and we had a ton in common. They admitted they were looking for friends and community, too, and I was totally inspired to own my loneliness. We talked about how hard it was to meet like-minded people after college, and I realized what I was going through was totally normal.
The truth is, making friends as an adult sucks. It’s an exhausting and long journey that totally pushed me out of my comfort zone. It’s been weeks since that Shabbat dinner, and I’m having lunch with one of the women I met this weekend. I recently went to a random Lebanese rock concert with someone I met in a Facebook group. And I’ve found a few of people who share my interest in Israeli politics and want to hang out and talk about it. Thanks to a boatload of patience and a handful of Shabbat dinners, I’m starting to find my post-college community.