Tag Archives: making friends

How to make the first move

I went out to lunch with a coworker today. She’s someone I have known for years, and have always thought she was just a wonderful person. As long as I’ve known her, she’s been bubbly and upbeat, cheering others on around her in their endeavors, and just an inspiration on how to be a decent person. But being a natural introvert, I’ve never been one to make the first move to get to know her better – or anyone at work, for that matter. I’ve always left it up to others to try and get to know me better because it’s just easier that way, you know? There’s less risk involved. Naturally that must mean I have tons of friends, right?

You’d think, huh.

Surprisingly, it doesn’t work that way. But regardless, this coworker and I connected recently and came to the mutual decision that we should really have lunch. We ended up having over an hour of fantastic conversation as we discussed everything from our kids to our faith, and everything in between. When we got back to our desks, she emailed me the kindest note. In it, she mentioned that while it might not seem like it, she’s actually a very shy person.

“I’m not one to socialize much,” she wrote, “but you make it very easy. Let’s do it again!”

When it’s hard to make friends, maybe we just need a reminder we’re not the only ones who are shy. Somewhere out there is another human being who is longing for a friend and not sure how to go about it. It’s not just us who are afraid to make the first move. Others are too. But if no one makes the first move, then no one will go forward.

This truth is currently being illustrated by my stepson, Frizz, as he agonizes how to ask out the girl he has liked for the better part of the school year. As a senior, he is closing in on the end of his high school years. He is also closing in on the last chance he has to even talk to the girl he likes – let alone ask her out on a date, and perhaps even ask her to be his girlfriend. But just making that first step is terrifying enough, let alone any of the steps that follow after that.

Not sure how to advise my stepson, I asked my daughter, DQ, how she has been asked out in the past. She shared her most recent experience with me. The boy got to know her by asking a lot of questions about her, keeping his attention focused on her. The attraction proved to be mutual, and both of them dropped hints about their interest in each other. And when this boy was able to see that DQ was into him, he asked her to be his girlfriend.

“I guess what Frizz should do is just really try to get to know this girl better, then get her number, and when the moment seems right, tell her how he feels and see if she feels the same way,” DQ advised. “If he does it right, he might even know that she likes him back when he gets to that point.”

Of course, she makes it sound so easy. And truthfully, if you put your nerves aside, it really is that easy. But for someone as shy as Frizz, as shy as my coworker, as shy as ME, taking that first step can feel like preparing to jump off a cliff.

But if no one makes the first move, then no one will go forward.

I guess this could be a lesson in anything. We never know what will happen unless we make that first move – whether it be making a new friend, expressing a feeling of adoration, publishing a book, taking a stand for yourself, risking it all…. If we live a life so full of caution that it keeps us from living life to the fullest, we can’t claim we know the bad that will happen. We also will never know the good that will happen.

Being social for an introvert might feel totally unnatural. But while painful at first, barreling through that shyness isn’t lethal. It might seem that way, but taking that first step won’t strike you down dead. The worst that can happen is that you might get turned down. Sucky, sure. But you’ll be able to move beyond it rather than getting stuck in the unknown. And the best that can happen? You’ll get exactly what you wanted in the first place. A new friend. That special someone who likes you just as much as you like her. Or a published book (only a few more weeks left until A Symphony of Cicadas is officially published).

We’ll never know until we’ve made the first move.

How to make friends, part 2

Read part 1 here….

We got to camp with a lot of time to spare before the opening ceremonies. Taz brought his own basketball, giving him an even better chance at meeting kids since the ball situation at camp proved to be limited at times. He spent his free time shooting hoops beside another kid, but they didn’t really talk with each other. In fact, there were more kids hanging out on their own than there were groups, many of them cautiously moving around everyone else as they tried to see where they fit in. A lot of parents were still there, and the kids kind of hung back with the faces they knew as they sought out something familiar among the weird and unknown. Taz did the same, though he purposely spent more time on the courts than with me to assert his independence.

Opening ceremonies came and I headed down with the rest of the camp. I saw Taz briefly but never quite saw where he sat until the ceremony was halfway over. He sat by himself as far away as the rest of the group as he could, only getting up when his name was called as they lined up in tribes. I silently prayed that a friend would manifest himself into this group he had just been placed in, and then let it go to fate.

My daughter called out the names for her own tribe one by one. She named off a new kid I had noticed earlier, “Ben”, and he left his dad to come forward. Something caught under his shoe however, and he tipped forward into a rolling fall in front of the whole camp. He appeared to brush it off, but you could tell he was shaken. It was definitely apparent when the poor kid was seen moments later with his dad, trying his hardest not to cry and failing miserably. I caught up with DQ a little while later and we both discussed a plan on how to help both Ben and Taz get to know each other to help ease some of the inevitable homesickness if nothing were done.

Tribe meetings ended, and Taz had found a familiar face in the dining hall. It was a kid who went to his school who he didn’t really get along with. But being that both of them didn’t have any friends here, they were suddenly the best of friends with each other. They were playing Foosball on one of the tables, trying to figure out how to play without a ball since they couldn’t find one. For now, they were settling with a pine cone. I could see Ben circling the table like a vulture, obviously interested in what they were doing, but totally unsure how to step in. To top it off, the tears hadn’t quite left his demeanor, and he was fighting them off as best as he could. This meant he was holding his t-shirt up over his face to hide the fact that he was on the verge of tears, even though his red-rimmed eyes were giving him away.

“Taz,” I said, beckoning him at an opportune moment, “see that kid over there?” I asked him. “He’s having a really hard time right now and doesn’t know anyone.” I explained what had happened at opening ceremonies after Taz had left, and Taz made a noise of sympathy. “I think he needs a friend just as bad as you did. Do you think you can ask him to join you?” Taz gave me a pained look.

“I don’t know, Mom,” he said. “What if I did it later tonight?”

“It will be too late,” I said. “I’m afraid he’s going to try and go home.” Taz gave me a half-hearted promise that he’d try, and then went back to the table to play.

“I got a ball, so I get first dibs at playing,” another kid said, coming up to Taz and his school friend. Both boys made groans of how unfair that was, but let him take over on one of the sides of the table. Meanwhile, Ben was getting a little braver and coming closer to the table. He finally made a bold move and just sat right next to where they were playing Foosball. Taz glanced over and saw the new kid.

“I got it,” Taz said suddenly. “You and you are a team,” he said as he pointed at the new kid and his school friend. “And me and him will be a team,” pointing at the kid with the ball.

And just like that, they became a group of four friends.

I couldn’t stick around at camp. My limited vacation time dictated that I would be working at my job this week rather than my usual week off chaperoning at camp. But before I left, I saw that Taz’ group was strong in their bond, and appeared to be growing as more and more kids got to know each other. Taz wouldn’t be alone this year, and several more kids would come home to their parents with stories of the new friends they had made in such a short time. In fact, groups were forming all over camp, and the faces of strangers were now starting to look a lot more like friends.

The unfamiliar can be scary – whether you’re 11 years old, 34 years old, 48 years old, or whatever age you are. And when you’re alone in a sea of strangers, it’s hard not to feel totally alone in your predicament as well. But really, all anyone wants is a sense of familiarity when surrounded by the unknown. Sometimes all it takes is one kind gesture for the unknown to become something a little friendlier.

And sometimes, we have to make that first step.

A shorter version of this two-part story will publish in the Press Democrat on July 27.

How to make friends, part 1

Last year when Taz went to camp, he spent the whole entire time hanging out with a 6-year old instead of 10-year olds like him. It had been an awkward year for him already, having started the school year at a new school, and then finishing it back up at his old school because the first school was too rough on him. It was a learning experience for all of us, and we were lucky to have ended it on a good note. But the whole ordeal took a toll on his self-esteem, and suddenly my outgoing guy who was generally well-liked at school was a little less sure of himself and totally out of his element when it came to meeting new people.

So this year, I was intent that things would be different.

DQ was in my corner on this project of ours to condition Taz into making friends and not being alone the whole week. She began keeping an eye out for all her friends younger brothers, learning their names and ages as well as judging their temperament to see if they might be someone Taz might like to hang out with. I began talking with Taz about it, encouraging him about how to handle situations and hang out with kids his own age this year. If Taz had been 13 or 14 while I talked with him about making new friends, he would have shrugged me off and told me to stay out of his business. But one of the coolest things about 11-year olds is how open they are generally to new ideas and suggestions, and even to mothers and sisters butting into his life.

Camp came and I drove Taz up that morning. DQ was already there since she’s on teen staff, so it was just the two of us. The past week we had gone through our fair share of turmoil as he spaced on all the things he was supposed to do in favor of playing videogames all day long. As we drove, the discussion we had about the abuse of his free time turned into a fullblown argument – me at my wits end, and him feeling totally unheard. We drove in silence for another 10 minutes before it clicked what was going on.

“You want to know what I think?” I asked him. He turned slightly towards me, but kept his head ducked down so he didn’t have to look at me. “I might be wrong, but my guess is that you’ve been playing a lot of videogames to avoid some of the stuff that’s really going on, huh?” He seemed a little more interested in what I had to say, this time looking at me to hear more.

“What do you mean?” he asked.

“I mean, you’re on the videogames all day because it’s a way to keep in touch with your friends, right? It’s so you don’t really have to say goodbye.” This past school year was his last at the Santa Rosa schools, as he would be attending school in Petaluma in the fall. In the process, he was leaving behind all his friends, and many of them he probably would never see again.

I glanced over at Taz as he quickly swiped away at his eyes. He nodded yes.

“And this week you’re going to camp and are going to be in a new situation with new people, and that’s kind of scary, isn’t it?”

“I’m really nervous,” he admitted. “I mean, I want to make friends. But what if no one likes me?” With the root of the problem facing us, the fight was suddenly forgotten. I didn’t have an answer for him. All I could do was reassure him that his sister would never let that happen, and that I was sure he would come away from the week with a friend. But the honest truth was, how was I to know how it would turn out?

To be continued….