Saturday, May 16, 2015

We are going to be friends

When I started this blog way back in 2011 (wow) I was in the process of adjusting to my move to California and the weird stage of adult life where making friends is challenging. The move was for my job and I knew no one in the area but jumped at the chance to try something new. It's hard to move somewhere and not have a support network. It took a long time for me to make friends, even at work, and I typically excel at making friends at work. When my beloved Ford Escape died, I had to deal with it on my own. When I got locked into my bathroom, I was afraid no one would come looking for me. I've always been very independent and have no problem doing things on my own but sometimes you just need people because being around other people is just funner (debate whether funner is a word on your own time).

I believe it looked something like this.
Adult friendships are difficult. When you're young you have no fear (or maybe just less fear) so friendship comes a bit easier. The structures of youth like school, clubs, and mom arranged play dates made friends easier to come by. Little things were much more important; I remember becoming friends with a girl in second grade just because we had the same Pound Puppies lunchbox. My family moved a lot when I was younger so making friends was something I got very good at because I did it so frequently.

In her book MWF Seeking BFF, Rachel Bertsche chronicles her yearlong quest to find a new best friend after moving to Chicago to be with her husband. She goes on 52 friend-dates and calls her year "the year of friending." I read the book not too long after moving to California and immediately started taking notes in the margins and plotting how I would make more of an effort to make friends. I had a plan and I began exploring Meet-Up groups and plotting to join book clubs despite horrible book selections.

Then something happened without me even trying: I made a friend at work.

I've always been the type of person who enjoyed getting to know my co-workers. People spend more time at work than they do at home these days so it makes sense that friendships would occur. This is in direct contrast to the traditional world of work where work and personal lives remained separate. I don't believe you have to like everyone you work with nor do you have to best friends with the people you do like but work is much more enjoyable when you have people to go to lunch with, commiserate with when you've had a bad day, and celebrate with whether it's something major or you know, Tuesday.

In the DC office and at my previous job, I made friends very quickly and it was mostly because of the same strategy that worked when I was younger: commonalities. Finding things in common with my co-workers was the way to go. Whether it was Project Runway, liking ranch dressing on french fries, or bowling, finding these small things helped my work friends and I move to actually being friends. It wasn't until one of my California co-workers (who shares my first name) and I started discussing baking that we started hanging out. She introduced me to some of her friends and I started to feel like I belonged. By the time I moved back to the East Coast I felt better about my friendships and not as alone way out west.

I've spent most of this week thinking and writing about workplace friendships. I volunteered to write a blog post for our wellness month at work and decided to focus on the benefits of workplace friendships. There's a lot of research now that suggests workplace friendships are good for employees and organizations. I'm sort of obsessed with this infographic right now. In an informal Facebook poll, I discovered most of my friends feel like they have a best or close friend and work. More importantly, most felt their employers supported friendships. What's most interesting to me is much of the research points to three elements that need to be present in order for workplace friendship to take hold: physical proximity, familiarity, and similarity. So really workplace friendships aren't all that different from making friends on the playground. We're a little bit more sophisticated (maybe) but we need the same things we did in the second grade.

As I sat with two friends from work (one I've knows for awhile now and enjoy hanging out with and one that is new; this was our first non-work social event) watching Pitch Perfect 2, I realized I've come a long way in the years since I started this blog. My friends, workplace and otherwise, have been a big part of that. I could wait until Friendship Day to say thank you but August seems so far away.

So enjoy one of my favorite White Stripes songs instead.

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