Photograph by Selma Reis
I am a 16-year-old girl and it has come to the point where I feel like I am getting bored and sick of my friends and feel like I am losing the connection that we used to have. I know this is very normal and it is inevitable that I will lose friends, but the only problem is, where can I find my people? I have two more years left of school and don’t know whether I should just stick with them and wait till university/tafe or start searching for some new people. Only problem is that I don’t know where to find those friendships?
I think first up, it is important to acknowledge the positives in outgrowing your friends–it means you’re evolving and discovering new parts of yourself, and need nourishment, and this is a good thing! Extending your social networks as you gain different experiences and interests is part of growing older; before you know it you will be in your 30s and have a dozens of groups of friends who represent different phases of your life. It’s also important to recognise that this desire to branch out doesn’t mean you need to drop your current friends–remember to cherish them for who they are and what they give you, despite the fact that you need more. It doesn’t have to be one or the other. It’s also possible that they are feeling the staleness too, and might welcome you introducing new experiences and people to their group if you were to do so. From what you said, it doesn’t seem like they are trying to hold you back, which is great! Nonetheless, it is so, so normal to outgrow your friends and you certainly don’t have to wait until you leave school to extend your social circle. It is likely that throughout your life you will go through several shifts where you will need to move into branching out mode. So, finding new friends that stimulate you is a crucial life skill, and one you can start working on now! Here are some thoughts on how to get to know new people.
Be chatty! Firstly, keep an eye out for people that you feel a connection to. Throwing out a verbal offering or two to random people in the lunch queue, in classes, or at social gatherings can yield surprisingly good chats! From my memories of high school, friends would stay in particular groups at lunchtimes, during class, and on the weekends, so perhaps make an effort to leave the clique every now and again so you can chat to others (even making excuses to go for a walk might help). And just be your brilliant self–you want friends that like you for YOU, not new friends that like Trying-To-Be-Cool-you.
Be brave! I would say you should take every social opportunity you can–if there is a gathering of some sort but only one person you know is going, take the plunge and go anyway. If you feel strange you can simply make up an excuse to leave, but if you’re feeling good you may end up striking up conversations with new people that could blossom into new and wonderful friendships. Feeling out of your depth is not the end of the world–you will recover and be brave again when you’re ready. If you get stuck, remember that people love talking about themselves; dig a little and soon enough someone will be telling you all about their latest TV binge or their fraught relationship with their siblings.
Join things! There are heaps of clubs and societies around, or events that you can attend and you could even drag one of your current friends along–they might appreciate the new experience too. But it’s also okay to go to things alone if you can and it’s safe enough. Bring a book or a fully charged smart phone, buy a bevvie and just own your solo status! A couple of years ago I started to go to open mic nights alone, and since then I have made some great new connections and a whole new community! There are plenty of clubs out there–anime clubs, crafternoons, sports clubs, or online women’s forums who meet up IRL. You could even start something at your own school if you have a particular interest that others might share! You could also try working or volunteering at a shop or organisation that you like! This is a great way to form fruitful connections with people with whom you have a common interest, and gain work experience.
Don’t despair! It’s so normal to feel you’re stuck in a rut and to feel under stimulated. It won’t always feel like this and it is very unlikely that you will have to wait until you go to uni or TAFE in two years to find new people you connect with. If your friendships aren’t fruitful, it is okay to be more selective with who you hang out with. Instead of going through the motions with a social commitment, perhaps simply take yourself out for a coffee or walk instead, and focus on what stimulates you. Finding your people takes time and spending time alone doesn’t need to be distressing–in fact, it is also a crucial life skill! Connections with people come and go, and it’s important to enjoy the lulls so you have the energy to ride the highs when they do come!