After a three day solo-with-my-dog getaway to Mendocino, I came home to this blog waiting to be written. With my husband away for the week, upon returning to the silent guest cottage studio we currently call home, loneliness welled up from my belly and spilled out into tears.
This blog is on being the new girl. I write for anyone who has been or will be the new girl as my, “I get it; me, too.” And I write it of course for myself, to help make sense of the sadness I feel.
I have never really had to be the “new girl” in the way life recently called me into. Growing up an athlete, I always had an immediate family of sorts – a group of people with whom it was easy to bond. While I can recall having a desire to fit in, there were usually at least a couple of girls at school that were quickly close friends. Later on in life, jobs and roommates offered those opportunities for connection when in a new place.
Last year, I moved from San Diego to Kenwood, a beautiful hideaway tucked into Sonoma Valley’s wine country, to join my now husband. With the move, I became a newly-married woman in transition who travels to San Diego to nurture the infant non-profit I started there; who is realizing just how much I left behind in a network of deep friendships and work I loved that were both built during ten fully-lived years of being single; and who is navigating the coming together of two independent lives.
Which leaves me here. In this temporary, quiet cottage on a Saturday night wondering where all my friends are and wishing I had something to do.
So what has it been like being the new girl?
I am learning, though not always gracefully, to find peace in being lonely, which is not the same as being alone. I quite like alone time; I need it even. I also need authentic connection. When at times I feel a yearning to connect, the lonely comes.
I cherish the times I get to catch up with friends via phone or Google Hangout. But as far as day-to-day contact with close people other than my husband goes, it is sparse at best. Though I can’t say I haven’t tried.
Many days are battles to reframe this move from a rear-view-mirror to a forward-looking perspective…all the while not bypassing the feelings the come up along the way because the only way out is through. An infusion of self-care stands in for the comfort of regular connection in community.
SoulCycle is my lifeline. I enjoy kind exchanges and am still holding out hope for a first real friend there. I have run around to women’s conferences and set up “girl dates” with people I connected with. You know, that awkward, “Hey, I am new in town and was wondering if you’d like to get a cup of coffee or lunch sometime.” Wine, a hike, a decent conversation…anything? A couple women took me up on dates, but women are busy, and there hasn’t been a second yet.
On nights like this one, I sit here thinking that even if there was someone I could call (which off the top of my head, there isn’t), am I really in the mood for mustering that energy it takes to move through that outer layer of pleasantries? How I wish I could stop by a friend’s house or go grab dinner with someone who just knows me.
Because of the network of relationships I had in San Diego and a general comfort I had built there, I could show up basically anywhere feeling a-okay being just me. Now, when I do go out, I go more unsettled; a tad more insecure.
Only now can I truly appreciate the simple magic of friendship that is just showing up and “being” – where it doesn’t matter what you do because being yourselves together is enough.
Which gets me to the next thing I ponder as the new girl: Is “being” enough?
Can you really just show up in a group of people and “be yourself,” and somehow someday someone will want to hang out with you? Is it unrealistic to think that I could go into a new place, not riding on my achievements or connections, and “be” my way into real friendships? Well, my evidence to date would say no, though my test subject (me) hasn’t been the most all-the-time-cheery person that people would be drawn to either. Not that cheeriness is the the juice in real friendships anyway.
For a while, I got really excited when someone asked if I could get together. When? My schedule was clear. (Which was not ever the case up until last year.) Then, when they cancelled or showed up 20 minutes late, my feelings got hurt like they never would have when my life was full. In fact, those times were unexpected reprieves from the busy-ness I packed myself into.
And now, my once clear schedule is something I fiercely protect, adding “new girl” dates and meetings after my personal, relationship, and work times have been granted their space. While unsettling, this new arrangement seems a healthy one in the long run.
This all makes me think about the women who reached out to me or the friends who tried to connect me with people who were new in town when I lived in San Diego. While I almost always made an effort to reach out or to meet them, I recall how I was often running from one meeting to the next, at times squeezing them in. I can see now how more than anyone, they could have used my full attention because presence gives people a sense of their value. I value you enough to give you my time and to be present with you while I am here. Or I value both of us enough to say, “No,” if yes would mean being rushed and scattered.
“Time is our greatest resource,” my husband says. With this perspective, I see a great lesson for myself tangled up in this pain of being new. Being conscious of how I spend my time is the best gift I can give myself and the others around me. I hope to hold on to the awareness I have been given about the vulnerability of life transitions and that someday I have the opportunity to offer someone new my time because I have it and my presence because it is a gift. No one wins when I spread myself too thin.
For now, I continue to wade in the fog of being the new girl, hoping that when it lifts, we find people with whom we can enjoy real connection, dinner parties, hikes, contributing in ways we care about, and a fun trip or two. Tonight, I sit here with my first Sonoma best friend, Bandon, our lab, as he snores his post-dinner nap away.
And I feel it. Sadness. Grief. Wondering what my old friends are doing…and I smile through the tears appreciating that we got to share times that special and that real. They carved the place this deep in my heart. And I am glad it’s here.