So, you’re an adult and you’re lonely. Welcome to the . . . club?
Friendship seemed pretty simple during childhood, right? You’d go to school, treat the other kids nicely and boom! Friends! Most of us probably didn’t think much about how friendship happened until we became adults, and then slowly . . . a lot of us don’t seem to have many anymore.
There is no one culprit—people move, have children or don’t, get dogs or don’t (seriously I had no idea how much a puppy can change a relationship), change careers, work from home, spend time caring for aging parents, stay indoors during a global pandemic—it’s no surprise that so many of us feel a little bit lonely and a lot anxious in 2022.
The trend of our times
According to psychologist and University of Maryland professor Marisa Franco, people tend to believe the myth that “friendships happen organically,” AKA without us really trying. But that’s never actually been the case. Those days back in childhood? I bet your parents spent a lot of time teaching you how to be nice, to share and to say hello to other kids. In school you saw the same group of kids every day, without having to make specific plans to hang out. You may have played a sport, gone to church or done other group activities which provided even more structured opportunities for friendship.
Adults in the United States used to have more friends, but studies have shown that over the past 50 years, we’ve experienced a steady decline in our number of close relationships. Is it any wonder that Americans report record levels of loneliness, social anxiety and depression? If you count yourself among the anxious and the lonely, I hear you. A career change, a relationship ending and the normal movement of life left me feeling pretty darn alone a few years back. I didn’t want to find someone to date, I wanted some FRIENDS!
You CAN make new friends—at any age!
According to Franco’s new book “Platonic: How the Science of Attachment Can Help You Make—and Keep—Friends,” we need to be more deliberate about how we create and build relationships. It’s not enough to sit at home hoping somebody will text us back—we have to put in some work! Franco writes, “The ingredients that need to be in place for us to make friends organically are continuous unplanned interaction and shared vulnerability.” So, I set out to identify some places in Rochester where those two things might be easy to come by.
Make a plan and stick to it.
Friendship experts agree that finding a space where you’ll see the same people regularly is an essential component to sparking relationships. So, putting ourselves into situations where we’ll see the same group of people casually is a must!
I spoke with Corrie Strommen of Collider Coworking, Erik Noonan of We Bike Rochester and Leah Bruns from Art Heads Emporium to get an idea of how organizations like these help to create spaces for relationship-building in Rochester. Noonan, who moved to Rochester in 2021, says, “Like many in Rochester, I am a transplant. We Bike connected me to people locally, and I learned my way around town by attending group rides. In this pandemic era when so many parts of society are growing less connected, We Bike Rochester serves as a way to glue and repair those connections.”
All three agree that providing regularly scheduled activities that are open to all is an essential aspect of community-building. According to Strommen, “Collider regularly provides community education opportunities such as panel discussions, learning sessions and workshops. We have free days of coworking monthly and organize Happy Hours for networking opportunities.”
Art Heads Emporium also provides many free or low-cost opportunities for community connection. “Our studio hosts Open Studio nights twice a month for anyone to attend,” says Bruns. “We also host Queer Art Nites for the LGBTQ+ community with Out Rochester two times a month. These events are all free to attend, and we provide free art supplies and sell paint supplies if needed.”
It’s normal to feel awkward.
No doubt it is intimidating to step into a new space for the first time—but experts like Franco say that getting out of your comfort zone and embracing the awkwardness is necessary! And all of these Rochester spaces go out of their way to welcome newcomers. Says Noonan, “Our social rides bring together a diverse cross-section of Rochester: every age and income bracket, infants in trailers and 7-year-olds eager to ride, all the way up to folks in their 80s, from lifelong and long-term residents to newly arrived folks and those who will only be here for a few weeks or a few years. Some folks have limited mobility, and others are endurance athletes. There is no faster way to get tied into the local community than joining us for a bike ride.”
“We love our community and pour that love into any space we occupy,” says Bruns. “Our studio is cozy, inviting, bright and relaxing. We want everyone of all abilities to feel welcome to create in our space. Creating art with others builds community and invites us to explore new things. These activities are so important for our minds and a great way to relax and connect.”
Strommen agrees that supporting the community has benefits beyond the individual. “We truly believe that it takes a community to build successful business owners,” she says. “Whether you’re feeling isolated as an entrepreneur or just want to gather with innovative and supportive thinkers that are passionate about seeing growth in Rochester, we welcome everyone to join the Collider community!”
Better relationships benefit everyone.
Collider, We Bike Rochester and Art Heads Emporium are just a few examples of places to connect and build relationships right here in Rochester. We are lucky to have a growing list of spaces to meet new people and nurture friendships. Cafe Steam is probably the reason I stayed in Rochester during that lonely time a few years back. Within that cozy space I knew I’d see friendly faces, the same remote-worker regulars and plenty of up-and-coming artists and musicians. To be honest I can’t even work from their shops anymore—I see too many friends! What a great problem to have.