Saturday, August 15, 2015

Putting down roots

So that whole continuing-to-make-friends-past-thirty thing sounds great. And it is great! Except when you have to goddamn do it.

We're now basically settled in Punchline Rustbelt City. A few pictures are left to be hung, a few boxes need to be taken to Goodwill, and a few corners remain de facto refugee camps for objects we don't know what to do with--but things are shaping up. My orientation is next week and classes begin the week after that.

Which means I'm turning my attention to the problem of meeting people.

Oh, it's not as bad as it might be, or as bad as it's been in the past: I have a partner, so I don't have to do my exploring alone; I already know, and am looking forward to getting to know better, most of my departmental colleagues and most of the Renaissance lit specialists who teach at nearby institutions. There are even a handful of people in town I'd call friends. But that's not a very deep bench, and most of those friendships aren't close. I need people to go out drinking with. I need people to confide in. And I need people who know stuff: people who can hook me up with a hairdresser or a tailor--but also with all the things I don't yet know about or should be doing in this town.

When a friend of mine moved to Hong Kong--in her thirties, single, knowing no one--someone told her that when you're new in town, you should accept every invitation and pursue every offer you get for the first two months. Turn down nothing. Follow-up via email. Make yourself visible. There's plenty of time to be choosy later.

So I'm trying a version of that, and also trying to diversify my network beyond academics; if we're to be here for the foreseeable future, we want to try to be good burghers--members of the art museum, season ticket holders to the orchestra, and all that jazz.

So far, I have two strategies for breaking into the larger social world: my alumni organization and the church we attended during my sabbatical year. I suspect the former will prove easier than the latter: it's a good mix of transplants and returned natives, but in any case people who have a wider vision of the world and are eager both to meet new people and to introduce them to the city. The parish seems a little trickier, and also a little more. . . parochial. The vibe is warm and everyone seems to know each other, but my sense is that's because they all went to the local Catholic schools or have kids in them.

(Our elder cat shares a name with one of the Catholic boys' high schools, a basketball powerhouse, but that probably doesn't count as an "in.")

But we'll see. All organizations need volunteers and people who show up, and I can (probably) do that.

After that, though, I'm out of ideas. So if you have a patented 30-day strategy for putting down roots and meeting besties, I'm all ears.


Fie upon this quiet life! said...

I grew up in the city where I am, and I'm not friends with anyone I grew up with pretty much. So it has been weird being here. Most of my friends are my colleagues at work from different departments, or the parents of the kids at my children's school. But my very best friend is an academic from a neighboring school who I accidentally met at a talk she gave about a year and a half ago. I've found that a lot of my non-academic friends are absolutely confused about my job, and it's much, much harder to maintain those relationships, because they just don't get it. But my academic friend at neighboring institution SO totally gets it, and has kids, and has ambitions, and so on. We were meant to find each other.

So if I were starting out somewhere new, and I knew some profs from neighboring institutions, I'd probably try to find someone who was similar in rank and social position to be friends with. I don't know if it would work or if it's good advice, but that's probably what I'd try to do.

Anonymous said...

Do you have any social hobbies? When I moved to my current town in my 30s, I joined a knitting group and met a good cross-section of non-academics, some of whom became good friends. (And I do find that non-academic friends help keep me sane, even when they don't understand my job at all.)

Flavia said...


Yeah, the being back home thing must be weird. My BFF from my previous job was also returning to the area where she grew up, after 15 or so years away, so I know second-hand how unexpectedly alienating that can be.

I'm already friends to various degrees with fellow academics here, and as I say I'm looking forward to developing those friendships (among them is already the only person I'd describe as a good friend). But I don't have any doubts about the potential there, so I'm also looking for non-academic friends to widen my experience of the city.


That's a great suggestion, but. . . I'm not sure I do! My local alumni chapter has what appears to be a pretty active women's subgroup (loosely focused on things affecting women's lives, careers, and education), and I liked the women I met at the first event I went to--smart, funny, well-read and well-traveled. One of them is starting up a reading group and I was strongly encouraged to join, so I'm definitely going to go to the first couple of meetings. Reading may be the only semi-social hobby I have!

Susan said...

I wish I had good advice. Seven years in and I have no real friends from outside work. If you define friends as people you can call to ask for help at random times. I have friends from work. . . but that's also because I'm in a relatively small town, with a correspondingly small pool. And my church for a variety of reasons does not provide this.

Veralinda said...

The she who hopes she is the above-mentioned good friend promises to introduce to other swell folks--even including some civilians!

Contingent Cassandra said...

No general strategies, since I'm in Fie's position (moved back to the area where I grew up after grad school, which has its own complications, but they're different). I also returned (by choice, after some reflection) to the church where I grew up, and that, combined with the fact that several grad school friends moved to the area, has formed the nucleus of my social circle (which is not large). I do, however, have one suggestion in the church vein, based on the fact that a section leader in my (Protestant) church choir is very actively involved in the movement for women's ordination in the Catholic church: I've been to a few events at her invitation, and the women (and men) involved in that movement seem like really interesting, thoughtful folks. There's a list of local leaders/chapters (including, I believe, an entry for punchline city) here: .

Renaissance Girl said...

Three words: rock climbing, baby!

In all seriousness, our city's symphony has a social group that combines concerts with dinners and sometimes lectures. Maybe something like that?

Flavia said...


Maid bien sûr! And I look forward to it. With or without civilians.


Thanks! I think you've mentioned that organization before.


Hahahahahaha. But yes to the other. Something like that.

Natori Moore said...

I think the elder cat name share with the Catholic high school SHOULD count as an in. Or at least I'd name drop occasionally to try to make it count as one.