I’ve been in PEI for just under three months now. The first month was a whirlwind of hooking up utilities, finding furniture, and getting to know the neighbourhood. Now that I’m settled in, the loneliness is as well.
Before coming here I broke up with someone and it broke me open. In my previous life, when I was lonely I would seek solace in a new romantic relationship. That pattern is no longer serving me so I’ve sworn myself to celibacy for at least one year. Some days, it feels like I’m kicking an addiction. In many ways I am.
At the same time, I am determined to meet my people here: to make platonic friends and to plant healthier roots. This post is about the initial emotional rollercoaster ride of doing that.
The truth about making friends in a new city in your 50s
Some nights you are lonely AF.
Some days are the same.
Sometimes you’re perfectly fine being alone.
Regardless, you scour the local paper for things to do, things that would interest you, things where you might find people you have things in common with.
When you find them, you get the ticket, make the reservation, and put it in your calendar.
Then, regardless of how you are feeling on that day, you force yourself to go because you know that all this time alone is not good for your mental health.
Sometimes you are the oldest person in the room. Sometimes you are the youngest.
Sometimes, you remember things like “Always sit at the bar when out by yourself” too late and wind up at a table for one, kicking yourself.
Sometimes, in the infamous words of Morrisey, “You go on your own and you leave on your own and you go home and you cry and you want to die.”
You aren’t especially outgoing but whenever you can, you strike up a conversation.
Whereas in your old city, you rarely talked to strangers, here you talk to everyone and everyone talks back. You are thankful for moving to a friendly place.
When you meet cool people, you add them to your Facebook friends, and make a note to reach out to them when doing something similar in the future.
You follow up.
You have to. No one knows you yet.
You look for things you enjoy you can return to on a weekly basis. You find two of them in the first month but both get canceled in the second.
You join a discussion group at a church you’re trying out hoping that will be a good way to meet more people. It turns out the discussion group is online and half the people in it are in your old province.
You recognize this is going to take time.
When out running errands, you find yourself jealous of women with children for the first time in your life. (Then, one day in the Winners changeroom, the child in the change room next to you has an “accident” in her pants and you think, “Wow! I am so not jealous of her mom now.”)
Sometimes the loneliness overwhelms you to the point where all you can do is cry.
In your weakest moments, you think about contacting your ex but you don’t. That’s like heroin to an addict and you are an addict doing her damnest to get clean.
The only way out of the loneliness is through it.
You go to therapy and realize that the loneliness has been with you for far longer than you’ve been in the new place.
What’s new is you are no longer filling it with the habits that ultimately kept you lonely: random hookups, jumping into relationships to too fast, seeking validation in strangers.
Although it would be so easy, you don’t return to old habits.
You stay away from online dating. You stop yourself from flirting with the cute guy at the record store. You don’t distract yourself with dopamine rush of a new love.
Instead, you work, your write a song, order a pizza, go for a drive, call your sister, and finally do the thing that is going to help you get the life that you want:
You take the initiative and you reach out.
You look for the types of events you did in your previous city.
Sometimes you find them. Sometimes you don’t.
When you don’t, you take the initiative and organize your own.
Slowly, you meet more people.
After three months, you make a list of the number of people you’ve “friended” online since you moved here. It numbers 21. As someone who has historically been better at meeting men than women, you are especially proud that 18 of those are female.
Some of these you see more than once. Some of them, you confide in. Some of them confide in you.
You are grateful.
You also realize that even though mentally you knew making friends would take time, you need to be more patient with yourself. But you also know that it’s not good for you to socially isolate when it’s no longer a public mandate so you rinse and repeat.
You reach out, you connect, you check in, you get together.
You listen, you appreciate.
You practice being a friend (something you might have done a better job of in your old life if you hadn’t been so preoccupied with finding someone to love you).
You know this is a do-over and you are determined to get it right.
You remember that although you are on an island, you are not an island.
And you do your best to remind yourself that now is not forever and even though it sometimes feels that way, you are not alone.
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