To my credit, I've been working on it. I'll actually force myself to go into situations where I don't know anybody and make conversation. Usually after I make that initial contact, I'm over it, and I'll ramble on all the livelong day about everything from work to the weather, but lately it seems that every time I've done this, the interactions with people have been suicide-inducingly awkward. (Just made that phrase up. Go with it. It'll become a thing.) Then I get all paranoid and think, "OH MY GOD, WHAT IF I'M THE AWKWARD PERSON AND THESE PEOPLE ACTUALLY HAVE SOCIAL SKILLS AND I'M MAKING THEM WANT TO COMMIT SUICIDE JUST SO THEY'LL HAVE AN OUT OF THIS CONVERSATION AND NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND?" Then my head explodes.
Earlier tonight, I found myself in yet another awkward conversation with a complete stranger, and the paranoia set in. But before it got too carried away, it got me thinking: I've met so many people in my life. I've had so many interactions, from awkward conversations, to just brief pleasantries with strangers. But only a handful of these interactions and meetings have resulted in friendships. When you really think about it, meeting someone with whom you connect instantly is like capturing lightning in a bottle. You don't come by it often, but when you do, it's special. When you really think about it, making a friend relies on the perfect mixture of timing, fate, and a kindred spirit connection. (Just made up that phrase too. LOOK AT ME, ADDING TO THE AMERICAN LEXICON!) You can't just forge a friendship with anybody.
When I met all of my closest friends, there was an instant connection, an instant feeling of, "Yeah, I'm totally going to wind up being friends with this person." I can pinpoint exactly where and when we met (in no particular order):
If you were to ask Margie how we met, she would tell you that it was at cheerleading try-outs in sixth grade. I was sitting on the bleachers in the gym, and she sat beside me. Apparently my opening line was, "Hi, I'm Sarah. I'm having an asthma attack." I don't recall this incident, but I've said some random shit in my life, so it's not out of the realm of possibility. I'm just glad she didn't hold this first meeting against me later on in eighth grade when our friendship started to blossom, and in ninth grade when it finally solidified. I knew she was a kindred spirit when we paired up in biology class to dissect an earthworm, a frog, and a pig, and we went at our task with the RECKLESS, GIDDY ABANDON OF SCHOOL CHILDREN ON PIZZA WEDNESDAY.
I met Meagan in choir practice shortly after moving to Perry. She just seemed like a nice, approachable girl, and I sat beside her during choir practice and youth group meetings and talked to her, pretty much forcing my friendship on her. If you were to ask Meagan her first impression of me, she would tell you that she thought I was an adult because I acted very mature. I was twelve. Ironically, after fifteen years of friendship, I now act like I'm twelve.
Ali was the first friend I made when I moved to Tampa. We both worked at Victoria's Secret. For my first day of training, I had to be at the store at ten, and she was working that morning as well. We sat and chatted while waiting for the manager to come and open up the store. Ali can non-awkwardly talk to anybody and make them feel at ease, and it was this quality that let me know that we would wind up being friends. Seven years later, I consider her my soul mate.
I actually met Arleen online. When I first moved to Tampa, I was naive about a lot of things. I had just transferred to USF from North Florida Community College, a tiny school in north Florida. Students didn't send out mass emails to their classmates at NFCC. There was no reason to; the classes were small, and everybody knew each other. So when I got to USF, I wasn't versed in mass email etiquette, and would respond to every single mass email I got. I wanted to be polite, you know. Arleen sent out one such mass email to everybody in one of our classes, asking if anyone was from Spring Hill. (I think she was looking for people with whom she could carpool.) I emailed back and said that I wasn't, but that I had an uncle who lived in Spring Hill. From there we started emailing back and forth and decided to meet up in class one day. The rest is history.
Jenna and I bonded over laughing at a girl falling on her ass after class one rainy day. And, yeah, Judgey McJudgerson, I know that was kind of mean girl of us, but come on, can you honestly say you've watched someone fall and not cracked up? I know you've seen "Scarlett Takes a Tumble." THAT SHIT IS FUNNY. Anyway, we sort of knew each other from class; we sat next to each other, and we were working on a group project together. But that rainy day propelled us from mere acquaintances to fast friends. As we were leaving class, Jenna ran up beside me and said, "Did you just see that girl fall on her ass?" which then started a conversation about how people falling on their asses is HI-larious, which then turned into friendship.
Olivia and I were on USF's newspaper staff together, but I don't remember us really becoming friends until our Critical Thinking class. I think we bonded over the fact that the class was a joke and the professor was a douche bag. We're also smart asses, so our personalities just meshed.
I worked with Monica at Ann Taylor Loft. She was one of the assistant managers, and I thought she was way older than she actually was. Monica is my age, but because she was so well-composed and so...managerial, I thought she was in her thirties. It wasn't until we were working together one night and started talking that we found out we had a lot in common, including our desire to go country line-dancing. I still remember that first outing. We were on our way to The Roundup, a Country Western club. Monica was driving, and she was driving fast. We whipped around a curve, and she giggled maniacally and was all, "TEE HEE HEE, I HAVE SUCH A LEAD FOOT FOR SUCH A LITTLE PERSON!" Not gonna lie, I was pretty terrified, but she got us to the club alive and in one piece, that night and numerous nights since.
I met Kathy in the same class in which I met Jenna. The three of us sat next to each other, and we were also working on the same group project. Like Ali, Kathy can pretty much talk to anybody about anything, making you feel as if you've known her your whole life. And, as with Ali, these qualities let me know that we would end up being friends.
When you really think about it, making friends is like capturing lightning in a bottle. I feel blessed to have captured lightning eight times.