I felt a bit like I did when I ventured back into the dating world after 25 years of marriage. Awkward, uncomfortable, not really sure that I wanted to do this, wondering if they would like me. Would I like them? Did I see myself wanting to spend time with them?
I am talking about trying to make new friends in your 50s without the easy constructs that were available to us when we were younger, like school, sports activities, children’s activities, and work.
When we did our annual life planning in January while we were escaping the Canadian cold in Florida, I realized that I wanted more friends in my life. As I have mentioned in previous posts, for much of my adult life I have been focused on my 3 main identities of: wife, mother, and businesswoman. These left very little time for friends, and besides, my social needs were easily met with daily office interactions with colleagues and sitting poolside with the other parents at the pool every weekend, along with active involvement in my daughters’ other activities. There was always an opportunity to socialize with people outside of my immediate family on a daily basis.
When sitting down to think about what I want “more of and less of” in 2019, I realized that I didn’t have nearly as much social interaction as I used to have. While I do have regular contact with clients, I no longer work in an office environment so my day-to-day interactions are mostly by email or phone. I no longer spend time watching my daughters’ sports activities with other parents or help out with my daughters’ other activities. Even my own fitness activities are solo or with John – not really lending themselves easily to making friends.
So, I decided that I needed to do something about it for 2019. I love reading and read a ton of business books and personal development books but I also enjoy reading fiction. Problem is, I don’t often give myself “permission” to read simply for pleasure. I am also a woman who knows how to manage herself well. I know that if I make a commitment to other people, then I will follow through. Hence the birth of a book club idea. I would create a book club which would solve two problems at once: ① I would make new friends and, ② I would force myself to read fiction since I would be making a commitment to other people that I would do so.
I would focus on trying to meet people that lived in our end of the city so that I could create more of a network of friends reasonably close by. As we have mentioned in a previous blog post, John and I sold our respective homes to purchase a new home together. We moved to a new (to us) area of the city where we don’t know a lot of people.
It should be easy to create a book club - right? Well, not so much. A few problems I ran into:
1. Already committed - Ladies that liked reading and talking about books probably already were in a book club. Book clubs have been trendy for a while, so my idea of creating a book club wasn’t very original or novel.
2. Still dealing with children - many of the women my age were still dealing with children at home (unlike many professional women in my network, I had finished having babies by the time I was 30 – which means that at 56, I have long been an empty-nester).
3. Still heavily into careers – through a combination of a good career, living below my means, and a bit of luck, I am in a financial position where I am able to semi-retire such that I have more time available than many other professional women.
4. I really don’t know that many women 😫- I have worked in a predominantly male dominated field for the past 33 years and really don’t know that many women other than the other Moms from my daughters’ growing up days.
I went about this project the way I do most projects. I told everyone I knew that I was looking to create a new ladies book club in our end of town. Eventually I managed to find seven other women who were interested in joining a book club. I hosted the first event and it went beautifully – we all talked as though we had known each other forever despite most just having met that night for the first time.
Although there were some awkward moments, it was definitely worth the effort. I have made some new friends and have read some books that I never would have chosen myself – but have enjoyed.
I have always been a big believer that everything worthwhile takes effort. Making new friends in your 50s definitely takes effort. Being deliberate about creating a social network will be increasingly important to us as we age – particularly if your family is geographically diverse like John and mine are.
What have you done to create a social network in this new stage of life?
P.S. For those who might be interested, here is the list of books we have read – I will update these each month: