Family & Friends

Make New Friends . . . But Keep the Old

As the old song goes, “make new friends, but keep the old; one is silver and the other is gold.”  I’m reminded of this song often, as I navigate my new life (three months in) Down Under. My first month was consumed with getting my bearings and settling in at work and home. Finding and furnishing my new place kept me pretty busy. I spent my weekends and most days after work looking for stuff, buying stuff, and schlepping stuff. When I was done, I felt very accomplished and happy with the results. I also distinctly remember coming home from work one day, sitting on my new couch and thinking “now what?” I had lots of free time. Clearly, a social life was what I needed.

My life in New York was full and I had what one of my friends described as a “robust” social life.

party collage Pictures from my many NYC send-off gatherings.

Here in Sydney, I mostly only knew the folks at work. Not a bad group to be among, for sure, but I also wanted to expand my social circle. I knew that would take new behavior on my part. I’m not unfriendly, but I am an introvert and that looks the same as unfriendly. Can feel like it, too. Making friends on this end would require me to acquire some new skills . . . some ‘reaching out to people first’ skills. Yikes!

Somewhat reluctantly, I joined a few groups, some dedicated to ex-pats, but not all. (InterNations, MeetUp, Urban Bushwalkers, Wild Women on Top, Tinder). This has actually worked out quite well. I’ve met a number of people while engaging in activities I enjoy and some activities I wasn’t sure I’d enjoy, like hiking and bushwalking. I have two new “friends” that I  continue to hang out with outside the groups. Friends in quotes has nothing to do with these women, but is an acknowledgement that, while I like them, I don’t know them very well and I believe real friendships take a while to develop. We’re not in grade school where you become best friends with someone you just met.

terriTina, my hiking buddy.

The people at work have been especially gracious, including me in various social activities and it’s been great getting to know them outside the office.

I’ve also been fortunate to connect with friends-of-friends, people with whom I have a common friend back in the States. That’s been especially nice, as it’s great to have someone who knows the place well.   

alisa steveAlisa and Stan, who I met thru NYC friends.

And I have added to my social roster two women I met while walking down the street!  There are not a lot of Black Americans in Sydney so when I see one it’s kind of exciting. In both cases, we saw each other, did a double-take, then stepped out of the way of traffic to chat (“What are you doing here? How long have you been here? Who does your hair?”) and exchanged phone numbers. Interestingly, both of them are from New York and it took moving to the other side of the world for us to meet.

Last week, I was exhausted as I had (too) many events on my social calendar. And that’s when I knew I was well on my way to building a new network of friends and acquaintances on this side of the world. I like it.

My friends back home are a more complicated story. I am pleased, surprised, and disappointed at the ways various friends have managed my physical absence.

Pleased. There are a few friends I hear from every week or so. I love it. And I’ve fallen in love with FaceTime and Skype, both of which I used to despise. Nobody looks good on those cameras, especially if caught at the wrong angle. Doesn’t matter; not anymore. I love seeing their faces as we catch up. The distance doesn’t seem so vast when I can see them. The cameras are also great to be able to show things — what we’ve bought, what we’re doing, what we’re wearing, a new hairdo. 

FacetimeFaceTiming with friends.

Surprised. Pleasantly so. I’m in regular touch now with a few people that I spoke with less often when I was back home. I don’t know how or why that happened, but I don’t really care. It’s nice to hear from them.

Disappointed. There are a few friends with whom I’m disappointed . . . and a little hurt that I don’t hear from very often — people with whom I was in regular touch with at home and who are near the top of the friend food chain. One person, in a rather uncomfortable conversation, admitted to being embarrassed to admit feeling both some resentment and envy at my move. Resentment that I left, an implication that my friendship wasn’t enough. Envy when I talk and post about what I’m up to in this new life phase. Not that their (sic) life is bad, but there’s not much new. I get it and appreciate the honesty. I don’t have insight as to why the others have fallen behind. Sometimes distance is a good excuse to reshape a relationship. Who knows. It’s a little awkward.

Anyway, a  NYC friend arrived on Christmas Eve and I an awaiting another who will join us on New Year’s Eve.  It’s been great having her here and sharing this new place with her. And if I can get my **** together, I may even have a small gathering at my apartment where I invite my friends, old and new. Could be fun.

IMG_0032A fun night of laughs at the Sydney Opera House with friends, old and new.

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