Invited? You Mean Me?
Moving, uprooting yourself and your family to a new location is life changing on so many levels. It takes you away from your comfort zones, your friends, your familiar places and faces. When I relocated to Northern California at age 39, I’d already moved 28 times in my life. At the end of the month, it will be move number 31. I hope it’s the last one for many years.
I’m grateful that this time I’m not starting over with new people, new streets, new job, new everything. Many times in the past, I’ve moved to places where I haven’t known anyone. Over and over, I’ve had to learn my way around and reach out to people and communities to create a new life for myself. Although I like a good challenge, I have to admit that changing so much can be exhausting.
The most difficult time has been relocating to where I am now, a new area far from everything familiar. Then two years later life threw divorce and 50% custody on top of it. At a time when I needed friends and family the most, I had no one nearby, no one. My one friend of 24 years who lived nearby took sides, not mine. I lost all contact with my in-laws as they too chose sides. The loneliness hurt. I spent many weekends going to bookstores and movies alone or just staying home hoping that someday, my new life would feel comfortable and that I’d have friends nearby again.
During these last seven years, I’ve met many people who have lived in the same town their entire lives or for a long time. They seem to have a great social life full of family and friends who frequently gather and invite them to do things. They don’t seem to struggle to find someone to see a movie with or to invite over for dinner. They are never alone on special days. There’s always someone around for them. Time in one place has made them part of the community.
As a newbie and outsider, it takes a while to feel like you’re part of the community. If you don’t know anyone and you’re not related to anyone nearby, who’s going to invite you to go anywhere and who are you going to invite? It’s difficult, at least it has been for me, to build a social life in a place where I just haven’t spent much time. It never was this hard before, but this time, as a divorced single parent who works full-time in a small community, it’s been challenging. My belief that worrying about making friends was a problem of adolescence has completely changed.
It’s taken several years, but the ship has finally landed. This year, I was actually invited to a barbeque! I know, shut the front door. Better yet, for the second year in a row, I’ve spent Super Bowl Sunday at a good friend’s house. It seems simple and a little silly, but being invited by someone to come over and hang out is a pretty big deal for me. It’s the simple stuff that can mean so much, especially for someone like me who asked to go to a coworker’s house on Christmas one year because I had nowhere else to go and I didn’t have my son for the holiday. That was a definite low.
Sitting in a house full of people, feeling comfortable, able to joke around, eat good food, and enjoy a really bad football game together was just what this girl from far away needed. I have missed those moments so much. They haven’t happened a lot since relocating and divorcing. Being invited, being part of, belonging, we all want to feel these things. Some of us have it handed to us through family and living in the same place for years. Some of us don’t. We may not admit it because it’s embarrassing, but some of us who are building a new life practically jump for joy when an invitation comes our way. I’m thankful, so thankful for those people who have reached out and let me into their worlds. In every place I’ve moved, I’ve been so lucky to meet new people who were willing to let a new friend into their lives. One hundred thanks to every one who invites new people in, who opens their lives and their hearts. You inspire me to do the same.