Making friends in a new place

Moving across the country, I remained hopeful that I would be able to foster some new friendships once I arrived to Maine. I would like to say that my job and the kids are pretty demanding of my time (a tenure track position in a university), but the reality is that I have had difficulty making and keeping friendships over the years.

In order to reach my level of education, I was in graduate school and working during most of my 20’s and 30’s, though I was able to maintain a few close relationships with some college friends which was really all I needed at that time.My husband and I regularly socialized with these friends on a Friday or Saturday night and these were fairly “easy” relationships, supportive, with a common history of having gone to the same college and living in the same town. We spent holiday and vacations together.

And then a job opportunity took me to Northern California, and since that time I would say it is challenging to form friendships. In California we lived in a town of 1000 people, so it was easy to know who people were and I found that I could go to events and activities and not have to worry about knowing folks; my husband knew everybody and folks felt they knew me by association. But there were not coffee dates or long walks with friends on the beach; I was either busy teaching or taking care of the two kids we had after I finished my graduate studies.

The two angels keep me busy

I think I am a pretty friendly person, and I tend to connect well with others. Part of the issue of forming friendships is that I am introvert; I like to spend my free time alone, walking in the woods or on the beach or reading a book. The other part of the issue is that I feel overwhelmed with making plans and obligating myself to building a friendship. I would also say I have trust issues with building friendships. And I like to discuss matters of spiritual and intellectual development, that perhaps many folks would not be interested in.

My husband and I did form a friendship with a couple in Northern California. We spent time going to see bands play, we watched each other’s animals when we traveled, and we celebrated some holidays together. Things changed when I got pregnant and had the first child, and I could not devote the same amount of time and care to pet sitting their animals. They came over to visit the baby when we first came home from the hospital, but the relationship rapidly changed and faded.

Then there were the friendships with other parents, but they usually revolved around the kids and everybody was so busy, it was often difficult to come together outside of kids’ events.

Now that I am in New England, things haven’t changed much. I found that going to church is an easy way to socialize, but it does not obligate me to forming deep friendships. There is something about the spiritual community that offers a feeling of connection that endures, though this is not really friendship per se. There is also a good source of parenting support within the church community. I got to a yoga studio, where it feels like a community, but of course we don’t really know each other.

I also have colleagues at work I have bonded with a bit; likewise, I have colleagues across the country that I work with on various projects. These are very satisfying relationships, but I would be hesitant to call most of them friendships.

I am not really sure how to go about forming those BFF type relationships. I am not sure where my endurance would come from, nor the time and energy. For me, I think this may be a spiritual issue, one I need to release to God and ask for guidance around, trusting that God is bringing the right people to me.

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New to New England

It has been one year since I trekked with my toddlers from the apparently enviable state of California to the Maine coast. When we are asked where we are from, my husband and I are usually hesitant about saying Maine, I think because we still feel like tourists, or like we are really from “away”, as they say here.

Logically, we should just be able to answer the age-old question of where does thou hale from with a maximum of two words, ie city and state, but somehow it never works that way. I usually say, Maine, but we have only been there for about a year; we moved from California. For some reason, when I say California, people’s eyes light up. I have to wonder if this is because they are thinking of movie stars and Hollywood, beaches, warm weather, or San Francisco. Inevitably, I justify the “outrageous” cross-country relocation and dampen people’s suspicions of my sanity and my motives for stepping down from utopian California and entering the real life of Maine.

We moved here in part for a professional opportunity (for me, which I blog about on different blogs), but also to have better educational opportunities for our two children. As soon as we arrived here, I was able to enroll my oldest daughter in the public pre-kindergarten program and I was very pleased with her growth over the year. I was on the school board in CA, and I saw first hand the challenges the teachers, administrators, and students faced with battling CA’s budget woes. Add to this an increasing cost of living, outrageous property taxes, and lack of nearby family for support, and we end up with a formula conducive to our family making this move.

People still sometimes look at us as if we are nuts, and they tend to wonder about how we like the weather. We can at this point honestly say we enjoy the change of seasons. This winter was challenging (in particular as my husband was AZ for the month of January, caring for his dying mother), but also a lot of fun. I think you have to engage with winter, and we enjoy sledding, cross-country and downhill skiing. My older daughter will go outside in any blizzard and she will have to be encouraged to come back in and warm up. We also had a gym membership and the kids were able to spend the winter taking dance lessons and learning to swim. I purchased many new sweaters, and we enjoyed our new friends we made at the local church.

The Sasanoa River, right outside my window.

In all honesty, I still sometimes feel like a stranger in a stranger land. Though I have been coming to Maine for twenty years in the summer and fall (my husband’s family has a “camp” here), I still feel as if I am not quite acclimated. For instance we went to a music festival in CT last week, and I had no idea we were so close to NYC. I have never been to NYC (see, I told you I was a stranger in a strange land!), so I would have probably planned a side trip there if I had “known”. The first evening there, before the festival began, we had a wonderful Italian meal, and my husband pointed out that there are many great Italian restaurants on the Eastern Coast. As we met many very nice music fans, we also went through the usual response of shock that people cannot believe anybody would move from CA to ME. Many folks were from NJ and they spoke of the complicated routes and traffic they would face going home and I am not used to not being familiar with their destinations.I have lived in both Northern and Southern CA for most of my life, so I am familiar with most of the state and how to get from here to there. Driving through New Haven, I found it hard to believe that somewhere out there beyond the freeway, billboards, and smokestacks was Yale. On a trip to Albany, NY, I was impressed with the history and the architecture of this state capitol city.

And though it has been a year, I still sometimes feel like I don’t quite know what to expect from the weather, the seasons, and the people. Change is slow around here, which has it benefits in some ways, and of course drawbacks in others. Luckily, I find the people to be quite nice and kind, and there is an unexpected openness around spirituality and personal development. I have a great yoga studio I am a member of, and I am currently taking a yoga teacher training course in New Hampshire. Maine has one of the highest graduation rates from high school, and there seems to be a changing climate about higher education.

I suppose it takes sometime to acclimate; I have heard of folks being here for some years and still being considered as being “from away”. I sometimes wake up and I am confused as to where I am and I think, if the me of two years ago woke up suddenly here, she would not where she was or how she got there. My hope is that perhaps with this blog I can share a bit about New England life, and how one grows in love for this area.