The older I get, I realize it’s more difficult to find friends with which to develop meaningful relationships. Growing up, it was easy to meet new people when every day was a new experience. Our friend groups consisted of other neighbor kids, children of our parent’s friends, church friends, and classmates. As middle school, high school, and college progressed, teammates, coworkers, roommates, significant others and their friend groups expanded our social networks. But in adulthood, how do we establish new connections if we’ve been in the same job for years, lived in the same neighborhood for decades, and suddenly, the flow of new people into our lives is a trickle instead of a deluge? 

We tend to surround ourselves with like-minded people who enjoy the same hobbies, life experiences, and worldviews. These friendships run deep and are a source of joy, comfort, and stability. But do they nurture personal growth? When everybody agrees with you, reaffirms your outlook, and views situations with the same philosophy, does that help expand your self-awareness and empathy?

One of my dear friends of 20+ years could not be more opposite from me, but over the years, our friendship has developed deep trust, respect, and love that has carried us through myriad situations and living in separate countries at times. It’s like our version of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Justice Antonin Scalia’s friendship. She’s that friend. She’s the friend I go to for advice, who I can count on to thoughtfully consider anything I ask and give a truthful critique. I’m her friend that she knows she can text, “What would you do in this situation?” at 2am after lying awake overthinking a particular incident. We challenge each other and are constantly asking for feedback on things we don’t understand or only understand from our own perspective. It’s one of the friendships that has enhanced my life in the most profound ways. 

How can you find friends that help you learn, grow, and enrich your life? I think the three biggest ways are:

  • Travel

No, not to an all-inclusive resort or the typical touristy places. Immerse yourself in a new place and its culture. 

  • Volunteer

Whether within your community or beyond, volunteer for causes where people from different backgrounds, ethnicities, and socioeconomic statuses come together for a common purpose.

  • Find a new hobby

Fed up with your friends from the country club? Find a rec league to join or a community event or concert to attend that attracts diverse crowds.

Most importantly, in all of these situations, ask questions, listen, then ask more questions! And if you’re lucky enough to have or find that friend, never let them go!