Once the goodbyes are over, the hellos can begin.
Making new networks -- public, social, personal and intimate -- is important and can be daunting. If connections come through sharing experiences with people, how do we get those shared experiences?
Anyone who is new will face the challenge of fitting in. There is no magic solution. The answers are only found in time, initiative and humility.
Susanna moved from Africa back to her parents’ city in her home country and felt very overwhelmed.
She wrote: “Very quickly I learned that in order to meet people, make new friends and learn the ropes, I had to initiate the conversation. The other kids were not interested in me, nor did they have a desire to understand the places I had been and the things I had seen. In order to fit in, I felt I had to talk about the things and places with which they were familiar. In essence, I had to be like them.
Sounds like the beginning of a miserable year, right? It actually ended up being not so bad. I got involved in small groups at school. The first week I tried out for the swim team and because I could swim well from my years in Africa, I became captain of the team. I also joined the choir. I spent time in both these groups getting to know kids that I had things in common with. I ate lunch with these people, sat in class and rode the bus with them.”
Susanna had to work hard to make common experiences to share with others. She had to get out there and spend time with people She took the initiative to get herself to groups and take part. And she had to be persistent. The bonds would not have been formed in the first week or even the first month.
It is easier when you join something where everyone else is also new. It might be uni, college, or being in the new cast of a play in a drama group. Everyone else is in the same boat, and it’s like a bit of a fresh start.
But where people already have history together, you have to accept that you are the one who will have to fit in with them. How is this possible? I think through humility, by having a ‘learner’ attitude and to a certain extent, giving up your past and its importance in your life.
Michelle and her husband moved to the city so that he could train in ministry. They moved away from all their friends and family and Michelle particularly felt the loss of her best friends. She tried to keep up with them as much as possible by phone and by making the hour-long trip home whenever she could. She put in a lot of effort to keep their friendships going.
However she began to notice a distance in her relationship with her friend. They would hold a party and not invite Michelle and her husband. They asked other people to be godparents to their new babies. Michelle felt sad and rejected. She put a lot of energy into a long-distance relationship but could see it falling apart despite her best efforts.
Michelle began to spend more time with the people around her to meet her needs for friendship and relationships. Over time she realized that her original friendships would have to be given up to a certain extent, and new friendships embraced if she was going to stay happy and connected to the present life.
Michele discovered that to survive the future, you’ve got to give up your past in many ways, and start living in the present as much as possible.
This is where saying goodbye effectively comes in. If we have not said goodbye, and we are still living in the past, things going to be much harder.