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No longer the new girl

I've lived in North Carolina for a year and a half now. Compared to other places I've lived, I am much less connected here-- less friends, less things to do-- but the things that I have more of are big things: more children and more time with my husband. I've struggled throughout our time here to feel connected to the area, perhaps because I moved away from deep friendships as well as our "military family." Some days I feel like I'm inventing things to do just so I can have things to do, "Today, D, we need to go to Target, then the mall... then Starbucks... then... we need to go to the park." Other times I feel like I commit to things just to make a friend out of it or to spend time with people, "Why, yes, I would love to volunteer for that!" Why are adult friendships so hard?

I just read a blog regarding friendships. More often than not, I classify myself as the "new girl," even when I am not. A year and a half may be a short time in the scheme of things, but it is our halfway point. In another year and a half, we will move to South Carolina. Really, I am not the "new girl" anymore. If someone asks how long we've lived here, I can tell them, "Going on two years!" Labeling myself as the new girl makes my new friendships feel fragile and untested; thinking of our upcoming move makes these friendships feel temporary. Have I made the most of my time here? Regarding my family, most certainly. W and I spend as much time with our nuclear family as possible. We do park trips, family dinners, movie nights. I text my husband throughout the day, a luxury for a submariner, and he calls me in between his classes. W puts D to bed each night, doing a special story routine that is just theirs. But as far as friendships go, have I?

Spending the afternoon at a friend's (NC October 2011)

Honestly, I don't think so. Sometimes I feel like I've let life run me over. The difficulty of getting the babies out can be overwhelming or how far away someone lives is challenging. I make excuses to myself that it's not in our budget to get lunch. I justify not going because "no one will talk to me anyways." Over-extending myself in things that I don't want to be doing tires me out and I say no to opportunities that actually have an appeal.

This is where I need to stop thinking like the new girl. It is hard to say good-bye to people; the easier thing to do is to keep new people out. When I tell my husband that I feel like nothing is holding me here, is it because I don't let myself connect to what could hold me here? Am I afraid to say good-bye before I've even said hello? The other night, I missed an old friend. My husband saw me moping around the kitchen putting away dishes. Reading my body language correctly, he asked what was bothering me. I told him some superficial things first (nap schedules, fussy babies, long days) and then burst in tears, "I miss my friend. I miss having her to share my struggles with me, pray for me, and just be there. Life was harder then, but I enjoyed it more because I had her."

Those kind of connections aren't built on half-hearted commitments or over-scheduling. In the military community, making friends can-- I say, can-- be easy. There isn't any family nearby to pick up groceries for the mom with the flu, or a church body ready to start bringing meals over to the couple suffering a loss. When you volunteer for those tasks, you see the instant look of gratitude and connections can be formed instantly; the camaraderie brings your hearts together. Where we are stationed now, it is different. Most people have family, churches, friends, and neighbors. Even more daunting, their children have friends that were born in the same hospital the week before them or live just up the street from their cousin. I feel intimidated by the duration of their relationship, knowing that I am only here a short while, and have a hard time not feeling like the "needy" friend. Oh, you know the needy friend, the one that asks for baby-sitting too often or needs just one more favor. The things you normally reserve for close friends or family, I am asking brand new friends, "Okay, are you free to watch all three of them for an hour tomorrow and can I drop D off next week for the afternoon? Also, can I borrow a dress and where do you get your hair done?" (You get the idea.)

4 months pregnant with twins (January 2011)

It is frustrating when you feel like a "replaceable" friend in your new friendships, easy come, easy go. It is hard when you feel like you are too demanding (try making friends when you are moving apartments, pregnant with twins, and have a two and a half year old). These feelings make you think you have nothing to offer and so you don't try; you don't put your best foot forward. As a friend of mine says, this is the time when you "put on your big girl panties." Making yourself feel like the new girl will make you act like you are the new girl. Accept your limitations and be creative. Find times in your schedule when you can send a note or email, suggest meeting somewhere else if they live too far away. One thing I've really had to accept is that sometimes I just can't get all these guys out and I need friends who understand when I'm running late or cancelling at the last minute.

Most importantly, as that blog discusses, when you are able, new girl or not, extend your hand to others. Be the friend you want others to be to you. In my experience, help comes in many forms, from the people who call to check up on you and pray for you to the people who drive with you to the housing office and baby-sit your son while you do paperwork. I know from times that I needed a friend, the little things can mean even more than the big things.


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