This is determination: Leaving at 4:00am to drive five and a half hours for a weekend with someone you've only met once. That's what my new friend Lisa, the head Nerdy Renegade herself, did last Friday. After planning to arrive on Saturday, we changed plans so Lisa could make it from Dayton to Greensburg without getting stuck in the blizzard that buried Ohio.
Lisa and I found each other last year in the world wide web of blogging. And then last July, on the first day of BlogHer in Chicago, as I was walking from the breakfast buffet to my seat, I heard a woman say, "Nerdy Renegade News." I whipped around, precariously balancing my coffee and mini-muffins, and said: "Nerdy Renegade News?! Are you Lisa from Ohio? I'm Jennifer from The Word Cellar!"
A few moments of squealing and hello-ing ensued, only to be cut short by the start of the morning seminar. A bit later, at a breakout session, I walked into the room and spied Lisa next to an empty seat. I sat down and assured her that I wasn't stalking her. We hit it off immediately, giggling like tweens over our blog crush across the room.
We continued to stay in touch by reading and commenting on each other's blogs and emailing every so often. Finally, Lisa suggested that we arrange a road trip to take our friendship to the next level: from virtual to physical. (And yes, I realize that sounds weird. And no, it wasn't like that. Even though while we were making dinner together one night, I exclaimed: "This must be what it's like to have a wife!" Ask any woman and she'll tell you that she really could use a wife.)
The most surprising part of the weekend was how easy it all was. I've been seeking new opportunities for friendship and community for at least a year, but always had this idea in the back of my head that I'm too old to be making new friends. I felt like it would just be too much work to meet new people and start from scratch.
This weekend I remembered that making new friends doesn't feel like work. Meeting business contacts, networking, and schmoozing -- those can feel like work. Falling into a friendship with a kindred spirit feels more like play.
Another interesting thing about making new friends as an adult is that it frees you from expectations. My friends from my younger years know me like we're family. Those long-term relationships can have a wonderful sense of intimacy and comfort. But there's also an unconscious, self-imposed rule to conform to a specific role. I don't mean that they foist their expectations upon me. I mean that it's easy for me to fall into the familiar patterns of our friendship; to stick to the script; to be the same old person.
But as we grow and evolve, we don't always know how to share these changes with the people who've known us to be this or that. If we're not careful, we stop being ourselves -- our current and up-to-date selves -- around the people who've known us the longest.
And there's a bonus with new friends: They're blank slates! They haven't already heard my favorite stories a dozen times. Which means they don't secretly roll their eyes when I pull out my stock anecdotes. And trust me, I have a lot of them. (Stick around here long enough and you can roll your eyes at me, too!)
I'm grateful for the new friends I'm making through blogging, as well as the ones who've known me for years. Each shows me a different side of myself, and I'm learning to be authentic with both sets.
(And now all you former Girl Scouts, please sing along with me:
Make new friends, but keep the old;
One is silver and the other's gold.
I don't agree with assigning precious metal status to friendships, but gosh it's a catchy tune. Now, let's do it in a round!)