I am a late bloomer in almost all aspects of my life. I bought my first house at a relatively later age than most of the people I know. I only started to work out several years ago. And it wasn’t until recently, after a family member experienced a health scare, that I actually looked into an insurance policy.
I am also late to the party when it comes to making friends. You see, most people would attest to making lifelong friends at school or university. But not me.
I never really had friends back in school. I was a pop culture geek, and I just didn’t fit in at a school where my classmates were more interested in football than, say, pop music.
Although I came out of my shell by the time I hit my early 20s in university, even then friendships were fleeting. This continued when I started working. The only friends I had were my colleagues, as I spent so much time at the office ... but when it comes to work friends, it is hard to gauge where the professional ties end and the real friendship begins. So on weekends, I found myself with no one to hang out with. Kind of sad when you’re in your 20s (though I did save a lot of money from not socialising!).
It didn’t help that I was also terribly shy, had an inferiority complex, and was (and am still) a teetotaler. So I doubt I was ever interesting to anyone. I never attended a party when I was in school, and neither was I invited to any classmates’ weddings.
You know all the money I saved up from not socialising? I used it to turn my house into a stylish pad but I never had a housewarming party because I couldn’t draw up an invitation list.
When I watched shows like Friends, How I Met Your Mother and Stranger Things, I did wonder what it would’ve been like if I had a group of friends to hang out with while growing up or navigating through life in my 20s.
So, coming back to being a late bloomer – it was only when I hit 40 that I found myself being able to make friends easily.
I guess when you get older and have fewer hang ups about yourself, you also lose the inferiority complex (“Don’t like me? Well, join the queue!”). It was also around that time that I made a conscious decision to better myself. I decided to lose some weight, so I joined a gym. The right haircut is essential, so I found myself a good hair stylist. And, here’s a secret guys, get yourself a good tailor – a good fit speaks volumes.
All these small changes contributed to a boost of self-confidence. To borrow a word from the entertainment industry, I “reinvented” myself.
Prior to this, I was not in a book club or social organisation that enabled me to meet people, socially, from other walks of life. Sure, I am a journalist and I meet many people on a daily basis but everything is kept professional most of the time.
So, at the gym, for instance, I was able to meet people outside of my industry. But, I didn’t join the gym for social reasons; it was mainly for the sake of vanity. I may be a shy guy, but I do intend on looking fly.
So now, at an age where most people find it difficult to make new friends, I, on the other hand, seem to find it a breeze to connect and network on a personal level.
Chalk that up to wisdom that comes with age. In the book The Friendship Crisis: Finding, Making, And Keeping Friends When You’re Not A Kid Anymore, author Marla Paul says that self-discovery gives way to self-knowledge, so we become pickier about whom we want to surround ourselves with.
After years of watching from the sidelines, I know exactly what kind of personalities I am drawn to, and I gravitate towards them. At this age, you want quality over quantity.
While doing some research for this piece, most texts that I came across stated that it gets harder and harder to maintain friendships past a certain age when family, children, caring for parents, and work become priority.
In other words, life happens.
Friendship is a two-way street and if neither puts in the effort, it usually goes sideways. Since I grew up without many friends, I now place a lot of importance in sustaining the frienships that I have now.
I do make an effort to meet up as often as I can with friends I care about. With those I am not able to meet up as frequently, I reach out via phone or social media to let them know I’m thinking of them. Small gestures like that go a long way.
It seems that men have it harder than women when it comes to friendships. It is a false notion that guys do not crave the kind of friendships women have. Brant R. Burleson published a case study in 1997 that found that men are just as likely as women to say they want the same things in friendship: emotional support and disclosure.
However, most men don’t get them. That’s because, according to author Geoffrey Greif in his book Buddy System: Understanding Male Friendships, most men have “shoulder-to-shoulder” friendships rather than “face-to-face” ones – meaning when guys get together, they are more likely to do stuff than have a conversation.
An article at salon.com says that, “People with friends are happier. Friendship is correlated with a more joyful life. If a person is depressed, having a friend interact with them regularly is as effective at treating depression as antidepressants or therapy.”
The article also added, “... people with good friends have a 22% to 60% lower chance of dying over a 10-year period”.
So better late than never, I reckon.
Now excuse me while I schedule my next lunch appointment with a dear friend.