It has always been hard to me to open up and meet new people. My biggest fear with starting this new Marine Corps lifestyle wasn’t the moving, it was losing the friends I had already struggled to make. I tend to keep to myself and it is really hard to get to know someone when you don’t put yourself out there. My way of making friends was always just to hang back and observe others. Yes, I’m the semi creepy person hanging back in the crowd listening but not really participating in the group conversation. After a decent amount of time had passed and I felt like I had gauged the situation and each person I’d contribute a sly comment or a joke to insert myself into the conversation that I had been avoiding. Sounds crazy I know, but that’s the way it always happened for me. I was never brave enough just to go up to someone, introduce myself and attempt to make a friend that way.
My husband enlists and suddenly I’m a stay at home mom. Since I’m not at work or school anymore it is up to me to proactively go out and meet people. Welcome to my nightmare. I won’t lie, the first few months I turned into a hermit. I didn’t want to meet anyone and tried desperately to stay in close contact with my friends back home. Soon however I didn’t understand the inside jokes, I no longer worked with them so I couldn’t understand the issues they were facing with the new rules or how the new manager was making it impossible to do the job the way it needed to be done. Before I knew what was happening I had been replaced with someone else who understood the issues going on at work. People that had been my best friends for years were calling someone who could meet up for drinks and talk trash about the latest boy who broke their heart. I knew that time and distance would take their toll but I didn’t realize how fast it would happen or how much it would hurt.
When we moved from Mississippi to North Carolina I decided that it was time to step out of my comfort zone and meet some new people. I started out small, a smile across the playground, a wave walking by or a quick “Hello!” from across the dog park. Those small interactions turned into conversations and switched phone numbers for the kids to get together and play. I actually started to introduce myself to my neighbors and get to know them. I met and became friends with people that I never would have taken anytime to get to know before. They have expanded my comfort zone and I’ve learned so much from them and feel very lucky to call them my friends.
I still meet up with my old hometown friends when we head back home but now I don’t feel quite so out of place. I miss them when I’m here and miss my Marine Corps friends when I’m there. I’ve learned that it isn’t important if they are old friends or new friends. What is important is a solid base of support both where you are and where you’ve been.