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Post after posts about finding new friends after my move, and I almost forgot about the great network of friends I already have.

One of the biggest benefits to relocating was being closer to my sister. She’s not exactly next door, but being within an hour’s drive makes her accessible any day of the week. So, for the past month, I’ve been visiting her once a week. And that’s all it took:  I feel closer to her than I’ve ever been before.

That was going so well, I decided to call up an old college roommate who lives in the same town as my sister. We met for dinner at a local Mexican restaurant…. two and a half hours later,  long after the chicken enchiladas were cleared away from the table, we both finally admitted it was past our bedtime on a school night and hugged goodbye.

Of course, sometimes reconnecting with your past doesn’t work out that well. One member of my close-knit engineering study group lives in my new town. I tried emailing her when I moved here, with no response. OK, many of us change our emails over the years. So I sent her a card. Nothing. Finally, grudgingly, I got back on facebook and tried to friend her. When she didn’t accept, I knew it just wasn’t happening. Not right now, anyway.

Sometime, relocation means you’ve moved to someplace so remote that you really do have to start from scratch to make friends. For many of us, though, rekindling old friendships can be a great side benefit to your move.  Do you have any success stories (or spectacular failures) about meeting up with old friends after moving to a new area?

Connecting the Dots

Something magical happened today.

I was driving on a road, let’s call it Rt. 1, and I realized it intersected Rt. 2 and Rt 3 and Mall Road and the interstate. It was magical, like polished beads slipping onto a string.

You have to understand something important about my new town: none of the roads are laid out in grids. I have no idea why. It’s like that where I come from, too, but we have hills. Here in the flatlands, I have no idea why the road structure would avoid recognizable geometric shapes.

So when I drive from Rt 3 to Rt 1 and back, I’m not exactly parallel to Rt. 2, and I never realized that Rt. 1 was a common connector. In other words, Rt. 1 was always my destination, and not a through road for me.

Suddenly my whole inner-map-vision of my neighborhood and environs has snapped into focus. 

Breaking In

In my last post, I mentioned how I’ve received several warnings about how insular the people native to this area can be, especially when confronted with newcomers.

I’m not exaggerating — I’ve heard this several times: from my hairdresser, my coworkers, a woman at the girl scout office, and even from one of my new book club friends.

I have not, to my knowledge, experienced this attitude from anyone I’ve met. At least, nobody has reacted with shock or revulsion when I introduce myself and say I’m new to the area. I have uniformly recieved warm welcomes, smiles, and general good wishes. Even the lady at the courthouse was nice when I went in to change my license.

You might be thinking that I just haven’t met that many people yet. And you’d be right. Perhaps the truly ‘insular’ people are moving in their usual circles and as such, haven’t crossed  my paths yet. It could be that they are happily occupying the “round holes” that I have been halfway forced into.

Here’s the catch: Somehow, someone has met them, because I am being warned. So they are not hiding under blankets in their houses with their third-generation resident friends.

I went to a writer’s club last weekend, as a visitor. (Add that to my list of things I never could have done back home.) I walked in, nobody said hi. I sat down — in the back, of course — nobody said hi. I immediately started thinking about how these girls must all know each other from way back; they’ve probably read each others’ books, I thought, and laughed and talked over coffee. I invented a whole life for them in my head.

Then the meeting started, and we all stood up and introduced ourselves. Turns out, half of the ladies in the room were new to the club. A quarter hadn’t been to meetings in a while. I started talking to the two women next to me, which is the hardest thing in the world for me to do, and they were profusely friendly. One girl was new like me, and the other was one of the few regulars in the room.

Will I go back? Probably not right now. The focus of the club wasn’t right for me, and despite their friendliness, I didn’t feel the same ‘fit’ that I did with my book club a few nights later. Maybe I’ll give it another try when I have a completed manuscript. Or maybe by then I’ll find something else.

The point is, although it was easy to imagine that everyone in the room was a tight-knit group bent on excluding me, the reality was different. So I choose to believe that my new area is not insular, but instead, out of place and isolated themselves.

photo courtesty stock.xchng

Big news!! Six months after my move, I finally feel like I have made some friends.

I’ve tried so many things. Hiking clubs, churches, classes, volunteering, coffee shops, writing groups. Every time, I felt like a square peg beating myself into a round hole. Increasing the beatings did not improve the ift.

So I was a little nervous about going to a book club meeting last night. I found it on Meetup when I first moved here, and was interested primarily  because I’d already read most of their books. But work intervened, and inertia set in, and I never went… until last night.

I worried about age, and having things in common, and whether they’d be friendly. I worried that I’d be marked as an outsider because I come from another region — a phenomenon I’ve been warned about, but not experienced directly.

Instead, five women showed up that I immediately felt comfortable with. Conversation was easy and continuous, and we all laughed at the same kind of jokes. It was a diverse group, but — I fit.

I left the restaurant glowing like a teenager after her first date, and in that mode, checked my face in my car mirror. Hair ok, face ok…. big smile. Green spinachy stuff around FOUR of my slightly prominent front teeth.

photo courtesy stock.xchng

I went back to yoga tonight for the first time in six weeks, and the whole landscape has changed.

I didn’t know anyone there. And (it is so wrong to look around at everyone else’s postures during class, but you know you’re doing it too) by the looks of these girls, they haven’t been doing it long. I don’t mean they were doing less challenging versions of some of the postures — personally, I don’t think I will ever get my heels down in Down Dog, not ever. I mean, the instructor would explain a pose and they’d be doing something else altogether.

Then the instructor called me by name, and I realized — I’m not the new girl anymore. I am the one who has been around for awhile.

It’s almost like I live here or something.

photo courtesy stock.xchng

I’ve had an incredibly busy few weeks (is it possible I haven’t posted since mid-May?). I’ve been out of town every weekend since Easter, and most weeks, too. So when things finally slowed down this weekend, I was able to do something I have been meaning to do for a while, something on my ‘explore my new city’ list. I went to the county arboretum, which is about 5 miles from my house.

I was envisioning blooming trees, flowers, lilacs, dogwood, rhododendron, magnolias. All of those beautiful flowering trees and bushes that make an arboretum arboretumy.

I pulled in the front gate and noticed a lot of softball fields. I’m sure I’m sounding like a country girl as usual, but there weren’t this many softball fields in the whole town where I come from. Here, in one park, lined up like so many housing developments, was field after field. No trees, except the vaguest hint of a treeline in the distance. Trails were promised to the left, however, so I went that way.

Eventually, I saw a soccer field or two. I wouldn’t call that an improvement, exactly, but at least it was a change.

Reaching the trailhead, I set out on my adventurous 1.3 mile walk, and actually found… trees! And power lines. And cows. And a lot of chain link fencing (What are they trying so desperately to keep out, or in?). There were also a lot of sick trees, dying trees, bent-over trees, and worst of all, bare plots of ground with little signs where trees used to be.

It was like I’d come to a rescue arboretum. Or maybe, a tree graveyard. Depressing.

More depressing, though, was the total absence of flowers. I’ve missed spring. Between the ridiculous rain, the travel, my crazy work schedule, and whatever else has kept me busy for the past two months, I have completely missed everything that blooms at the park.

I found myself thinking ahead to next year, thinking that I’ll catch the blooms then. And I realize — it’s starting to feel more natural to think of myself being here at this time next year.

 

photo courtesy stock.xchng

In terms of running – or anything else – it’s been awhile since I’ve been able to say I was in a rut.

The thing about relocating is everything’s new. All the time. If I head out the door for a run, it’s a new route. I can’t turn my brain off and stay in my well-worn loop like a train on familiar tracks. I have to think, plan, remember.

I might head out for a 3 mile run and do 5 miles instead. I might get lost, or I might be bored. More frequently, in this area, I might find myself on a high traffic road with no sidewalk and no shoulder.

So today, when I found myself feeling slighly bored by the 1.5 mile loop at a local park, it felt like an old friend. Call it routine, boredom, or familiarity: when everything else around you is all-new, being in a bit of a rut can be a good thing.

photo courtesy stock.xchng and Cheryl Empey
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