Auntie SparkNotes: How Can I Make Friends at My New School?
Recently I moved high schools. I am a freshman and transferred in in the second semester. Throughout my life I don't think I've ever had a solid group of friends, and I think I know the reason. When I was in elementary school, I went to a private school where the only friends I had lived far away and I only was able to see them every other day. Fast forward a few years and I was violently thrust into the intimidating world of public school. I went to a middle school for 7-8th grade, and was then transferred out of district for high school. In each of my transitions, I saw no friends I saw at previous schools, leaving my friendships (or flirtationships) behind in as little as a few months.
At this new school, I feel accepted... kinda. For the first few weeks, I was the "new kid" that everyone is curious about. Now, the buzz has kinda died down and I find myself alone, roaming the halls a lot. I also keep walking continuously around campus during break to make it look like I'm doing something and not utterly alone. I hang out with people I guess but I usually stay quiet at the fringes of the group and just follow them around. I don't consider myself an extrovert or an introvert, but I'm really quiet around people until I get to know them. I can't really distinguish myself. Extroverts have a lot of extrovert friends. Introverts have introvert friends. But I just kinda don't have... any. Most everyone I know just feels distant and, when I'm in a conversation with someone, they say hi (insert friend name here) and completely ignore me. I think this question is more about what I can do to help myself than anything else. I just really need an answer before it's too late to relate to these people.
just a kid who went on sparknotes to get chapters 44-54 of 'the Count of Monte Cristo' because the book i was reading is the abridged version and then i wanted to go back and do my math homework but got sidetracked doing quizzes and whatnot until i stumbled across this page and wanted to read it so i read the recent ones and i submitted a question.
And I'm just an internet agony aunt who could not help but answer this letter, because the signature alone was so fabulous that it warmed the cockles of my gray, stony, dessicated little heart. (And dude, could I possibly convince you to read The Count of Monte Cristo in its unabridged form? I know it's long, but you'll love it! It's so revengey!)
And now, let's start with the bad news: it's true that you missed an opportunity back there to capitalize on your new-kid cachet and make friends with… well, with the kind of people who make an effort to reach out to and befriend new kids, who are generally (although not always) pretty quality human beings. Which I'm telling you not because it's especially useful to you now, but because it might be in the event that you switch schools again, which seems to be something you do a lot. So, just FYI.
But! You also absolutely still have the opportunity to make friends at your current school. It's just going to be a little bit more difficult—and that's mostly because you'll have to let go of the carefully-constructed, face-saving-but-ultimately-self-sabotaging charade that you're already very busy and important and always on the go. I know it's comforting (not to mention a fantastic source of cardiovascular exercise), but it makes you inaccessible where you need to be approachable. A little vulnerability is the price of admission when it comes to getting close to people; you need to be willing to let them see that you're not desperate, but interested and available for friendship.
Here's what that looks like in practice: the next time you're on the fringes of your group of sorta-friends, turn to the person nearest you (or whichever one seems friendliest) and strike up a conversation. You have the benefit of knowing these people at least a little bit, which means you know them well enough to get them to open up to you about whatever interests them. People like to talk about themselves, which means that getting to know them better is as simple as saying "Tell me about—" and then finishing the sentence with something you know they find interesting. "Tell me about your trip to France"; or "Tell me what it's like to be on the fencing team," or "Tell me about Get Out, I heard it's amazing." (Side note: Anyone who leaves Get Out spoilers on this post will be banned with extreme prejudice forever, as some Sparkitors have not yet seen it. BEHAVE.)
The good news is, you don't have to throw yourself at people; just occupying the same space as your peers (minus the pretense of busy-ness that keeps you aloof from them) will help you begin to get a sense for which folks in your immediate vicinity are potential friendship material—because they share your interests, or perspective, or sense of humor. (Pro tip: Some of them will likely be the same people who seemed keen to get to know you back when you were new at school.) And of course, you can improve your chances further by joining clubs and extra-curriculars where you can meet people who are there because they like the same stuff you do. From there, it's just a question of being brave enough to open up yourself, share stories, or say, "I was thinking of getting pizza, anyone feel like joining me?" the next time there's an opportunity.
Here's where the vulnerability part comes in: Not every one of these attempts will pan out as you've hoped. You may misjudge someone's interest in being friends, or you may end up on the wrong end of a lopsided relationship where you're making 99% of the effort, and you may even be rudely rebuffed by someone who seems cool but turns out to be a total jerk. That's the risk. But the friendships that do work out? Those are the reward, and they're totally worth it.
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