I’ll be honest with you. The past couple of weeks have been tough and some nights I want to shout: ‘Call for back-up! Send reinforcements!’ Except, there are none. Our families are far away. And our friends are far away. We are all social distancing and/or staying safely isolated. It’s during times like this I wish I could conjure up my loved ones with a magic trick.
What does this have to do with making friends? Here’s my dilemma: I’ve made exactly one friend since moving to Dublin. When we moved to Dublin late last year, I was pregnant and scrambling to get all the baby-stuff, house-stuff, study-stuff, and admin sorted before my daughter arrived. At the time, I didn’t make an effort to meet new people. I kept thinking, ‘I’ll do it when my baby’s here.’ Everyone tells you how easy it is to meet other moms once you have a baby. Well, my baby was born towards the end of December and for a few weeks I was in the newborn-fog-phase and the Coronavirus was only a whisper. Once I felt more settled, I jumped right in: I joined a breastfeeding group and signed up for baby-massage and baby-swimming classes. I was ready to meet people and socialise! Meanwhile, the Corona-threat was building and unfortunately, my attempts to reach out and meet new people only lasted a couple of weeks before we went into lockdown. I suppose the fact that I made one friend can be considered an accomplishment, but it should be noted that it’s because she’s such a kind person, not because I’m great at making friends.
One (very recent) evening I felt tired and overwhelmed and I contemplated going to the park the following day, just to get out for some fresh air. I would’ve loved some company. I needed some company: Someone to look me in the eye, to see me, and to understand. The thing is, I didn’t know who to ask since my (one) friend was away. I know a couple of other people in Dublin, but they either live far and/ or are working. After weighing my options, I decided to post on a mommy-WhatsApp-group: ‘Hey guys, I’m going to the park tomorrow. Let me know if anyone’s keen to join for a social-distance-meet-up?’ My friend added me to this group, but I’ve never actually met anyone on it. It was a weird conundrum for this introvert. If someone decided to join, it would be a case of introducing ourselves. Introducing our babies. Swapping pleasantries. And you know what, that sounded like a lot of work that would tap into my already low energy levels. But my need to connect with people was stronger than my urge to hide away, so I secretly hoped someone would take me up on my offer. Failing that, I decided I would go to the park alone. I can always count on a couple of old ladies to come over and coo over my baby which would guarantee some social interaction.
Initially, no one replied, and I felt strangely deflated. But later that evening, just when I had made up my mind to go to the park alone, one woman said she’d like to join. I was unreasonably excited. The next day started sunny and fine, but as the day progressed, the wind picked up and by the time we had to leave for the park, it was raining. We waited to see if the shower would pass, but it didn’t, and so we cancelled. It was such a weird rollercoaster of emotions. It was only a walk in the park with someone I’ve never met before, but I felt hugely disappointed. My attempt to reschedule the date was met with a friendly shrug. Most people already have a network of friends and aren’t as anxious as I am to meet new people. For them, it’s a case of ‘if it works it works; if not, not a bother.’ For me… well, I’ll keep trying.
Having said this, I’m thankful for the friends who, even though they are far away, are always ready with a WhatsApp message, a video call, or a voice note. Friendships can’t be rushed and there’s so much value in having those friends who go way back. They know you on your good days and your bad days. No need to introduce yourself or swap pleasantries. You can just show up, no matter your mood or energy levels. Another positive is that people are making the most of technology during the pandemic. I’ve joined an incredibly supportive breastfeeding group that meets via Zoom every two weeks. It’s been wonderful and I genuinely look forward to the meetings. There are advantages to the online meetings too! I can put my baby down for a nap if I have to. I can make myself tea, relax in my room in my sweatpants, and no one will care, because we’re all in the same boat. But as great as this is, it doesn’t replace looking someone (directly) in the eye and just being together. It can’t replace a friend giving you a warm hug when you need one. I wonder when those will be acceptable again…
I wish I could end off with a fabulous ‘this-is-the-moral-of-this-story-moment’, but I’m still figuring it out. I think we’re all navigating tricky situations this year, and this is my challenge. What it does highlight is the importance of having those friends who are always there for you. Those precious people whose support is unwavering regardless of the season you’re in or what pandemic is raging through the world. Those friends are golden. Keep them close to your heart.
It’s lovely to have you visiting the Wild Library blog. If you have any thoughts on making friends during a pandemic, let me know in the comments below. If you feel like sticking around, others have also enjoyed reading The Ghosts of Rental Houses and ‘It gets easier, mama’.
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I hope you have a wonderful day!