New Friends = New Perspectives

Earlier this month, I hit my six-year anniversary of living in the DC area.

This is now the longest I’ve ever lived in one place (with the exception of the first 12 years of my childhood, and I seem to have repressed a lot of those memories, so they don’t count).

Because of my mom’s job, our family moved cities—even countries—every three years or so. As a result, I’m also used to having to refresh my list of friends with equal frequency.

It’s tough to have to reconstitute one’s inner circle that often. It’s like going on first dates over and over again and then moving to a different city and, like Katy Perry on Friday nights, doing it all again. But when you know you’re operating on limited time, especially as a teenager, you become really adept at quickly identifying select individuals whom you click with and nourishing those relationships.

(As an aside, there’s a fascinating body of literature around the experiences of expat children—Third Culture Kids (TCKs)—and how they transition to new environments. The TCK framework was actually going to serve as the foundation for my original dissertation topic: cultural identity development in first-year college students. As we all know, I ended up going with the much sexier topic of assessment and accountability in student affairs instead.)

Anyway, last weekend, TJ and I had the opportunity to hang out with some new friends. And it was amazeballs.

Making new friends is important to me, since I’m convinced that my soul is a wandering seafarer. And to someone whose wanderlust is insatiable, “settling down”—in this case, with a particular group of friends and acquaintances—is anathema.

A stark realization recently came to me thanks to Google+. (Hey, at least it was good for something.) As I was busily sorting friends into my different circles, I noticed that the large majority of them are folks I know through the improv community here in DC.

Not that my improv peeps are horrible, terrible people. Uh, of course not! They’re great! They’re swell! And I would like to marry them all and have babies with them and we can create our own improv colony where we make stuff up all day long.

But it was alarming to see that a disproportionately large percentage of people that I regularly spend time with are from just one slice of my life. And for a self-proclaimed Renaissance man, one slice does not fit all.

You’d think that DC would be a place where it would be easy to make new friends, given the natural refresh of the young people pool that occurs with each election cycle. But I seem to have gradually closed off any opportunity to make new friends. In the ultra-busy routine I’ve created for myself, it seems like I’ve made my circle of friends and acquaintances smaller instead of larger.

But hanging out with new friends last weekend reminded me of how personally fulfilling it is to meet new people, learn more about them, and most importantly, learn from them.

One of the theories I posited in my model of cultural identity development is that we are essentially amalgamated products of the different people we come in contact with over our entire lifetime. And the resulting composite of their influences on us—whether positive or negative—is what makes us who we are.

Alloys are stronger than pure metal precisely because they’re made up of an awesome collection of different elements.

Applications for new friends are now being accepted.

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