“Will you be my friend?”
I met a girl with curly brown hair on the playground in elementary school. She liked performing flips on the monkey bars, and I did too, so we instantly became best friends. In high school, it was the girl behind me in French class. Her bright eyes and freckled cheeks were beaming when she tapped me on the shoulder and practiced her je m’appelle. We became inseparable for the next four years.
In college, my roommates were my “my people”—easy, considering we all lived together. Then, “my people” changed to “our people” when I got married; my husband and I met a few couples with a shared love for camping and craft beer (it was, after all, Colorado in 2012). For a few years, we did almost everything with our friend group until—as happens with life—people began to move away.
I’ve always thought of “my people” as the friends (or friend) who feel closer than close. They are the people you really do life with, and most often in a physical capacity. They are the first calls when you need a favor or a shoulder to cry on, the friends who take you out for drinks when you get a promotion or show up at your kid’s baseball game or offer to drive you to that scary doctor’s appointment. Mostly, they are the people you grow with and alongside—even if only for a season.
In the last few years, I’ve struggled to find more of these friends—“my people” kind of people—in my life. Blame it on the pandemic or on my (pre-2020) tendency to suggest a move to my husband every few years because “that place looks interesting!” The older I get, the harder it seems to find deep and lasting connections, and so recently, I’ve found myself wondering: Where are “my people,” and how do I go about finding them?
In her essay “Why is Maintaining Adult Friendships So Difficult?” Kristin van Ogtrop asks why it's hard to make new friends as we age. “Perhaps it’s because we can’t hear each other the way we could when we were young,” she writes. “When you’re young, there is very little competing background noise. As you get older, other voices begin to chime in—partners, kids, bosses, electricians, plumbers, PTA presidents—and soon there is clamor all around you.”
I also wonder if we struggle to find our people simply because we don’t know where to look. When we’re younger, making friends is not only possible but probable: It happens on the playground, in the cafeteria lunchroom, or during partner exercises in French class. We meet friends in sports or drama club or at summer camp. Without adult responsibilities weighing us down, we stick together like glue and exchange BFF necklaces. It feels intuitive; there isn’t as much to clutter our little brains just yet.
This changes as we age. We rarely keep the same close friends from childhood or even college; the friendships we have in our 20s and 30s change and evolve in our later years. “My people” become “those people,” and that can be difficult. Even more difficult is the task of moving forward and forging new, meaningful relationships.
Friendships come and go, even “my people” kind of friendships. As we enter new decades and our stories deepen, people grow apart, and not all relationships are meant to last. This doesn’t mean the connection failed or that it was any less valuable. And neither does it mean those people weren’t “your people.” Life takes us in different directions, and our friendships help get us to where we are today.
Which leads me to the joy of discovering new “my people” in our lives—my husband and I find ourselves doing just that right now, attempting to plunge roots into our community and make friends in our city. I’m using the below tips to help guide me in the process and perhaps they can help you too, to find your very own people. Because we need each other; life is too complex and beautiful to journey alone.
1. Start with your interests
A few years ago, I met a woman at a book club hosted by a mutual friend. We immediately hit it off and exchanged contact information. As an introvert, serendipitous interactions don’t often happen like this for me. But on this occasion, the friendship was that easy. We were camping and traveling together just a few weeks later.
When searching for “your people,” try starting with common interests. Make a list of all the activities you love—it could be anything from fitness competitions to cooking elaborate meals to volunteering with dogs on the weekends. The list can be as long as you’d like, but try to pick three to five things that really reflect you. Then, next time you find yourself in a social setting and meeting new people, pay attention to the interests they may share about themselves. Do they align? You may be standing in front of “your people” without even knowing it!
2. Consider your values
Growing up in church, some of my closest friendships were with people I met in youth group. Though I now believe that relationships with people of varying backgrounds and opinions are essential, a shared ethos is also incredibly powerful for making deep connections.
Similar to the point above, consider what makes you tick and what gets your heart pumping. What do you believe? What are your thoughts on politics and philosophy, and religion? After you’ve made your list of values, find nearby organizations or groups where you can get involved or volunteer your time. If politics is on your list (gentle nudge here to get more involved!), join a local campaign group to canvas or raise money for the midterm elections. My bet is you’ll find some passionate people and deep connections there!
3. Make friends with your friend’s friends
My husband and I have been lucky enough to be invited to dinner parties and movie nights by a couple we knew before moving to Los Angeles. They have an established friend group in the city, and since we love them, we knew we’d likely love their friends as well.
If you’re struggling to find your people, start with who you already know and see if they can help introduce you to new friends. This is a great option if you’ve just moved: Make one friend and then see if they’ll invite you along to group gatherings with their friend group.
4. Look outside the box
I’ve always been a bit of a skeptic when it comes to finding deep connections in online communities. But then last year, I started a substack newsletter, and it’s led to meaningful conversations with “my people” kind of people who just so happen to live all over the world.
While technology and social media come with pros and cons discourse, one benefit is that it makes meeting new friends who share common interests more accessible than before. While you may not know where to look for “your people” at the local coffee shop, you can likely find them through online communities—whether through writing communities, Reddit forums, via gaming, on even on a specific TikTok channel. We don’t have to limit ourselves. You may find “your people” in unique or unassuming places. If you feel most comfortable seeking our new friendships from the comfort of your home, that’s okay.
As a final note: Be kind to yourself and others in this strange adult-friend-making process. It’s not easy, and we’re all still recovering from the past two years. Friendships are a challenge, especially in the beginning stages when meeting one another and finding time to hang out amidst busy schedules. You are not any less valuable just because you don’t have a “friend group” or people you can call “your people.” In fact, you may not even want that for your life right now.
I’ve had multiple seasons when my circle has become very small, consisting of just my husband and my siblings and a few long-distance relationships that I can manage via text. Sometimes that’s what we need.
Other times, we need people closer to help us navigate daily life. Wherever you’re at, whatever your relational goals and needs for this next season, know they are what’s best for you—friend group or not.
Kayti Christian (she/her) is a Senior Editor at The Good Trade. She has a Master’s in Nonfiction Writing from the University of London and is the creator of Feelings Not Aside, a newsletter for sensitive people.