Making New Friends In Adulthood The Cherokee 40+ Girl GangBy Julie SengerThese days, making new friends seems to be harder than ever — especially for adults. Many people carry on entire relationships electronically, never meeting in person after communicating for years through social media, Zoom meetings, or other virtual venues. Those who are new to the area or who don’t already have a longstanding core group of friends nearby may become overwhelmed when deciding where to begin, frequently feeling anxious and vulnerable about putting themselves “out there.” Meeting new friends can be particularly difficult for stay-at-home parents, retired people, those who work from home, and/or empty nesters who no longer have their children’s activities as a potential way to meet the parents of other kids during practices, games, meets, matches, and recitals. Since I fall into the “empty nester” group, I was excited (and a little pensive) when I stumbled upon the Cherokee 40+ Girl Gang’s page on Facebook. The Cherokee 40+ Girl Gang is made up of more than 2,400 women from all walks of life who have at least two things in common: the desire to make new friends and have fun. In an attempt to inspire others, I decided to brave the waters of potential new friendships by attending an event with complete strangers in the Cherokee 40+ Girl Gang and then share my experience with readers. Choosing an ActivityAny member of the Cherokee 40+ Girl Gang can create an event to gather members together for all kinds of adventures. Outings can be large (dozens of members) or small, depending on the place and the activity. Examples of past events include gatherings at coffee shops, restaurants, vineyards, movies, breweries, and live music venues, as well as more active recreational options like kayaking and tubing trips, apple picking, exercise classes, bunko, pickleball, painting classes, paddleboarding, and group hiking meetups. While trying to decide which activity to attend, I spent months following the page and its many event options. My internal dialogue: “Should I go to a large event, so I can easily blend in with the crowd but possibly make it harder to really get to know anyone? Or should I start with a smaller group outing?” After much consideration, I chose to meet up with a medium-sized group of about a dozen ladies for drinks and Mexican food. My ExperienceAfter entering the restaurant 10 minutes late (I didn’t want to be the first to arrive, since I didn’t know anyone), I recognized the event organizer from her photos and made my way to the group’s reserved table. I took an empty seat and introduced myself to those closest to me, and we all began to chat while looking over the menu and placing our orders. There was one other person who was also attending her first event, which made me feel a little less awkward. However, I needn’t have worried. Everyone was so friendly, welcoming, and interesting! Over the course of about 2.5 hours, I discovered that I was the only person at the table who was born and raised in Georgia. The other ladies were from as near as Florida and Tennessee and from as far away as Washington and California, which just reinforced the need for groups such as the Cherokee 40+ Girl Gang to help people make new friends. We got to know each other by talking about our children, our travels, and other life experiences. I had a great time and look forward to attending more events in the future. What Others Had To Say “What makes me so happy is when our members find their tribe. Everyone I talk to says they are nervous about coming to an event because they haven’t been out in forever, but no one says they regret coming. I am so proud to be the administrator of a group that is welcoming to everyone,” said Jackie Lynn Pala, cofounder of Cherokee 40+ Girl Gang. “A little over two years ago, Jackie and I noticed that our age group was in the season where we had focused decades on our careers, children, significant others, etc., and now had more time to focus on ourselves, but not many relationships to share this time with. So, this group was going to be about us — about me, about you — that’s it. Our only goal is to have a space with zero drama and lots of fun,” said Lisa Beebe Pombert Gatheman, cofounder of Cherokee 40+ Girl Gang. “There have been so many fun adventures! This is why I have no storage on my phone. I never get rid of any of my pictures! Can’t wait for more fun shenanigans,” said Christie Valeri, member of Cherokee 40+ Girl Gang. Your Turn To Make New Friends!If you’re looking to meet new friends in the area, Family Life has pinned a post to the top of its Facebook page, so followers can share links or information about local groups they’re involved with and/or read the comments to find a group that fits their needs and interests. We welcome all family friendly groups to post a link to their group’s page. Things To Consider When Trying To Make New FriendsThese tips were shared by Belgian-American psychotherapist Esther Perel who is known for her work on human relationships (EstherPerel.com).When making new friends, go beyond, “What do you do?”A great question to ask new people is, “What would you do if you had the chance to do things differently?” It’s open to interpretation, and people can choose their comfort level.Practice active listening. Ask follow-up questions but pay attention to boundaries — and respect them. Practice mutuality. Don’t be afraid to share things about yourself but find the line. You don’t have to go all the way in during the very first interaction. Like any relationship, friendships are built over time.Practice mutuality. Don’t be afraid to share things about yourself but find the line. You don’t have to go all the way in during the very first interaction. Like any relationship, friendships are built over time.