When I first got certified, I chose special needs and fitness coaching. But I had fallen out of the fitness scene. I hadn't kept up with the latest research, and I didn't feel I could be effective in helping potential clients work through fitness issues and reach their goals if my heart wasn't in it anymore.
Then I got to thinking about how important friendship is to well-being. With today's crazy busy lifestyle, people often have little time for friendships. I knew how tough it was to make friends. I also knew how difficult it was to lose friends to abandonment, misunderstanding, and death. And I knew how important close friendships were to me. Could I help clients find new friends after a move, or guide them through the profound sadness associated with the death of or abandonment by a dear friend? Could I be a friendship coach? Was there even such a thing? I Googled it, and, sure enough, one friendship coach's website popped up. I had my second niche. I read piles of books on the subject of friendship: friendship loss, when friendship hurts, the benefits of friendship, on and on. I wanted to do all I could to be prepared to help my clients.
Making friends has always been tough for me. I craved friendship all through my childhood. Due to my health issues, I never felt comfortable enough sharing my more personal side--something that helps foster deep friendships. Then, I made a friend in high school who had a profound effect on me. He showed an interest in me, he gave me confidence, he stuck up for me. He was the catalyst who led me to change my attitude, become a bit more open and, as a result, make more friends and have more fun. Still, to this day, only a few friends know a good bit of who I am, and even fewer know me at my core. Most of my best friends live in other parts of the country or on the other side of the world from me. With the Internet, staying in touch is easy, but that face-to-face, in-person connection is still missing. I do miss it at times. But I treasure those friendships and am happy with whatever way works best to stay in touch.
Other friends I've had over the years--from school, church, the gym, social clubs, work, the neighborhood, and online--were kept at a comfortable distance. We'd get together for dinner, play games, watch football, volunteer, shop, chat, and work, but the conversations would remain safe for the most part. We'd rarely crack the surface. When someone opens up to me, I'm all there, 110%. If not, I'm just not there. I'm not comfortable. I can't connect.
Of course, not everyone I consider a friend has to go deep. No. We have different types of friendships: casual, school-based, hobby-based, hometown-based, career-based, and so on. I may be a sounding board for one friend, while another friend is a sounding board for me. That's fair, and it's fulfilling.
When we made the move to Utah from New York, I had a tough time making friends. It wasn't for lack of friendly people; there were loads of friendly folks around. We just had a hard time settling into a new area where the culture was so different from where we had come from. People were friendly, but it was hard to go deep. When religion, politics, and other differences present themselves, it takes time and patience to break through those barriers and connect on a human level. One of my doctors gave me some good advice. He said something like this:
People are very busy. If you want to make friends, you're going to have to get out into the community. Get involved in things that interest you, and you'll find others who have those interests too.
Ah yes, common interests spark potential friendships.
So, we got out of the house in a big way. We visited a local church of the same denomination that we'd attended off and on back in New York, we volunteered, we joined clubs and, do you know what happened? We made friends and lots of them. We have more friends here in our adopted state of Utah than we ever did in New York. It just takes open-mindedness, planning, action, and patience.
If you find yourself with a friend (or friends) who "gets" you; who you can relate to on a deep level, consider yourself lucky and hold on tight--but not too tightly. If you're suffering the loss of a friend or struggling with trying to find new ones, I can help. Email me at email@example.com for more information. I'd love it if you'd leave comments below about your experiences with friendship, as well as special needs. Have a great day.