I never did much with friends growing up. I had friends, but a loving mother would often forbid our spontaneous plans. "You don't need friends. All you need is to study hard, get good grades, and go to college so you can get a good job." Unfortunately at the time, I took my mother's advice to heart. She was, after all, my mother, and I was not yet a teenager.
Because of the anti-social values instilled in me at an early age, a desire to please my mother, and a naivety to blindly believe she knew what was best for me, I spent most of my grade school and early college years as a social outcast. People wanted to get to know me, but I was always turning them down to study or to practice guitar or to ride my skateboard. Alone.
What about inviting someone over to study? Never. I was too scared of rejection. Starting conversations? Never. They might think I'm stupid. Listening to people and being genuinely interested in them? Never. People are boring. Helping friends when they're down? Never. People need to learn to help themselves. Friends aren't important. Relationships don't matter.
Don't get me wrong. I love my mother – then and now. None of this was malicious. She had good intentions in her heart and raised me the best she knew how, and personally, I think she did very well. In fact, I don't even blame her anymore. I did once, but I forgive her now, and I recognize and hold myself accountable for my ignorance. I could have questioned, challenged, rebelled, and made my own choices. Instead of living life, life lived me.
During my third year of college, I learned an invaluable lesson. Somewhere I read that if you want to make friends, you should do things you enjoy and invite people to join you. I’m pretty sure this advice came from a column in GQ, which if you know me, is the last thing you’d ever suspect me to read.
The column reasoned that if you invite people to join you, people will start joining you because, let's face it, most people don't really do anything interesting anyways. When they learn you're doing interesting things, they want to be a part of it – even if you're weird, or shy, or kind of a jerk.
So I gave it a try, and sure enough that's exactly what happened!
It's frustrating to be the guy who always asks before making plans. "Want to go kayaking at the lake and get a frosty beverage afterwards?!?!?!" Then… crickets…
But it's euphoric when you text a group, "Hey guys, I'm going kayaking at the lake tomorrow, and afterwards, I plan to grab a beer. Let me know if you want to join me." Then 30-minutes before you leave the house, you get a text, from that one guy (or gal) in the group you know the least. "Hey, are you still going kayaking at the like today?"
You would have gone kayaking regardless. But now you get to make a new friend. But even if no one had responded, you still would have had a blast.