To build friendships, leave your bubble

The following editorial was originally published in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser on Sunday, February 5, 2023 as part of the "Raise Your Hand" column in the Insights section

By: Calista Ancog, Moanalua High School student, class of 2023.

The media has labeled introversion as a character flaw for decades. In most movies, the introvert is “fixed” after becoming friends with an extrovert.

Nowadays it’s OK to like your personal time because it’s “self-care.” But I can’t count the number of times I’ve had people tell me that I should get out of my comfort zone and make more friends. The subtext is that having a large friend group is everything.

In reality, creating this group is hard. It doesn’t matter if you’re in high school or an adult.

The media portrays high school as a place where people are either popular or outcasts. But there’s a gray area that doesn’t get mentioned: where everyone you know is an acquaintance and you’re on the outside looking in.

At my high school, getting lost in the many diverse groups is easy. It can feel as though you’re trying to break into a set social scene, or hopping from group to group with no home base. Many teenagers assume that with college comes sitcom-esque friendships. However, the real world is difficult to traverse with new rules and challenges.

Two summers ago, I read the memoir, “Sorry I’m Late, I Didn’t Want to Come,” written by Jessica Pan. I realized that struggling to make friends is normal. Pan details her journey as she navigates the difficulties of making adult friends as a shintrovert (shy introvert) in a new city. Everyone could benefit from her insight. “The fear and bleak reality of being boring and dying having never connected with anyone is vastly underestimated,” Pan writes. A workshop coordinator delivers this stark statement to her. It solidifies the belief that the fear of never connecting to anyone because of your lack of “enticingness,” is shared and often overlooked. Understanding that you’re not alone in your journey for friends is crucial to helping you take the first step outside your bubble.

As long as you truly put effort into your endeavors and your pursuit of friendship, it’ll be extremely hard to fail.

— Calista Ancog

Talking to a stranger can be terrifying: you don’t know them, they don’t know you, and now you’re in an awkward conversation about the weather. When Pan faced this struggle she turned to Nicholas Epley, a psychologist, for help. He shared a profound statement: “Nobody waves — but everybody waves back.”

Reading that quote, I realized that I was waiting for people to wave when I should have been waving. I often don’t greet people first because I’m terrified they won’t respond, which has happened exactly once. Most times, however, I’m greeted with a smile or a wave.

The context of the statement is simple — a casual greeting — but it can be applied to so much more: taking the initiative to schedule that hang-out, or calling a friend to check in. It could also mean being the one to start a conversation with the stranger sitting next to you.

But to talk to a stranger, you must first put yourself out there. For high schoolers, this could be a new club or opportunities outside of school. Adults are the same. Both can think of it as investing in their growth.

So last summer, I invested in myself. I stepped out of my comfort zone by doing an internship and joining a kickboxing class. It was the best summer I’d had in a while. I met dedicated mentors, found an outlet for stress, and met a group of highly supportive friends.

As long as you truly put effort into your endeavors and your pursuit of friendship, it’ll be extremely hard to fail.

I encourage you to take that leap of faith, and if you need some inspiration, pick up Jessica Pan’s memoir. And remember, “Nobody waves — but everybody waves back.”

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