5 ways to meet new people in the new year

When strangers become good friends.

I’m so fortunate to be surrounded by kind, fun, smart people in my life, people I’m blessed to call friends and family. My life is also busy with different activities that I enjoy with many of these people. Being open to meeting new people has enabled me to make great memories throughout my life.

Meeting new people isn’t always that easy, even if you’re a confident, outgoing person. People are often surprised to hear that I’m a bit shy – I like meeting and talking to people so I come across as really outgoing. When I was younger, I was painfully shy. I wanted to try things and talk to people but my shyness often made me hesitate. I definitely believe going away to college and then being diagnosed with bone cancer at 21 years old changed my outlook on life. Those experiences made me open up, embrace new opportunities, welcome people into my life and simply appreciate each day. While there are still moments when I feel anxiety, shyness or nerves creeping in, I remind myself that I survived cancer for goodness sake – not much else should scare me!

It was admittedly a bit challenging meeting new people for a few years after cancer treatment. Here I was a young adult cancer survivor with a titanium rod in place of my femur. Almost everything I thought about life was different, and I appreciated so much more, especially the simple things. That new perspective on life made me have an outlook a bit different than the typical 20-something young adult. I was more particular about who and what I gave my time to, and what I wanted to do with my life. However, this ‘new me’ also sometimes felt hesitation or doubt since it’s not always an easy conversation to share with people, particularly at that age. My rod also limits some of the activities I can engage in. Not everyone understands that, and there were a few times my health history scared off potential friends or suitors. Now that age has made me a wiser version of me (ha), I know I don’t want those type of people in my life and I’m grateful they scooted off.

If you’ve visited this blog in the past, you know that I’m always interested in meeting new people, trying new activities and going on adventures. Here are some tips to help get you started:

Being part of a sorority brings many amazing women into my life.

Embrace what you know. What’s your profession? Check out local chapters of professional organizations. Were you in a sorority, fraternity or other organization in college? Many of these collegiate groups offer alumni opportunities. Do you relate to people touched by a certain illness or outcome? As a cancer survivor, there is an obvious common bond when you meet another cancer survivor (not that you become fast friends with every cancer survivor!). Since I was treated in pediatric oncology at 21, I didn’t meet many other young adult survivors. So I was excited to attend a young adult survivors conference shortly after treatment, where I met many young adults experiencing similar issues as me. I became great friends with many of these people, and we’re still in touch. I also am a passionate cancer advocate and love meeting and working with others to make a positive difference. My work with LIVESTRONG and the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network have introduced me to many amazing people who are now close friends. We have lots of fun together!

Explore your interests. What do you like? What do you look forward to doing? Playing games, wine tasting, reading books, bowling, cooking? Think about what you enjoy and look for a group or class that focuses on your interests. I love looking on meetup.com for local groups featuring my interests. For instance, I’ve joined a cycling group, women’s group and a few others that offer fun outings on a regular basis. These have led to meeting really nice people who share some of the same interests.Β I joined an outdoor club years ago to meet people who enjoy hiking and camping. I not only made amazing friends, but also learned so much about backpacking, camping, trip planning and even myself. I’ve explored Alaska, rock climbed in Canada, hiked much of Michigan, learned to pack my necessities into a backpack weighing less than 25 pounds, filtered water, cooked in the woods, made a splint using hiking poles, and much more.

Doing a favorite activity with friends is even better!

Go outside your comfort zone. You sometimes have to take that big leap into the unknown. Waiting for new people and opportunities to come to you doesn’t usually work. At least it hasn’t yet for me. Going outside of your comfort zone to try new activities can bring a lot of joy to your life. And if you don’t enjoy the activity or experience, or don’t click with any of the people, you can say you tried it! So think of an activity you’ve wanted to learn (fowling, painting, tennis, cooking, etc.) and get out there! On the other hand, going outside of your comfort zone may be doing something you already enjoy, but trying it in a different way – for instance, I love to bike so last summer I decided to find more people who also enjoyed it. I showed up alone to some group rides. I had no idea who would be there, their average speed, if I could keep up. But I wanted to meet people who also enjoyed road cycling. And, you know what? I had a blast!

Say yes when it feels right.Β This goes along the line of getting out of your comfort zone. It can be intimidating or scary to try something new, leave something or someone behind, and trust things to work out. With my titanium rod in my leg, I admit I sometimes feel twinges of anxiety when trying new physical activities because I worry about hurting my leg. But I try not to let that stop me too much (unless it’s apparently a silly thing for me to attempt). As anxious as I was at the thought of biking across Iowa last summer, wondering how my leg would do, I was more excited to join Team LIVESTRONG and prove to myself that I was a strong cancer survivor! I prepared hard by biking and strength training a lot before the event, learned as much as I could about my bike, took the precautions I needed with my leg, and then relaxed into each day. I’m SO glad I pushed past the anxiety and self-doubt. I was surrounded by wonderful people, who looked out for me and supported me in many ways.

Volunteer. There are so many organizations that need assistance from people. While money is critical to these nonprofits staying open, people donating time is equally important. Do you have a cause that tugs at your heart? Sign up to help at an animal shelter, fundraising event or food drive. I’ve met many great people, with several becoming close friends, while volunteering for cancer-related organizations. I love that these people are also dedicated to helping other cancer survivors, and they turned out to be pretty awesome, fun, life-loving people.

And then there are always the random moments that you bump into someone, meet them at a group dinner, or strike up a conversation at the coffee shop. My friends and I have volunteered at a beer tasting event that gave proceeds to local charities – one of my friends met her now husband at the event! Remember to be open to meeting people anywhere, greet people with smile and kindness, and you never know where these encounters will take you!

How have you met new people?

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