Happy last Sunday of July! 

If it feels like summer is flying by, just imagine slogging through weeks of waking up at 3 a.m. for a 4 a.m. - 12 p.m. shift. (If that's what your life is already like, 1. I am sorry and 2. Check out this past Q&A for some tips on the non-9-5 life. ❤️ ) Hanna, a production assistant at NPR in D.C., faced this for a few months earlier this year. She was already still struggling with the adjustment of moving to a new place without her usual people and trying to get in the groove post-graduation. Her coping mechanisms? A tour of local gyms and a podcast. 

You might think, "Wow, she used working out to get through this? I just use cake! She's killing it!" to which I respond 1. Who ever said there was anything wrong with cake? and 2. "Killing it" is in the eyes of the beholder. As Hanna pointed out during our chat, sometimes we just aren't. But we talk through it and we try to figure it out.

Hanna had reached out to me for her podcast a few months ago, and I enjoyed chatting with her so much I asked her if she could return the favor. I was wondering: Why do people talk about this predicament of making friends in adulthood so little? Why did she decide to do it with her podcast — and did it help? Here's what Hanna has to say (but you all should really listen to her podcast here, too!). 

Go savor that summer. (Or that A.C. Shoutout to anyone else also using a window unit this summer!)

Your friend,
Our chat has been edited + condensed for clarity.

Christine: Walk me through your approach and process of making this podcast. Why do it?

Hanna: So, I moved to D.C. in September 2017 for an internship at NPR and I graduated from Northwestern in Chicago two Marches ago. I'm originally from northern California. I had interned in New York. Moving for an internship wasn’t new, but moving post-graduation definitely was. Everyone of course is like "being an adult is hard," but no one actually takes the time to prepare you for completely starting your life over. Even if you live with the same people you went to school with and your life is relatively normal, you're still not doing what you’ve been doing for pretty much the last 20 years of your life. You are now completely on your own. For me moving to D.C. was like "I’m going to be here for three months but who knows what happens after three months." That gave the situation a lot more weight and gave my anxieties about do i feel comfortable here a lot more weight. With my internships I had always anticipated moving back to Chicago for school in the fall. Here, I would finish the internship and then life is the complete open abyss and I can fill it with whatever the hell I want.

In the midst of moving twice in about two months and also tackling the NPR internship which was definitely the most intense internship I’ve ever done and suddenly being like "I guess I’m just an adult now," it all just made me feel really sad and anxious and suddenly so much pressure. I can’t really put it into words. When you’re in college there’s always stuff to do, going to class, being with roommates, activities, you live in this literal bubble. When you’re suddenly an adult  you're doing the 9-5, coming home, life feels a little emptier. I was like "oh Jesus this is terrifying!" but at the same time and this is why I did the podcast, I was like "everyone does this. Why is it so miserable?" If everyone graduates college and moves to a new city, you feel like it wouldn’t be this difficult. I started it as a form of therapy for myself. I wanted to talk to other people who have experienced the same thing, do something productive related to my field of work, and be creative.

Christine: Well — did it help?

Hanna: It did! There were a lot of other factors happening in my transition. When I moved here, it wasn’t like I was having a terrible time and said "I’m going to make a podcast!" As I was popping around NPR in the fall, I was All Things Considered. In mid-February to May I was working 4 a.m. to 12 p.m. at Morning Edition and that was really brutal. I had all this crazy job insecurity and upheaval throughout the month I was making the podcast. For a while it felt like a chore even though it was something I really wanted to do, but I was struggling so much with my actual life it was like "when the hell am I going to do this." During that process I found my five people, interviewed them all, had it all on tape. The process of the podcast helped overall but there were different parts over the course of the process that I felt differently about the project, when I got to the end and articulated what I want this story to be, I had come on this personal journey. Not only did I make this podcast, but since the project was finally complete, look around and say you fucking busted your ass doing this internship and this work. It’s a double-double accomplishment. The podcast didn’t necessarily help because it’s about moving, but it was helpful because I turned a personal struggle into a personal accomplishment via a medium that I am passionate about. 
Christine: It seemed like you also got to test out different strategies and tips about how to make friends along the way, like how you followed along with Melody Warnick's "This is Where You Belong" book? (It's mentioned in the podcast — see the Q&A with Melody here!) 
Hanna: There was this week, in the deep thick of my graveyard months. I had three weeks left and I was miserable. Getting up at 3 a.m. every morning is soul crushing and don’t let anyone tell you it isn’t. I couldn't go out with my friends, I was always tired, I didn’t see anybody. I didn’t actually get to hang out with all the people I could have possibly been hanging out with if I just worked a gosh darn normal job. So I'm kind of a gym rat and I decided to do Tour de Vita — de Vita is the name of the gym chain I go to — so I upped my membership and got access to all five locations. Every time I went to the gym I went to a different location and afterward I took myself to dinner. I was going to spice up my own evenings because nobody else is going to! I sat at bar at this Mexican restaurant and this older woman is asking the bartender if I should order a second margarita. I said of course you should! I ended up chatting with this 50 year-old mother of two boys. I told her all about my life and how weird it’s been. It was this fascinating moment. It didn’t really mean anything, but she follows me on Instagram now. Walking out of there I felt that I had done a tiny thing that made my night a little bit spicy and made the best of the mediocre Wednesday. 

Christine: So was the goal being comfortable being alone or were you specifically trying to have more social interactions? 

Hanna: I thought you had to get really good at being alone. That’s a sad way of thinking about things. It’s sealing your fate and assuming I'm going to be alone a lot and that’s going to be my main focus. But that’s not really what ended up happening. In the beginning I was trying to get better at being alone, but in retrospect it’s a defense mechanism. When I first moved to D.C. I kind of had this resistance — I didn’t want to like it. Admitting I liked it was a rejection of where I lived before. I loved Chicago, I went to school there, I personally developed the most in my life there. Moving here and making new friends and forging a new path, it’s not a rejection of your old life but it kind of felt like one especially because I didn’t know what I was doing after my internship. I just wanted to go back. I was actually up for an internship in Chicago that I would have started in January and I didn’t end up getting it. It was like, "okay; I’m not moving back." The decision was made without my permission. It was frustrating at first but mainly liberating. This was a sign that I’m going to give D.C. a chance. Then I had this crazy overnight job which demanded I get comfortable being alone.

When I returned to the light of day, I didn’t intend to stop trying to get used to being alone. Being around my roommates — I'm a firm believer that people who live alone are the strongest ever. i could never do it. I think friendships are formed when you’re doing absolutely nothing. People in new cities say to go get happy hour, invite people to dinner, go see people. It's hard and awkward. It’s like going on a first date with friends — you have to sit across from them and make conversation with people you don’t know. When you’re living with people like my roommates and you're bored on a Friday night and sitting around in your pajamas, it's not being vulnerable but being comfortable around these people you didn’t know a month ago. It's a combination of getting a different job and me spending more time with my roommates that I felt a little fuller and my life had a little substance. In the beginning I tried to get used to being alone because I had to and now I feel like its a huge combination of factors. They say time fixes everything, but time only fixes everything if you keep moving in the right direction. You have to meet time halfway.

Christine: Why do you think people don't talk about this quest of making friends in adulthood more?

Hanna: Full disclosure, I’m an overthinker. I journal a lot. I think about the reason for feeling more than most people. And I still don’t know. It's sort of like something that people don’t think about. I want to make a second episode and I'm bouncing around a lot of ideas, like talk to people who have immigrated or served overseas, or moved for more unconventional reasons out of their hands. All of the people I interviewed were all white and went to college and moved somewhere after college for work. It’s a very valid experience and I still stand by the podcast being helpful and real, but not everyone has that experience. Some people would listen to it and say you’re an upper middle class white girl who moved to D.C., all you really had to do was figure out how to make more friends. There are a ton of other people who struggle with things on top of moving.

No matter what, people don’t talk about things that seem normal because they seem normal. Everyone has to move at some point, everyone’s going to experience change at some point. But it leads to people being worried that they’re different from everybody else, like a perception problem. People aren’t avoiding the subject but they’re not thinking about it as a subject they’ll have to think about. Some people talk about it like it’s a weird time and just keep pushing through, it’ll all be fine eventually, but that just wasn't enough for me. I was like why? When? If everybody does this why am I the only one overthinking this subject matter? It’s an openness thing. People don’t typically want to admit they’re not okay and that they need help, especially people who have done well their entire life. Some people might tell you, "You're killing it!" But you're not really. (And that's okay!)

Christine: All fair points. Is there anything else you think I should have asked about?

Hanna: Don’t think about what you want to do forever, think about what you want to do next. As long as you keep your head afloat in that headspace you will avoid feeling trapped. As long as you keep going one step at a time, obviously keep your eye open for opportunities, but if you’re having a really shitty day think about what’s one thing that’s going to make you feel better. And then once you get back into speed, start doing bigger things. Start looking ahead to new apartments or new groups or new communities or a new part of your job. When you’re adjusting, the smaller changes the better.

Also, the more you explore, the more you feel comfortable. Once you start seeing your surroundings, it doesn’t feel new more anymore and it just feels like your place. D.C. will always hold a place in my heart as the place I toughed it out and the place I made the best of it.

Go sow: Challenge for the week. 

In Hanna's own words: "Honestly, going to the movies by yourself is dope. You can get yourself the biggest thing of popcorn and an Icee and it’s amazing. Nobody bothers you. It also feels like an experience: You have an event, you're going somewhere, you don’t have to think about anything or talk to anyone. I think it’s such an intimate thing that you feel like you conquered some social faux pas."

And step two: "Find some sort of community, no matter how small." Hanna played soccer growing up and signed up for a recreational team with the sports district in D.C. "None of them ended up being my best friends, but we won the league!" (At the risk of being corny, that still sounds like a win to me.) 

Grow the Sow.

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