Friendly Competition

by Alissa

Four places ago, I made a great friend. D shared lab space with Ace, and shortly after our arrival in Vancouver, she chased us down on a sidewalk across town one day, clicking rapidly after us in her heels, calling, “Wait!” She would drop in for dinner on weeknights, or to instigate miniature train rides or other cultural shenanigans. She is invariably good for visits to museums and churches and restaurants in strange cities. She is openhanded with her CanCon, her food experiments, her frequently hilarious stories, little treats in the mail. We have been in and out of each other’s kitchens in BC, Michigan/Ontario, Budapest and Iowa. As we’ve each kept moving we have kept company online, video chatting over family drama, good documentaries, and what to do with the random assortment of things left in the freezer. When I fall into regret over the many relocations we have made for Ace’s career, I remind myself that I never would have met D (among others) along the way.

A few lonesome winters ago, D and I made an agreement–a game to keep us open to new people and experiences when the fatigue of moving threatened to close one or both of us down: make one new friend a month. The rules are gentle. To qualify for a friend point, you have to meet a new person at least once and be in contact for a followup activity. Exceptions and allowances can be made, as long as we’re in consultation with each other. And remember, it’s not a race.

The game has made me more socially persistent, a little more likely to speak up when I cross paths with someone who seems like good friend material. I haven’t chased anyone down the sidewalk (yet), but D has inspired me. I think I’m up to 13 here–more if you allow for associated family members. Not bad, for being nine months into this move. If you happen to be one of my new friends in Newcastle (or Waterloo, for that matter), I collected you for your own sake, not for the point! Unless I first invited you over suspiciously close to the end of the month in which I met you. But if you’re reading this post, chances are good that we are actually friends now.

I’ve poured a lot of energy into getting to know people here. It is unsettling, but for the first time in a decade we’re spending time primarily with non-mathies, people who don’t work with Ace, people we could be hanging out with for years to come. In a few instances, I’ve made quicker friends with people here temporarily. I am highly sympathetic to newcomers, and I invest time differently if I know it is short. We’ve started sharing weekly dinners/language exchange with a lovely German family we found in the sandpit at playgroup. They leave for home next month, and we will miss them. Our girls have enjoyed learning to communicate with each other and love to play Verstecken/hide-and-seek. ReadyornothereIcome!

I never turn down an invitation if I can help it. At least once a week (more like once a day) I neglect housework in favour of an outing with friends. At some point, I will need to revert to my old style of introversion and figure out how to balance housework and e-friendship and writing, too, but this year we’ve laid a good foundation for life in our new neighbourhood.

Thanks, D.