After a bitter breakup with my best friend from elementary school, I find myself 28 and lonely. Lots of my good friends have moved away, and my acquaintances all already have best friends. I’m relatively outgoing, artsy, and a foodie. How can I make a new bestie? I’m actually considering replying to Craigslist ads.—Diane
I’ll be your best friend if you don’t say “foodie” anymore. Deal? Deal.
Or, if you’re committed to being and calling yourself such a thing, use it. Start a dinner club, where you go somewhere weird or scary or far away to eat with 10 people: your favourite acquaintances, possibly cool near-strangers who you now have an excuse to Facebook message, the less married or more fun of your colleagues. (I know you’re looking for a best friend, not a boyfriend, but married people are infinitely harder to befriend than self-governing single people.) Make all the first moves—you decide who will be there; you choose where to go. Establishing new, close friendships gets harder after graduation, especially after a few crushing years of work, moving, high-stakes relationships, and increasingly limited Friday-night energy. Even friendships with years of embarrassing, hilarious history and stacks of disposable-camera proof tend to fall off steep cliffs in the second half of your twenties.
But that also means that everyone needs a soft, feathery landing—probably more than when the big tragedy was, like, exams. Best friendship tends to stop being about all-day, all-night hangs (which I miss so much) and more, say, burst-oriented: a long weekend together; epic conversations about dating with the seriousness of a UN summit; daily update emails sent from the bottom of a work valley. I’m sorry, but they stop being about that singular, Platonic-ideal best friend, and I’m sorrier, but you can’t ever replace or replicate your BFF from childhood until you eventually circle back around to each other. “Best” is not a badge that affixes well to a friend in the adult world, but you can still have a handful of really incredible people who offer you the array of temperaments, interests, schedules, and support systems that you will come to need, and it’s better that way.
Try the dinner club, join as many teams and groups as you can tolerate, be your realest self all the time, and lightly pursue anyone who you connect with. For now, avoid Craigslist ads, because anonymous hookups without the motivational undertow of sex are just creepy.
Can you be addicted to your own anxiety? I am unwilling to let it go as a coping mechanism. I feel that if I remain anxious, I will be on alert for when bad things happen.—John
My favourite therapist to talk to about this stuff—other than my actual therapist, who you can’t have— is Andrew Guthrie, who defines addiction as responding to new things in old, patterned ways, or a transference of the past to the present. “[Recognizing] this is a lot of the work in therapy, actually,” he says. While being aware of a habit or response can seem like most of the problem, I also think there is an additional, addictive salve to knowing and rolling around in it.
Guthrie says that your pattern of clinging to anxiety is probably “an unconscious response to triggers, stressors, or trauma from earlier in life. Over time, this can become so built-in that anxiety can emerge when there is no appropriate stimulus.” He recommends psychotherapy, as well as some form of Eastern philosophy or practice, like yoga or meditation. I know this might feel like the opposite of doing something, but I experience masochistic, self-destructive anxiety every day and the only thing that helps is the boringest kind of clean living, a calm 20 minutes, and exercise. It’s going to turn out that all of our moms were right, isn’t it?
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