“It feels a bit like dating, don’t you think?” I ask the woman who’s tucked into her coat across from me. She sips her hot green tea. It’s already late November and autumn is coming to an end. The sun-drenched cool days quickly turn into rainy dark days. Winter is already kicking in. She nods a little awkwardly, responding to my call in the “Women who explore” group explaining that I was new to Portland and needed to rebuild my social network from scratch.

I am a born introvert. Making friends has never been easy for me. From a young age, it was expected that you had friends, but how to gain friends, was never told. So usually I just ended up with barbie dolls or my cat. No, being social has never been easy for me.

Once grown up and mother of two young children, the children created my social life; organizing play dates, and waiting with the other moms in the schoolyard. It all went a little easier but still not flawless. I learned about myself that if I had one-on-one conversations with another mother, there was no problem, but once small groups were formed, I was completely lost again and turned into this silent little mouse hiding away in a corner. So I just resigned myself to the fact that maybe I was more of a loner. And that was okay too!

So when I moved, I could never have foreseen that moving to another country could trigger a feeling of loneliness. I never really understood what others meant when they said they were lonely. You can do so many fun things on your own, right? Go your own way, do your own thing. No drama or endless chatter about nothing.

Yet being alone in another country, without your safe place, is different from being alone at home. My days consist of work, hiking, enjoying the surroundings, running errands, cooking, writing, and illustrating. I get a warm feeling of true happiness and gratitude when the autumn sun peaks through the window and shows me the beautiful view of the mountains. 

However this indefinable feeling that I didn’t recognize kept gnawing. Holy shit, is this what they mean by loneliness? Of course, I knew that only I can make a change in the situation. So I decided to join many online groups. But joining an online group and making contact are two very different things.

After another week of being the quiet little mouse in the corner, I decided to take the plunge and break the silence. I posted my question: “I’m new here. Who wants to….” The introvert in me had a small panic attack when I read the overload of responses. But I started this myself so I took a deep breath and I answered them one by one.

The first meeting was so much fun that it was almost a pity time went by so quickly. When meeting the second woman it was exactly the other way around. We both felt a little uncomfortable. She smiles at my comparison and nods. Yes, it feels a bit like dating. Examine whether you like each other, to move on to a second date. Do you have enough similarities to keep the conversation going? Is there potential for a friendly relationship?

Unlike the first meeting, this woman had to leave quickly because she had so much to do. We exchange our phone numbers, and she said she definitely wanted to meet up again. Still, it felt a bit like a bad date. I’m not exactly sure why either. Maybe it just asks for a second date. Sometimes you just need to get to know each other a little better before conversations get going. And sometimes not, and that’s okay too.

Unfortunately, my third date texted she had to cancel our appointment. It was raining and she hated rain. Fortunately, the first lady had already sent a message that we had to drink tea again. When we see each other we immediately start chatting as if we’ve known each other for years. She, the extrovert, and I, the introvert. Because of her own moving experience, she fully understands my frustration that starting over in another country is not easy. It was so nice to be heard and understood. Somebody who says: I totally get it!

After a good pep talk, we both went our separate ways again. I’m happy. Relieved. Proud of myself for trying to find my way in this new life. I consider myself lucky that I have already found at least one good friend with whom I can occasionally vent, express my frustration and eventually laugh about the sense and nonsense about living (or surviving) in America.

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