On the prowl, but in a friendly way

One of the oft-discussed topics at the Minglers is how to meet people once you exit through the gates of dormitories, activity clubs, cafeterias, and homecoming dances and into the sphere of rent checks, 401(k)s, and TPS reports, and I’ve noticed the subject come up in various scenarios as of late.  A recently-made acquaintance has a blog-eventually-going-to-be-a-book dedicated to her search for a friend.

Work is where you spend most of your hours so it’s great to have 9 to 5 buddies with whom to grab lunch Chipotle or off of whom to bounce an idea.  But having friends outside of the proverbial cubicle is a good thing.

Here are ways I’ve met some Grade A folk since moving back to Chicago after graduation –

Improv: There’s nothing like having your toes sucked by someone within ten minutes of meeting him, on stage, in front of thirty eyeballs, to form a kinship.  I took improv because it scared the bejeezus out of me, and it was horrible and wonderful, and a goldmine for making new connections.  Not only do you befriend the people in your class, it’s highly encouraged that you attend shows on a regular basis [for free if you’re a current student!], so you end up getting to know other audience members.  Bonus, we live in the best city in the world for the art form, with a range of options – io, Second City, Annoyance, Playground to name a few.

Guitar Class: Old Town School of Folk Music [OTS] is utopia; I think they pump wafts of cotton candy, 2 for 1 sales, jeans that fit just right, and snuggies through their vents.  Everyone, from the staff to the students to the performers, is warm and welcoming.  Much more than guitar is offered, from yoga to hip-hop dance to Irish drumming.  I would recommend group classes rather than private lessons, if your goal is to meet others.  And I would recommend the Lincoln Square location over the Lincoln Park one, as it’s more adult-centric.  I spent many a Tuesday night at the Grafton with my classmates post-strumming.  OTS also has a very generous and easy to apply for scholarship program.

Volunteering: Nothing like building volcanoes with kids from not-so-nice neighborhoods or serving food in a homeless shelter to foster community.  Chicago Cares and One Brick provide schedule flexibility, diversity of area of focus such as environment, AIDs, and literacy, and opportunities conducive to meeting other volunteers [sometimes, such as in one-on-one tutoring, interaction with other volunteers is limited].

Gym: When I’m squeezing my thighs together and grunting on a resistance machine, or feverishly sweating on the stair climber, that’s not the time to chat about whether the British or the American version of The Office is better.  But before/after spinning or yoga class, absolutely.

Church/Temple, etc.: I don’t do this so can’t speak from experience, but stemming from the hoards of twenty- and thirty-somethings streaming out of the buildings on Sundays, and from friends’ Facebook pictures of retreats and outings, it seems that if you go to houses of worship hoping to find a friend in God, you’ll probably find some flesh ‘n blood friends along the way as well.

Alumni Group: Check to see if there’s a local chapter of the college you attended.  My group has athletic, social, volunteer, spirituality, and networking events.  Being so far from campus [Boston] creates a nostalgia-bond.  Most of my BC Chicago friends aren’t people I knew while in Chestnut Hill, but ones I met post-college.

Interactive Activities: events that encourage discussion and interaction in a relaxed manner

I also highly recommend doing things solo.  Go to a concert, gallery opening, poetry slam, cooking class by yourself and emit your best Officer Friendly vibe [arms uncrossed, brows unfurrowed, mouth unsneered].  Don’t go with the expectation of meeting someone, go because you want to see the band or learn a knife sharpening technique.  That way, you won’t be disappointed, and anyone with whom you make a connection will be the cherry on top of an already yummy sundae.

Many more ways to expand your social circle, but those are the ones that immediately come to mind.  I posed the inquiry to one of my go-to websites to keep my life filled with adventure and got some interesting responses, some of which I had never considered.

What have you found as successful avenues to adult friendships?