I have a confession to make.
I moved to Salt Lake nine months ago, and I have yet to make a single friend.
I had really good intentions of making friends after moving here. I’ve been going to church (almost) every week and dutifully going to the coffee hour afterwards. But while I’ve made some acquaintances, none of them have turned into friendships, probably primarily because of my horrible social skills. I’ve made at least one really poor effort at “getting out.” A few months ago, I saw a dinner for people in their 20s and 30s advertised in the church bulletin. A dinner? For people my age? I’m totally going to go and nail this whole “making friends” business! So I planned for it. I psyched myself up (out?) all week for it, and every day I dreaded the approaching dinner a little bit more. It was in a restaurant… what if things were awful and I couldn’t just sneak out because I had to pay the check? I would have to awkwardly ask for the check while people around me were still effortlessly having intelligent, humorous, meaningful conversations. I would have to bring attention to my own social failure to even leave the situation. For some reason, that worry haunted me and just kept growing and growing until it was the primary thought I associated with this event. I was sure it was going to be terrible. I was going to want to leave the moment I got there and would be pitied and judged accordingly when I asked for a check before I had even started on my food.
Still, the day of the dinner, I intended to go tough it out. I was going to be social if it killed me. And at that point, I was pretty sure it would. I was driving home from work that afternoon and gave my sister a call to help motivate me. But as I was spilling out my worries to her, I had a fleeting thought: I wish I had some ipecac. Then I could just take that and get out of this thing altogether. Guys, have you ever taken ipecac to get out of a social obligation? I have. Ipecac is horrible. It had me on the ground feeling just as bad as the worst stomach flu has ever made me feel. And here I was, voluntarily attending something that I would literally drink ipecac to avoid. So I just didn’t go. I decided it was really stupid to force myself to do something that was causing me that much misery, and I went home and played video games instead. Great decision. But also one that put a stop to my quest to make friends.
I recently signed up with the Salt Lake Triathlon Club. It’s relatively inexpensive, and the members seemed really friendly when I ended up helping them man their aid station at the Utah Half Toughman. I thought it would be a great way to both meet new people and become a better triathlete. Early this week, I was looking through the group workouts and noticed that there was a group ride up Emigration Canyon scheduled for Thursday. I’ve climbed Emigration a lot this summer. It’s close to Rob’s place, and it’s a good, quick workout. So I decided to try it. There is minimal social pressure when you are on a group ride which makes it pretty much ideal for me. I was a little nervous about it, but in a completely manageable way, not in an I’d-rather-be-sick-on-the-bathroom-floor-all-night kind of way.
After work, I ate a snack, cuddled Rob’s cat, and then left for the group ride.
When I got to the parking lot we were meeting in, I didn’t see anything that looked like a group getting ready to ride. After waiting for a few minutes, I was thoroughly convinced that no one was going to show up, and my very good attempt at being social would be for naught. But then a car pulled up and a woman grabbed a TT bike from the back of her SUV. They were the group!
There was a pretty wide range of experience for such a small group, so we spread out pretty quickly after starting up the canyon. I did some intervals on the way up, and I noticed that my legs felt really good. I’m fairly certain that I could have hit my PR up the canyon if I hadn’t walked my bike around the parking lot and started off slower than usual because it was a group ride. I’m not sure what made my legs feel that good—probably a combination of a light tailwind, getting started later in the day, and the miracle of rested legs. I was riding in a harder gear than typical and it was easier than usual. The ride was gorgeous. Most of the climb was lined with black-eyed Susan flowers in full bloom, and the trees were casting shadows long shadows over the road. The sun was setting but was still hitting the tops of the trees in the canyon, giving them a golden glow. After living here for nine months, sometimes I take the beauty of the mountains for granted. It’s nice to be reminded how fortunate I am to be so close to such great landscapes.
Even with all the delays, I made it to the top just two minutes off my all-time PR (and I had a pretty decent tailwind for that PR), so I felt great about the ride. When I hit the top, I circled back down and picked up the group and did the final climb again with them. It was one of the woman’s first times climbing the canyon, and it was great to get to the top with her because she was (understandably) pretty excited about it.
The woman leading the ride and I went fast on the way down—I don’t typically push myself that hard on the way down Emigration Canyon, but I did today to try to keep up with her on her TT bike. The more comfortable I get on the bike, the more I love going fast downhill. It actually got a bit chilly during a few sections of the descent, and it’s the first time I’ve been chilly on a bike (during the day, at least) for a long time. When we got back to the cars, she and I chatted a bit. Yes, you read that right—I actually chatted, as in held a small-talk conversation for a respectable amount of time. When I got back to Rob’s place, I had clocked in just over 25 miles and met three new people—not bad for a Thursday evening! Maybe this whole “quest to make friends… eventually” will turn out okay after all.