One of the first feelings I was overwhelmingly hit with upon returning to Saint Louis after my whirlwind post-graduation trip to Maine and the subsequent drive back, (well, OK, one of the first feelings post-hibernation week, during which I think I fell asleep at seven almost every night and wasn’t feeling much of anything other than exhaustion), was missing all of my friends who have moved away.
Over my four years at Wash U, I was fortunate enough to make a wonderful group of close friends. I had been away from them before, for summers and semesters abroad, but there was always the sense that we would all be reunited. When I arrived back in Saint Louis and felt their absence this time, I also felt its permanence. I know I will see my friends again, most likely in wonderfully strange and unexpected situations and places. However, I also know that the probability of all of us being in the same place at the same time again is slim to none, and that even if such a miraculous event were to occur the dynamic will never be the same. So, I had a mild breakdown.
Fortunately I have a wonderful boyfriend who has had (rather too much) practice getting me to stop crying and a mother with much sage advice to offer, so I was able to get my act back together and approach the whole “making friends” thing with a clearer head.
Naturally, being me, the first thing I did was make a list—aided by internet searches—of places and activities in the Saint Louis area that might allow me to meet people (preferably people reasonably close to my age with an interest or two in common), like $1 beer nights at the Contemporary Art Museum, which fortunately not only exist, but occur monthly.
I also found the Saint Louis Stammtisch, a weekly meet-up for German speakers in the city. It turns out that the next meeting was going to be happening at the rooftop bar over the Moonrise Hotel only a few blocks from where I live. So, thinking fondly back on the adorably awkward weekly Stammtisch in Göttingen, I decided to take the plunge. Or rather, the elevator.
It took me forty minutes (and a reminder to myself that if I didn’t go I would have nothing to write about other than my shameful cowardice) to work up the courage to actually get on my bike and ride over to the Moonrise. When I arrived, I realized I had not the faintest idea of what the group would look like. So, naturally, I lurked uncomfortably close to every table I passed until I overheard a few words of German. Then I went up to the bar the get a drink.
Armed and ready, I stepped back over to the table.
“S-s-seid ihr hier für…das deutsche Meetup?”
All five people at the table looked over at me, and for a brief moment I was convinced that I had made 1) a terrible mistake and 2) a fool of myself. Fortunately the feeling didn’t last long. The five or six people at the table welcomed me and made space while I pulled over a chair.
The conversation was slow at times (speaking a foreign language with people several decades your senior tends to have that effect), but after a bit I settled in and started to have fun. I didn’t think it would happen, but three beers and one vodka soda later I was one of the last to leave.
Moral of the story? This friend project has so much potential.
PS: Yes, I know. The title is (almost) straight from an Of Montreal song. But given that I hear this internally whenever I think about having to make new friends, I don’t feel too bad about borrowing it. Think of it as a shout out. And go listen to The Past is a Grotesque Animal.” Now.
PPS: I still profoundly miss everyone who is not here. I hope you know how irreplaceable you all are.