One year ago, my best friend and I were wrapping up a perfect European summer holiday.
We had made our way across Sicily loudly singing the same five songs on repeat, collecting Italian parking fines, eating gelato and discussing everything from politics to pop culture.
It was during these last days as we were floating in the azure waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea with Beyoncé playing in the background and our daily lunch of supermarket mozzarella balls and fresh tomatoes cooling in the ice box, that I turned to her and asked, ‘How did we end up here?’
I was not talking about how we had physically ended up on the picturesque island of Panarea in the Aeloian Islands (although for anyone wondering, it had kind of been a pain involving several forms of transport).
How had we gone from my best friend being convinced I didn’t like her when we met at our first post-university jobs (resting face problems on my end) to sun tanning in the Aeloian Islands?
Was it when we made that first cautious decision to do something outside of work? When did we elevate each other to the level of best friend? (which as the wise Mindy Kaling notes is a level not a position).
As much as we tried, we couldn’t remember any of these moments. That’s because there’s a certain unknowable magic about what makes a really great friendship. It’s the way your best friend knows with a simple look exactly what you are thinking or how you can turn up to their house with minimal notice.
As someone who has lived in three cities in the past three years and who has friends who live all around the world, I know how tricky it can be to make new friends as an adult, outside university and high school. Here are my rules on the art of friendship:
Don’t overthink or rush things
Your next friend could be the person who currently thinks you hate them due to your resting face problem. The friends you were meant to have, will find you. Also, when you are trying to make a friend, it can be easy to want to go straight to the Oprah and Gayle stage. I mean who doesn’t want a Gayle? Remember it takes time to make a really good friend. It’s also important to realise that not everyone is meant to be a best friend and it's normal to have different levels of intimacy with a range of friends.
Try an activity
The person who you randomly decide to sit next to at a volunteering event or in a Spanish, cycling or dance class could end up being a lifelong bestie. I remember volunteering at the tennis as a teen only to be greeted by a room filled with much older people. I quickly made a beeline for the only other person my age I could see. As we bonded over our shared love for Gilmore Girls, I couldn’t have foreseen that I would be invited to her wedding twelve years later. The key is to follow your interests and find people who share them. Even if you don’t find a new friend, you might end up fluent in another language or pick up a new skill.
The art of the introduction
If you move to a new city, make sure to seek out friendship referrals. This involves asking any existing friends if they know anyone where you are moving. People you already like have a high likelihood of knowing other people you will probably also like and get along with. I tried this on my most recent move and had a near instant rapport with a new friend. This was cemented when we went on a road trip only weeks into our friendship and uncovered a shared love for early 2000's R & B.
Don’t be afraid to try something strange
When I lived overseas I found myself on a friendship date courtesy of the BumbleBFF app. It works just like a dating app but helps you find friends instead of romantic partners. I swiped right and hit it off with a woke sociology professor. You might have wade through a few duds and find yourself on a friendship date with someone who is an avid Chris Brown fan, but persistence will pay off. As an added benefit, you will have an excellent electronic trail of your friendship documenting the exact moment you decide to take it to the next level and get avocado toast together for the first time.
Don’t feel weird for wanting to make a friend
In the social media age of #squadgoals and #friendshipgoals, where everyone seems to be having a better time than you are, it can seem embarrassing to admit to wanting to make a friend. But friendship and the quest for human connection is age old. Everyone from Roman philosopher Seneca (‘Ponder for a long time whether you shall admit a given person to your friendship but when you have decided to admit him, welcome him with all your heart and soul.’) to Francis Bacon (‘Without friends the world is but a wilderness’) had a lot to say on the matter. We are social creatures. So don’t be shy and remember - wanting to make new friends and enriching connections is what makes us human.
Fatima Malik is a writer and lawyer from Sydney.
Watch Annie and Fran's real friendship on Shrill on SBS On Demand.