2016 Year in Review

Rather than list all the major activities that happened in 2016 (as I did in 2015 and 2014), I thought I’d concentrate on three things that will stand out most when I look back at this year.

1) The departure of a friend:

I didn’t write about this when it happened, but in hindsight, I’m glad I waited because I have more perspective on it now. I want to talk about a friend moving away, and the difficulty of making new friends as an adult.

In July, after living in Buffalo for three years, my friend Jaclyn and her family decided to return to Washington, DC. Jaclyn and I met via the internet, as so many do, but our similarities bound us together and made our friendship unique.

I moved to Buffalo in July 2013 from Washington, DC. Jaclyn moved to Buffalo – also from DC – a month later, in August 2013. We didn’t know each other before we moved here; Jaclyn did a Google search looking for Buffalo bloggers and came across my site. She reached out, and we had our first meeting in early September 2013 at SPoT Coffee in the Elmwood Village.

Sometimes a few months would pass where we didn’t see each other, but we met up pretty consistently (sometimes solo, sometimes in group situations with our husbands and her two kids). She was very good about including me and Paul in her family’s fair-weather hiking plans; there are several locations we visited with them that we might not have made it to otherwise. In the last few months before she left, Jaclyn and I would meet for weekly lunchtime walks when we had a break from work.

I spent a full day at her house on a Saturday last January, providing childcare and packing boxes, as she prepared to sell her house and move into temporary housing before they solidified their move back to DC. I met her parents on multiple occasions. I attended two of her daughter’s birthday parties. I cuddled her youngest son when he was just a few weeks old.

Zan and baby

The sticking point is this: Even as we enjoyed each other’s company, Jaclyn and I lamented on multiple occasions that we found it difficult to make other friends in Buffalo.

I’ve met some folks here who are very nice; I’ve been to their homes; met up at restaurants. These relationships just haven’t progressed to actual closeness. Most people are fine interacting a few times a year or less, or greeting you with a hug if you happen to run into each other at an event. Others drop away entirely. You follow each other’s social media feeds but never receive any in-person invites.

I’ve noticed that most people I’ve come into contact with are from here. They’ve lived in Buffalo their entire lives, or most of their lives, and they have enough friends. When they throw a get-together, they don’t think to include you because they already have enough attendees. Valuable weekend hours are set aside for people they’re already close to.

Whenever I tell people how difficult it’s been to make friends in Buffalo, I make sure to acknowledge my part: I’m an introvert. It’s always been hard for me to initiate conversations and invitations. However, if someone extends an invitation, I’m all about it. I realize this aspect of my personality has not helped in the making-friends endeavor, and if I was better about reaching out to people, I’d probably have better luck.

So yes, the closest friend I made after moving to Buffalo was a fellow DC transplant. And then she left.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m glad Jaclyn left. She was unhappy here, she had good reasons for leaving, and she doesn’t regret her decision. I applaud her bravery – she made multiple drastic changes in her life in the span of three short years. Many people would never do what she did; they contemplate taking action but remain where they are because it’s easier.

I haven’t quite decided what to do about this. It feels like my only option, living where I do, is to force myself past my discomfort and extend more invitations to people I already know and like, in the hope that one day I’ll have seen them enough to achieve that ever-elusive closeness.

In the meantime, I travel back to DC twice a year, and while I’m there I squeeze in as many visits with friends as I possibly can. It’s not uncommon for me to have breakfast, lunch, and dinner plans in a single day. Each of these visits feels like a sigh of relief. I can finally take part in real conversation and unburden myself of all the information I’ve been waiting to share, rather than engaging in the typical superficial “How are you? How was your weekend?” monotony where you know the person doesn’t really care to hear the answer.

2) Biking:

Bikes ended up being a surprisingly big theme of 2016, which I mentioned halfway through the year. From April through October, Paul and I rode almost every Saturday and Sunday, usually for 1.5-2 hours each time.

Our typical ride was 15-20 miles. We sometimes did less and sometimes did more, but the one time we took a wrong turn and added unexpected mileage to an already-long trip (giving us a grand total of 24.5 miles), I was quite grumpy. I’m happy with my 20-miles-or-less rides and don’t see myself becoming a long-distance cyclist anytime soon.

We even rented bikes when we visited Toronto for a long weekend in early October, something we’d never done before. Rental bikes are heavier and more difficult to maneuver, but it was still a fun way to see the city – we covered more ground than walking, and we saw more sights than if we’d taken public transportation.

Paul was the 2016 cycling-distance winner at 32 miles. On a day off from work, he did a round-trip ride from our house to Niagara Falls (16 miles each way). I was both jealous (what a cool ride!) and relieved that he did it without me (because there’s no way I could have lasted 32 miles unless we took a long break in-between).

Paul at Niagara Falls

Another positive side effect of biking is we’ve inspired my father-in-law to take it up. He purchased a bike around the time he retired in September, and he’s really taken to it. He actually goes out more than we do now that it’s gotten cold.

3) A new person in the house:

In July, my youngest brother (13 years younger than me) moved into our home. He’s been living with us now for almost six months.

He’d spent his entire life in central Virginia (where I’m from) until last summer and needed a change of scenery. We’re giving him a rent-free place to stay while he works, pays back some debt, and decides what his next step is going to be.

As with any new situation, there have been pros and cons. On the positive side, my brother is very intelligent and holds different views than we do on a lot of things, so when he decides to hold forth on a certain topic, it ends up being interesting even if we don’t agree with him. His presence has shaken up our normal routines. It’s nice to see him holding down a job and making plans for the future. Occasionally I get a hug.

On the negative side, he’s a 23-year-old male. He cleans things if we specifically ask him, but nothing more, so we often end up with extra work. His room is a disaster. I buy and prepare more food. We’ve had to get used to another person in the house, not knowing when he’s coming in or out. Because of our age difference, I sometimes feel more like a mom than a sister. And he recently broke one particular house rule that made me so angry I almost kicked him out.

This situation won’t last forever. I hope when he leaves, he looks back on his Buffalo experience as a positive one.

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  • Reply Jaclyn January 17, 2017 at 10:09 pm

    What a lovely post by my lovely friend. I am sorry to have left such fabulous friends as you and Paul in Buffalo, and even though I don’t regret moving back to DC, it’s definitely hard to not see you guys on a more regular basis. Steve and I talked all the time about the difficulty of making friends in Buffalo and came to the same conclusions you did – and remarked on the same irony that our closest friends in the city were fellow DC transplants – you and Paul, of course, and our other friends Chris and Kathleen (N’s parents). I don’t think it’s a Buffalo-specific phenomenon as much as it is something that happens in all small cities. Folks grow up there, they stay, and they have no need to make new friends. And when your natural tendency is not to reach out (which I understand, as a fellow introvert) it’s very difficult to make inroads in any social circles. That led to a lot of frustration for me when I would see Facebook pictures of my Stroller Strides friends all socializing together and feel horribly left out. I know that it wasn’t intentional and they were always delighted to see me at workouts and around town – but it never occurred to them to invite E and me to one of the playdates unless it was a formal thing and we had signed up through the moms’ club. And as much as I understood there was no intention to hurt, it did hurt – very much. As you know, of course. Anyway, meeting you was the bright spot in my Buffalo experience, and you and Kathleen are the reason I don’t regret my three years there (oh, and the whole matter of Steve straightening out his career path was sort of important too). I miss our walks and hikes very much! But I’m looking forward to seeing you again plenty – both here in DC and the next time I visit Buffalo. (News! I’ll be crashing with you or Kathleen – you know there’s no way I’ll stay with my in-laws!) And of course following your life with great interest and love. XOXO

  • Reply Cathy Sheets January 18, 2017 at 5:44 pm

    I swear you were born to be MY CHILD & NOT my Sister’s!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    I enjoyed reading this, as I always have enjoyed reading your Blog.
    You & I have spoke on MANY Occasions the difficulty of making friends….
    You put into words my exact feelings on the idle chit chat that takes place …. OMG!!!
    Even being in Idaho for 10 years now & having various BBQ’s at our place & meeting for dinner occasionally in town, I STILL don’t feel I can on a whim, reach out to ANY of those ladies & call & talk or meet up one on one for lunch & perhaps hit a few shops in town…. And I’m not an Introvert!!!! I’ve told you a Million X’s that UNLESS you & I are frequent church goers, or hang out in bars regularly, or have children of our own & meet friends that way, we’ll have very few new friends in life…… if any!!! Most of those we love “like sisters” are friends we met in our younger teens to mid 20’s…… Oh I Totally Feel You On This!!!! I’m the loneliest person I know; with spending only about 3 weeks TOTAL out of a year I consider having real bonding human contact (besides Jeff) !!! 🙁

    For the life of me, I CANNOT imagine you on a bike any longer than what it might take to stroll around a city park on….. 15-20 miles blows my mind!!!! Good for You……

    You’ve been a REAL BLESSING to not only Me, but for Isaac as well…. (I know I don’t have to tell you that….)
    You offered up your house in probably his biggest time of need….. I love him so much!!! He’s so cerebral over my simple lit’l brain, that conversing with him feels like talking with Albert Einstein….. (Half or more of what he says just flies right over my head!!! “”WHoooooSH””…… :o) I hope he finds HIS place in life……

    Please write more like you use to….. even if it’s just a thought or 2 without explanation!!!! Leave them guessing I always say…. LoL 😉 Love You XoXoXo

    • Reply Zandria January 18, 2017 at 8:17 pm

      Sweetest Aunt Cathy: responded to you via email. 🙂

  • Reply Theresa Gough January 18, 2017 at 7:10 pm

    This makes me smile. As a little girl you had that sweet shy smile and I loved it. When you began writing I felt such an honor when you allowed me to read your stories. I knew you had a talent then and to see that you have fulfilled it makes me so proud of you. To see the woman that you have become is amazing, but I still see that shy sweet little girl who always hid behind everyone. Keep writing Zandria…don’t ever stop. I would love for you to put all these blogs into a book. You never know who you may help with it.

    • Reply Zandria January 18, 2017 at 8:31 pm

      Oh, Theresa! Whenever I hear you reminisce about knowing me as a kid, I get all warm and fuzzy inside. I’ll never forget that you were my writing champion back then, and when I was little you asked me to dedicate my first book to you. Aside from my mom and sisters listening to the stories I wrote, you were the first adult to show that kind of support for my writing endeavors.

      Maybe one day I’ll get around to writing that book. First and foremost, I have to stop procrastinating, because I am very good at that. 🙂

  • Reply Chris January 18, 2017 at 7:19 pm

    Thank you for posting this. Since I entered the mysterious and wondrous world of blogging because of you, I am always excited when you post. A very dear friend had a heart attack two weeks ago and we went up to Virginia to make sure she was ok. The shock was, so many people the minute we said we were coming wanted to see us. We were only there for a weekend, so seeing everyone was not possible. We are planning a trip back in april to se everyone, including your mom and hopefully Angela and her little rugrats.
    You never know how much you miss someone until they are gone. i certainly didn’t realize so many friends on facebook actually felt that connection was not enough. I have not made too many friends here in Charleston,
    much for the same reason as yours. Reaching out is not my best suit.
    True friendship is not measured in miles or contact, And brothers, well, you know. ask Denise about that one.

    • Reply Zandria January 18, 2017 at 8:21 pm

      I need to do better about posting. I tend to procrastinate and read a book instead, but I’m always so happy when I do write something, and I love getting the comments and feedback.

      I completely agree that sometimes we assume people have forgotten about us, and it’s so incredibly amazing when it’s confirmed that we are missed. I’ve felt that way when I go back to DC for visits, assuming my friends would have moved on, but they always delight me by being happy to have me back. It’s a wonderful feeling.

  • Reply Annette Kinsey January 18, 2017 at 7:23 pm

    I’m sad that you haven’t made more close friends. I’ve lived in Lynchburg since 2004 but can claim only a few close friends. To be able to call and drop in isn’t something I feel I could do with very many. Make new friends but keep the old. I’m reminded of the Friendship poem:
    “Oh the comfort- the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person. Having neither to weigh thoughts, Nor measure words… but pouring them All right out- just as they are-chaff and grain together-Certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them-keep what is worth keeping-And with the breath of kindness Blow the rest away.” It’s been hard losing my best friends–my first and greatest fan: my mother. And second my friend Billy.

    • Reply Zandria January 18, 2017 at 8:25 pm

      I updated your comment to read that you’ve been in Lynchburg since 2004, since I’m pretty sure that’s what you meant — I know you’ve been there much longer than 2014! I’m sad to hear that YOU haven’t made many close friends there either. I was always under the impression that you have a wide group of artsy pals there. At least it shows me that it’s not only quiet introverts like myself who have this issue.

      I love my old and dear friends, but sometimes it’s nice to have people around who are geographically close, rather than those you have to wait and see once a year (or every few years).

      Love that poem. Thank you so much for sharing. 🙂

  • Reply Nicole January 19, 2017 at 9:04 am

    You write beautifully. I’m hoping we can hang out more and have meaningful discussions in 2018!

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