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How to make friends in high school (by someone who thought she never would)

The first day of high school, I came home and cried. Not a little bit of blink and you’ll miss it eye leakage, but the sobbing, can’t breathe, wonder if you’ll ever be able to stop sort of crying.

I loved my primary school. I had a close group of friends who were my entire world. But we were split up and spread out like confetti across a few different schools in the area.

The school I joined had a primary school, so half of the year already knew each other. They eyed us newbies with the sort of scepticism I’m 100% sure I would have done if I was in their position. Would we ‘steal’ their friends? Would we be smarter than them? Would we mess up the social hierarchy that they’d carefully established since they were five?

The answer to all of those questions was unanimous: yes, yes, we would.

I didn’t make a single friend that first day, aside from with the year 10 girl who was assigned to mentor me and fourteen other girls, and as I explained to my concerned mother, she didn’t really count because the school had told her to be nice to us.

The thing is, I didn’t really know how to make friends. Most of my existing friendships had been formed in the sandpit, when my definition of a friend was a person who would share their sandwich with you when you left your lunch at home.

(Side note, this is still probably the most accurate definition of friendship I’ve ever had).

I did find friends eventually; the will-answer-their-phone-in-middle-of-the-night, will-cancel-a-date-with-their-crush-of-five-years-if-you-need-them, will-tell-you-if-your-dress-is-too-tight-(but in a gentle way) sort of friends.

Here are my tips for making the forever-til-the-day-I-die sort of friends:

1. Be yourself. I know, I know. This sounds like the sort of trope your granny trots out whenever you make the mistake of confiding in her, but in all honesty, she has a point. If you pretend to be someone else to make people like you, you’ll end up being friends with people you don’t really have all that much in common with. It might take a bit longer to find your people, but trust me, they’re out there somewhere.

2. Making new friends is hard. There is literally no exception to this rule. Everyone worries if they’re talking too much. Or if they’re being too clingy. Or that if your friendship group was to hold a spin-off of The X Factor, where someone had to be voted out, you would be the one sent home. You’re not alone. Everyone around you feels like this too. Hang in there.

3. Be nice. In my experience, girls often do this thing where they bond by bitching about other girls. The enemy of your enemy is your friend etc. It’s all very Animal Planet and completely unnecessary. I know it’s tempting, but try and resist the urge to take this shortcut, these friendships can sometimes turn toxic and become more trouble than they’re worth.

4. Find the girl who has the biggest smile. She will be your salvation through high school. She’ll teach you the rules to sports, which will come in handy when you try and flirt with boys a few years later. She’ll stay on the phone and patiently explain the answers to your maths homework. And you’ll get the chance to be a good friend back; you’ll be the person she texts when she gets her first period and you’ll duck out of class take your jumper to the bathroom stall so she can tie it around her waist.

5. If you get really stuck for an opener, come up with a quirky fact about yourself. I learnt this tactic off a friend of mine who stuck her hand out when she met me and said, “Hi, I’m Alana, and I’m ambi-dexterous,” which is pretty much the best opening line in the history of the world.

I promise you’ll find your tribe, even if it doesn’t seem like it right now. The people who laugh at all your jokes and will help you when you’re struggling with a particularly nasty geography assignment. They’re out there, and they’re looking for you too.

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Image: Emma Block

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