How many of you remember how easy it was to make friends as a child, teenager, or college student? It seems that once we leave the social networks of high school and college, opportunities for friendships with other women diminish.
So, what do you do? I was faced with this question. I had been living in Indy for nearly a decade and had a few friends from jobs I’d held. I appreciated those relationships; having a job in common is a good way of connecting. However, I knew there had to be another way.
I considered my interests. Since reading topped the list, I joined a book club on Meetup (a website that seemed more popular then than it is now). From the very first meeting I attended at a local Starbucks in Indy, I knew I had found some of “my people.”
Kia Gillette was at that first meeting, and we—and others from the club—are still friends today.
“It was a time every month that we deliberately set aside to meet and discuss a book,” Kia said. “But of course, we ended up talking about other things too, and over time friendships developed,” she added.
Participating in a group with a set goal eliminates that awkward interaction that often occurs when first meeting people. “We had a topic, so we didn’t have to go and make small talk,” Kia explained.
While our main focus was discussing books, we ended up expanding to other activities. We met at various restaurants for meals and/or dessert, including several Devour Indy events. Kia recalls fondly that we went on road trips to Chicago and, a bit closer to home, to Brown County State Park. “I’m not the most social person, but I enjoyed and felt comfortable hanging out with the group,” she said.
Another social outlet for me came from Zumba® classes. Not only did I meet people in classes I attended, but once I became an instructor, my potential for real connections with women increased exponentially.
Zumba instructor (and my group fitness mentor), Alicia Strong, agrees. “You end up being friends with people where you have shared interests,” she said, adding, “It’s easier to meet people and be friendly with them at Zumba events because it’s all about happiness, and everyone is there to have a good time.”
Alicia and I lamented how the pandemic put a damper on some of our friend group activities. “Before Covid, we would go salsa dancing at Latin Expressions Dance Company, and out for random dinners,” she said.
Cindy Kicinski, who has taught Zumba for eight years, values the friendships she has made. “There’s not a lot of places that you can go to as an adult and make those lasting friendships,” Cindy said.
“I think with Zumba, because it’s a very consistent thing where you go to the gym or to a class week after week, you really build those friendships as well as having something in common like enjoying the music, enjoying the dancing, and working out,” Cindy added.
Cindy also indicated how Zumba brings people together who likely would not have become friends ordinarily. “I met people who I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to be exposed to,” she said.
I have found that over time, the diversity of my friendships has increased. I am friends with women from three continents and five countries. I doubt that would have happened if I had never taken a Zumba class. It has been so enriching to learn not only about our cultural differences but also how much we have in common.
Diane Moore is a freelance writer who is grateful that her interests allowed her to build relationships with women who “get” her.
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