Bertsche moved to Chicago to finally "share a zip code" with her boyfriend/fiance. By doing so, she left her home, her life long friends and her comfort zone. Two years after their move she found herself longing for local friendships that resembled those she had back in New York City. So Bertsche decided to put in the work. She spent a year focusing on friendship. Going on 52 girl-dates (one each week), she hoped to find a new BFF.
In order to go out on 52 dates, she had to meet 52 prospects and have the courage to ask them to be her friend. This is no small task. But it is one that Bertsche tackles with ingenuity, a sense of humor and occasionally a twinge of desperation.
Rachel Bertsche is a writer, journalist and editor by trade. She is also another example of a writer who has turned a successful blog into a published book. Her writing style is conversational and accessible. She weaves her academic research on friendship into her personal narrative with ease. With a literary voice that is likable and occasionally self-deprecating the book is a fun, quick read.
Maybe I enjoyed it because I can relate. I remember being in Chattanooga after two years and wondering if I would ever make real friends. And now, having recently moved to Chicago I find myself once again on the hunt. This time, though, I have Bertsche's book to use as tool.
To meet her "girl dates," Bertsche relied on set ups, she actively pursued new hobbies, and even posted a want ad (which was actually more of an article than a traditional want ad). I was inspired by how proactive and purposeful she was. Rather than passively waiting for friendship to develop, she put in the work. She put herself out there. She admitted that she was looking to develop new friendships.
Thankfully, because she was in Chicago, I can easily follow some of her leads. There are numerous ways to connect with people here and I'm looking forward to giving them a try. Between Chicago Meetup (a website which connects people through shared interests) and GrubwithUs (small gatherings at local restaurants to get acquainted with strangers over a shared meal) I have several options in the coming weeks. Bertsche also suggested volunteering as a way of meeting new friends. So, taking her lead, I've signed up to work at the Printer's Row Lit Fest this year. Although I haven't set a deadline and I'm not as determined to make friends NOW as Bertsche was, I'm looking forward to seeing what happens.
Making friends as an adult is tricky business. There's more effort involved in cultivating adult friendships than the ones we develop in school. Bertsche proves that in her book. But, she also proves that it can be done. So with a little bit of ingenuity, a healthy dose of patience, and the ability to put myself out there, I have no doubt local friendships are in my future too.