Just recently I celebrated my 7th anniversary of moving to Chicago. It's hard to believe I've been here since 2001! I sure have been blessed with some amazing friends, experiences and opportunities! When I first moved to Chicago I only knew my boss, Mary Cavallini. Mary is like family to me and really went out of her way to make me feel at home.
To tell you the truth, I was kind of eager to be in a city where I didn't know anyone! My hometown of Seattle was somewhere that I had been my whole life. If I didn't know a person, I would have still recognized them. Being in big Chicago gave me the chance to renew my goals, start fresh and meet new people.
My very first night in town I went to Roscoe's. I had heard it was a lot like Seattle's RPlace and wanted an arena that I felt comfortable in. As anyone in Boystown can tell you, Roscoe's is a fun place with lots to see and do! There's dancing, boy watching, pool, karaoke and more. I walked in there feeling like I'd been there a million times and somehow Chicago felt a little more like home.
I took the opportunity to walk around and look at all there was to see and do. I couldn't help but notice that the Midwest guys were especially cute! At one point I saw a chair by the fireplace open and chose to sit down. There was this really cute guy sitting by himself across from me, so I said hello. What happened next changed my life forever! That cute guy looked at me as if I had a festering sore right on my face. With the look of "Are you really talking to me" on his face, he stood up, let out a mocking laugh, and walked away. Suddenly I felt a million miles away from anything and everything I knew.
A million thoughts came through my mind. Clearly, he didn't know who I was back in Seattle. Perhaps the lighting in the area wasn't good enough and he thought I was a girl. (Side note: I did have a period in my life where I looked like a girl.) Surely I made a mistake in moving to a city where I knew no one! With that, I finished my drink and went home.
I can't tell you how defeated I felt that night. I really wanted to give up. All I was looking to do was meet some new friends and no one made that easy. I've learned all these years later that the job of making new friends requires as much if not more from me as it does on others! I had to get up out of the chair and take action.
Open your eyes to the truth. I find that making and getting friends comes for a certain state of perception. There are a million people who need and want friends out there. If you're brave enough to go to a restaurant, bar or club by yourself, you've already done the hard part. Now you can take a look around and see who else is there. Often times you will see folks standing by themselves. Most of the time they have their arms folded and don't look very approachable. Like you they're looking around for a connection. Why wait to see if they come up to you? Why not go up to them and say hello! Offer to buy them a drink.
Many times when I'm attempting to make a new friend I will say, "Pardon me; this isn't a homosexual come on, but I thought I'd say hello and offer to buy you a drink." Now, in the LGBT community, what self respecting lesbian or gay boy would refuse an adult beverage? I realize this will take some guts and bucks, but I can vouch that it's well worth it!
Make opportunities to run into friends. Isn't it funny when you like someone you go out of your way to bump into them! This is similar. Pick a night at a favorite hangout and invite your new and longtime friends to join you. Sidetrack here in Chicago's Boystown is famous for Monday night being show tunes night. Although that's not my particular choice in nights to go to; (Note: I do enjoy the comedy night though) it does lend itself to a great opportunity to get people together! Find your favorite section; get to know the bartender and make it your "Cheers"!
Reach out and touch someone! So many times I see people alone in various places. In my mind, that was once me! I feel a certain debt to talk with them. It baffles me how many people never hear the word hello! Is it so difficult to place a smile on your face and say hi? I'm not suggesting that you make it your life's mission to talk with every person you see; rather I think it might be a good idea to be open to the possibility that you can touch someone's life in a positive way simply by greeting them. I've heard it said before that "strangers are friends you haven't met yet". I can't think of a better way to look at reaching out to others.
If you've ever been to Roscoe's you've undoubtedly met a guy named Carl. He's somewhat of an icon at Roscoe's. With quick wit and a joke in his hand, he talks with everyone! What most don't know about Carl is that he's got one big heart! Clearly this guy cares about people! I've had the pleasure of listening to Carl over the years and he has some fascinating insights on life. I know that I would have missed out on those if he had not made it a point to reach out to me. I am glad he did!
Today whenever I go to Roscoe's I make it a point to stop by and see my old chair. It is a reminder to me of the great friends I've made here in Chicago and the new friends I will make. It serves as a symbol of challenge for me reach out to those that most wouldn't give a second glance to. It reminds me that I was once the new guy in the place and to be thankful for what I have.
Perhaps it's time for you to take the challenge as well and get up out of your chair, meet some people and open your eyes to the countless opportunities that await you!