The Girl on the Train – or – How Do Adults Make Friends?

I met E on the train yesterday.  There were lots of empty seats but she chose to sit with me and I said, “Good Morning.” Ordinarily I don’t say anything to people sitting beside me on trains or airplanes because I don’t want to talk.  I want to read or sleep or stare out the window.

Good Morning” is not an invitation to chat for the remainder of a trip, until it is. My seat mate E wanted to chat.

Me:  Good Morning.

E:  Which stop is yours?

Me: UIC.

E: Are you in college?  [Note:  UIC is the University of Illinois Chicago stop.)

Me:  No, my office is near there.

E: You work in an office?

Me: Yes.

E: What do you do in your office?

Me: I’m a Presbyterian pastor.  I work for the Presbytery of Chicago which is sort of like working for the regional group of Presbyterian churches.  

E:  What do you do all day?

Me: I work with people preparing for professional ministry or churches going through changes.

E:  I’m Jewish.

Me:  Oh, great.  I’m officiating at a Jewish wedding next weekend.

E: (She looked confused.)

E: It’s hard to make friends as an adult.

Me:  I agree.  

I handed her my card more to prove that working for a Presbytery is a real thing than to hang out later.  She responded by saying again, “I’m Jewish.”

One of the reasons why recent college graduates move to cities is because there is a higher possibility that there will be People Their Age nearby.  Gone are the days when you can yell “Who wants pizza?” down a dorm hallway at 11:45 pm and several people are happy to join you.  It’s really hard when you are 22 and in a new job and everybody in your office is over 40.  It can be lonely to be the lone Young Person in the place where you spend most of your waking hours.

  • I was 27 when I moved to my first post-seminary position in a rural community.
  • I was 33 when I moved just outside DC but I had a spouse and a baby and it’s easier to meet people when you have a baby.  Other people with babies want to hang out.  We had other kids and their friends’ parents became our friends
  • I was 55 when I moved just outside Chicago.  My kids (the source of most of my adult friendships) were gone and it was hard to make friends from scratch.

Building community as adults happens only when we are intentional about it. We make the effort to connect with a church or a club or a neighborhood soccer league.  Or we meet people through other people we already know or meet through work.  Most of us do not try to make friends on trains.

E is very brave.  She put herself out there and dared to talk with a stranger on the L in Chicago on a warm June day.

How have you made friends as adults?  Any tips?

Image source.



3 responses to “The Girl on the Train – or – How Do Adults Make Friends?

  1. A friend and I are working on this by throwing out an invitation on Facebook about once a month for people to meet us at the park. Anyone and everyone old enough to drive is welcome. We specify no children because if people bring kids, the kids become the reason for the get together and they detract from our intent.

    Adults in my world seldom ever sit down with no intention other than just hanging out. We always have to have a purpose, or at the very least, a potluck.

    So far, this intentionally purposeless gathering has netted me several new acquaintances. I’m hoping we become friends.


  2. I’m one of those people who talk to others on trains, planes, buses, waiting rooms. Not necessarily to make friends, but to learn more about people. We are all human, we all have our story. So many people, I have found, are just waiting for someone to ask them for their story.


  3. I love this post! Unfortunately, I don’t have any suggestions to add on how to make friends as adults, but I will say that loneliness is a tricky thing–even when one already has a circle of friends.

    And connecting with others does require courage, but also energy and time and a willingness to accept someone else’s differences–all of which were manifest in your response to E. Many blessings to you!


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