How To Hang Out With Your Friends IRL After Not Seeing Them For Months

Expert tips on resurfacing like a pro when the time is right. 

When you’re ‘on the go’, you never really realise how much you’re literally ‘on the go’ until your social life is taken away from you and you’re left at home, baking banana bread. A welcomed novelty at the beginning, that’s for sure. The ‘short break’ for socialising and packed schedules of lunch dates, meetings, evening cocktails, appointments, birthdays and events seemed gorge and I mean, when else can you hone your skills and learn to run 5K unless literally forced out of doing everything and anything else? Yes, it seemed good to be able to totally switch off and not feel guilt and FOMO for cancelling plans or Irish exiting out of bars because you were just simply, knackered.

Coming right before we cracked into summer 2020 and all the deadly plans that were already beginning to stack up, for me, as a journalist, the initial lockdown seemed to coincide nicely with the usual lull in press events. Christmas is always chaotic with festive parties and summer sees nearly every brand celebrating the release of some new seasonal products at various locations around Dublin. So, selfishly, I was buzzing to have a couple of weeks whereby I was moving solely from my WFH desk to the couch and vice versa. But without me having to dredge up the past, we all know what happened (and is still happening) there.

Yes, all dreams of planning ahead got shelved and frequent social interactions became more and more of a distant memory. Taking their place to keep us sane (although for me, it had the opposite affect) was the ol’ virtual catchups. I’m talking – dare I say it – the Houseparty app that only worked 50 percent of the time, Zoom, Google Hangouts, Microsoft Teams and so, the list goes on. Granted they’re lovely for things like seeing your grandparents or a friend’s new baby that you can’t visit. But, what they’re awful for is assisting you in getting drunk in your bedroom alone during a virtual ‘party’, bringing about meetings that could have been emails, hosting the girls quiz night despite us never doing one IRL, and basically, for all the other reasons they cropped into my life. Like many, I disliked them (and still do). Plus, least I forget, there’s the fact that they’re so hard to speak in, everyone cuts across each other, and then there’s the delays – which to be fair, is probably the reason why everyone talks at once.

So yeah, to sum it up, I have found practically all socially distant and virtual interactions a nightmare to date. So much so, I’ve tended to avoid them completely. I am usually the first one that’s game to do anything that seems even remotely fun, but when I’m physically remote from others, I feel weird, stiff and quite awkward. Which, in a way, makes me slightly fear the return to normality. The resurgence of my currently decaying social life and the guaranteed copious amount of events, catchups, birthdays, dinner dates, liquid lunches and liquid lidquids that I’m sure will come with the sniff of freedom and the vaccination of our population. It makes me slightly fearful for a number of reasons, one being how (and if) I’ll adapt back to a jam-packed schedule that involves me practically never being at the house and secondly, how easy I’ll find it to interact with others again. And I’m not just talking about strangers here, I’m talking about friends, people you half know, people you work with, the lot. To sum it up, it feels like what I’d imagine it’s like to return from a gap year and know that you’ve got a lot of relationships to build back up and a lot of catching up to do. Expect there’s no interesting Full Moon Party to discuss, no snaps of me navigating a scooter through busy traffic or getting cultured by switching up my style and getting a tattoo to represent my journey. No, there’s none of that to see here.

‘You’ll ask yourself what becomes of small talk now?’ says performance and leadership coach Joanna Howes. ‘Over the past year, Covid has become the icebreaker when you meet someone new, you ask them “how are you coping with lockdown?” and that has been the small talk. So, finding that comfort with usual small talk again might take time, but people shouldn’t put instant pressure on themselves. We’ve all got to remember that we’ve gone through this together, all of us. You’re not on your own and realistically, I’d give it two months and people will begin to feel back to normal,” adds Joanna. Explaining that when it comes to reintroducing yourself into the world of socialising, Joanna notes that it’s all about setting yourself boundaries, and if you feel like you’re overloading yourself and starting to get anxious, take a step back and move at a pace you feel comfortable with. ‘Meet your own exceptions and don’t put others expectations on yourself. There’s a thing I teach called the self esteem triad. Self esteem is made up of emotions, needs and boundaries and these are the three things that are going to be more important than ever when we leave lockdown. It’s about knowing what you need, knowing how to meet those needs, creating healthy boundaries, being OK with communicating those boundaries and lastly, processing how you feel when going through this change again,” advises Joanna. Noting that as a bottom line it’s important to remember that it’s ‘still OK not to be OK’ – Joanna explains that just because lockdown starts to ease doesn’t mean we have to follow its speed in adapting back to socialising. We’ve done enough rejigging and changing to suit the pandemic for one lifetime and so, when it comes to restrictions easing, it’s all about taking it one catch up at a time and getting those feelers out when it comes to what we feel our limit’s at.

And in Cheryl Tweedy’s accent ‘slowly but surely’ things will start to feel like they used to. Meeting up with friends, catching a flight, going to a concert or packing into a toilet cubicle will start to become part of our normal routine again as we slowly begin to find our feet. But as Joanna highlights, one of the most important things we can hope to take with us as we reenter the world, is the essence of gratitude. An understanding for how lucky we are to have the little luxuries of life and how easily they can be taken for granted, and away from us. Yep, that’s something we’ll certainly cheers to when the bars open again.