Lessons Learned 2 Years in LA: What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger

I have said it a million times, and I will say it again. Making it in Los Angeles is hard.

There’s the gas prices. The traffic. Rent. And the people, oh the people.

I joke that living in LA is like being in high school all over again. There are the super popular kids clad in their designer shades with their puppies in tow. (Just to give you a taste of my personality, growing up, I always thought the popular kids were stupid because they didn’t think for themselves. Not cute, boo boo. Not cute.) Short anecdote: Freshman year of high school, a girl who would go on to be the queen bee of the popular girls invited me into the clique, but I avoided them at lunch simply because I knew they disliked one of my middle school friends. (Even at 13, I wasn’t about that “follow the leader” life.)

Then, there’s the ultra artsy Los Angeles people who take weird to a whole new level. I thought I was weird, and then, I met people here. Let’s just say everything goes in the City of Angels. Nothing I see shocks me at this point. There will always be something in 10 minutes that will out-weird what just happened.

If you let it, Los Angeles will eat you up, spit you out and then eat you again. That is…. if you let it. It can also make you a stronger, and, dare I say it, better person. In my second year in my dream city, with every turn, it seems I have faced a new set of obstacles. There were some moments when things were so bad I simply had to laugh to keep from crying. My friend Jade and I became masters at the “laughing at your pain” mantra.

“Los Angeles will eat you up, spit you out and then eat you again. That is…. if you let it.”

There was the job lay-off at 26. The new roommates with the dog they never walked (i.e. a regularly pee- and poop-stained carpet. You’re welcome for that imagery.) There was the vandalized car window. The getting rear-ended by an uninsured driver at a red light that nearly totaled my car. The five hundred plus dollars spent to get my Jeep fixed in order to pass the California smog test, just to spend nearly the same amount to get my California tags and plates. (Yay, me!) Then, there was the hurdle of getting over the three-year friendlationship that I thought just might be “the one.” Oh, and just this week, there was the moment where I nearly flooded my friend’s kitchen (sorry, Jade) and had my things attacked by ants in the bedroom the next day.  (Shower, please?)

Like I said, rough year. But with every rainy cloud, there was a silver lining. There was crossing the finish line of my first half marathon. (I literally could not feel my legs but have never felt more proud in my life.) There was the benefit concert that an old roommate, myself and few loyal friends teamed up to create. I stepped out of my comfort zone and played MC/hostess for the night, and we raised more than $1,000 for Syrian refugees.

There was getting to go back home to Michigan, Oklahoma and Georgia (yes, I have a lot of homes) to see family and friends and get so much quality time, hugs and kisses to fill my heart up. There was the starting my freelance journalism career (more like stumbling into it) that pressed me to be more confident than ever in my writing, editing and negotiating skills. There was stepping out of my comfort zone, auditioning for my church’s music team and making it!

There were also some laughs. (Well, actually lots of those.) There was the time I ran through a fountain on Hollywood Boulevard and ran into a huge sign in front of hundreds of people. There were the awkward dates that made for lots of witty banter with friends later on. (A Mercedes-Benz will not compensate for bad grammar folks.) There was the guy I met at a party who told me I look like someone who has money. (Apparently, I look like I make money moves.) There was reconnecting with my middle school crush and realizing I can do so much better. (His loss.)

With every turn of the page this year, there has seemed to be a hurdle. Clearly, I must be on to something good. As one of my favorite authors, Shauna Niequist says in her book Cold Tangerines, “Nothing good comes easily. You have to lose things you thought you loved, give up things you thought you needed. You have to get over yourself, beyond your past, out from under the weight of your future. The good stuff never comes when things are easy.”

“The good stuff never comes when things are easy.”

2017 has shown me that I am stronger, tougher and more resilient than I realized. There have been a number of times when I’ve told my friend Sam that I was quitting, packing up and moving back to Oklahoma. I never once meant it. You see, what I have learned through of all this adversity is that I am no quitter.

While I may get knocked down, I always, always get back up. Oftentimes, I have sold myself short, in friendship, in love, in career, but not anymore. If I want the best, if I want more, then I have to ask for it. No one will believe in me unless I do. LA has taught me that people will walk right over me until I say, “Enough.” Living here has taught me that a “no” isn’t a bad thing, but it just leads you to the right “yes.” It has taught me that rejection does not equate to failure but can be information to redirect you where you need to go.

If there’s any words of wisdom I can share to you as you wrap up your 2017 and start your 2018, I’d say this: Sometimes, you have to be your own best friend, your own cheerleader, your own advocate, your own defense, your own believer. If you’re going to bet on anyone, bet on yourself.

I’ve been backed in a corner a number of times this year, but I haven’t given up. And I’ll keep not giving up, dusting myself off, holding fast to hope while encouraging yours. Yet and still, I am hopeful, yet and still.

Happy New Years friends! And thank you to all my beautiful family and friends who made 2017 sweet.

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This post later appeared on Hello Giggles.

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I’ve Been Social Media Free for 6 Months and Couldn’t Be Happier

This afternoon, I went for a walk with my roommate’s dog. It was nothing extraordinary. I just wanted to take in the fresh fall air. While, it’s almost winter and snowy in most of the country, in L.A., it’s crisp air, 50-degree weather and golden leaves.

On my walk, I took time to look at the imprint the tree limbs made as they swayed against the wind. I looked at the tops of the trees, observing the changing colors, the lively leaves up top and the dying leaves hanging below. I listened to the wind whistle around me, the car horns honking, the music blaring from the speakers. I smiled at passersby and let one pet the dog’s belly. (Boy, was she happy- the puppy I mean.)

Moments like these, when ordinary, everyday sights and sounds can be appreciated and soaked in used to be rare for me. These days, I am more present. I am more aware of life around me, of other people, of the frailty of time and how quickly it comes and goes.

Maybe this change of mindset is a testament to getting older, growing up and becoming wiser, but it would be narrow-sighted of me not to connect the dots between being more present and disconnecting from social media. In June of this year, I decided to go completely dark online. I deleted my accounts for Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat. All that I have left are my LinkedIn page and a professional Facebook I use for work purposes (on which I have a whopping seven “friends”.)

Let me tell you, I have not once regretted my decision. I couldn’t be happier. I sometimes forget I am not on social media until someone asks me about it or talks about something they saw on Facebook or Twitter that day. For me, it feels like a breath of fresh air. It feels like freedom to just be myself without performing for anyone else. It feels like freedom from running a race I could never win. It’s sweet. It’s quiet. It’s simple. It’s real.

“It feels like freedom to just be myself.”

When I first went social media free, my roommate at the time asked me, “But how will people know you?”

To give you a little background about my old roomie, she is the type of person who shares pretty much everything, everything, on social media, car troubles, work troubles, the dress she bought today or the celebrity she meant at Target. Everything from the extraordinary to the mundane, she crafts and cultivates into an exciting post for eyes to see and join in on a conversation about her life in Los Angeles.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with that- if that is what brings her joy. For me, social media is burdensome. It is draining. For me, it became a rat race to keep up with the Joneses. It was a false sense of community and relationship.

It seemed as I was growing, maturing, making mistakes and learning from those mistakes, I was taking people from my past with me into my present, and it didn’t feel good. It seemed unnatural. It was an open door to pry into the lives of people from different chapters of my life while giving them permission to do the same to me.

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I am not sure what I said to my old roommate when she asked how people would know me once I was offline. Now, if I could answer, I would tell her that they’d know me how they always have, through phone calls, through cards and kind notes sent, through quality time spent, through wine nights with friends, through happy hours and bible studies, through community, real, authentic community.

In my time off social media, I honestly can say I haven’t lost one friend. If anything, my friendships have been strengthened. I talk to people on the phone regularly. I remember birthdays more. I check in to ask about hospital visits and sick family members. I am more present, not perfect, just present.

I am more present, not perfect, just present.

Don’t get me wrong. Social media isn’t bad, but the simple fact that millions of people around the world use it daily, multiple times a day should be a cautionary sign. There is no one equation to life that works best for any two people. It makes perfect since that social media won’t work for everyone. I am one of those people. So please, don’t judge me for not being a fan of social media, and I won’t judge you for being attached to your phone and taking photos everywhere you go.

Recently, on a visit to Georgia, my godsister told me that I seem happier. This brought me so much joy. It was better than being told I looked pretty or in shape, that my outfit was nice or that I was successful in my career. She said I seemed happy. And I am. I truly am.

What I Learned From Having 8 Roommates in 2 Years

I know what you’re thinking, “Eight roommates in two years? This girl must be a terrible roommate!” Whether due to a change in marital status, job location or just irreconcilable differences, changing roommates has become a part of my vernacular in my first few years in Los Angeles. After the dust has settled and each roommate has come and gone, I am left standing with lessons learned, an ample amount of room to grow and an untarnished, much-needed sense of humor.

To give you a little more context, I moved from Oklahoma to California two years ago to pursue my passion for journalism and a writing career. As I hunted to secure a job and an apartment, I reached out to a few friends I knew in Los Angeles. After months of digging, one of them connected me with a girl she loosely knew through her church. This girl found two other young women from the same church who were looking for an apartment, and the rest was history. We were moving in, signing the dotted line and making deposits within days.

While being in your mid-twenties and living with three other women is not ideal, it is often the name of the game in the City of Angels. The housing market in big cities like L.A. isn’t cheap and it takes time, effort, connections and a little bit of luck to find a good spot. When I first moved here, I had that hunger in my eyes and the willingness to do whatever was necessary in order to make it on my own. This attitude would come in handy in the months and years to come with a number of outlandish and absurd roommate situations to come.

When I look back at my roommate experiences in L.A., it is one of those “it’ll be funny once it’s over” type of scenarios. I tell roommate stories to friends all the time for a good cathartic laugh. I swear if I had a stand-up show, this would regularly be a part of my act.

I have names for each of my roommates to help me keep the stories in order. (It also adds a little bit of comedic flair I think.) There was the roommate who took a job cross-country. There was the unhygienic, emotionally unstable roommate who we had to ask to leave.There were two roommates who got married. There was the prideful roommate who never paid bills on time and, whether she was right or wrong, always had to have things her way. There was the sheepishly shy and socially awkward roommate. There was the dramatic roommate who only talked about her problems. There were the BFF roommates who couldn’t afford toilet tissue (they used our kitchen paper towel instead) but somehow managed to buy alcohol. There was the roommate who had a dog she walked about once a day and left her to pee in the apartment. (This is just the quick synopsis. I could give stories for days.)

Needless to say, my search for a solid, stable roommate has been an uphill battle. There have been moments of stress, frustration, tears, laughter and a lot of lessons learned. Each of these people have probably given me a gray hair or two, but with each of them, they have brought their own strengths and weaknesses, both good and bad. They have brought their own unique perspectives and stories. They have brought differences, similarities and learning opportunities.

Prior to moving to L.A., I was a passive aggressive, ambivert, who only spoke up when she had to. Living with so many different people in such a short period of time has taught me how to set boundaries with people. It has taught me to care less about being liked and getting along with everyone all the time (which is not even realistic) and to speak up for myself.

For example, say something when someone makes an entire meal with your food (which has happened), but maybe let it go when you know your roommate tells white lies that don’t affect you. Moreover, speak up when someone is parking behind you and making you late for work or not paying bills on time. However, let it go when a roommate thinks she bought an inexpensive kitchen item (that you know is yours).

I have learned that sometimes it is worth standing your ground and speaking up. I should never choose to not use my voice for fear of not being liked. Yet, every battle isn’t worth going to war over. I have learned to choose carefully.

Of all the lessons the revolving door of L.A. roommates has taught me, the most important lesson is to show people grace. I can speak up and set boundaries with people, and then, choose to let it go. I have learned the importance of forgiving often and quickly. Otherwise, it’ll eat you up inside, and you will walk around cold and bitter. You’ll live in an apartment with closed bedroom doors, little conversation and no laughter, which is no place to call home.

I have reflected on my own behavior, and the ways in which I can improve. I am definitely not perfect. (It wouldn’t be fair to out my former roommates without sharing some of my flaws too.) I struggle with perfectionism and communication in conflict. I stifle my emotions. I have passive aggressive tendencies.

I am definitely not perfect, and living with other people has shown me, everyone, myself included, has room to grow. In the end, it hasn’t been perfect, but with laughter, forgiveness, grace, communication and a good drink from time to time, I have learned to cope with crazy and found the laughter in it all.

This post originally appeared on Hello Giggles.

How a Blast From the Past Taught Me About Self-Love

I nervously packed my bags for my Portland weekend trip. Should I pack heels? What about a dress? I need a hot dress. Maybe I should straighten my hair? My mom always said I looked better with straight hair. If I keep it curly, maybe I should wash my hair tonight so my curls look extra nice for the trip.

My stomach fluttered with butterflies, the kind you only get when feelings are involved. I was headed to Portland for the first time ever, for both business and pleasure. For business, I was covering a women’s soccer game for a news outlet. For pleasure, I was taking a weekend girls’ trip with a friend from L.A.

Then, in a momentous, destiny-calling kind of way, an opportunity presented itself to connect with an old friend who lived in Portland. This old friend, to be exact, was my 8th grade crush who saw me in glasses, pigtails and all the awkward phases that a kindergarten through 8th grade school entails.

We’ll call him Austin. Rumor had it, Austin had a crush on me too. (His best friend told my best friend. You know? The usual means of communication in middle school.) Austin also happened to be one of my cousin’s best friends, and his dad lived in the same suburban neighborhood as my cousin’s family throughout our entire childhood. While I hadn’t seen Austin in 10 years, I occasionally would hear tales about his adult life from my cousin or my aunt whenever I came home.

A few days before my trip, my cousin text me his number. I sent a nervous yet bold text asking Austin for the best places to go to and sights to see in Portland, and the deed was done. Austin was gracious and agreed to meet my friend and I for lunch and show us around. I ended up spending every day of my trip with Austin, every single day. I was enamored with the idea of him yet and still, and I spent the weekend hoping for something more than friendship.

To my inner child’s dismay, I realized Austin had not really changed, for both the good and the bad. Between the long talks, laughter, jokes and insults we exchanged, I realized it wasn’t so much him who I had admired all these years but the idea of him. I romanticized who I thought he was or who I wanted him to be. I made the middle school crush who I cried over at the end of 8th grade (yes, I was an emotional kid) out to be more than he actually was.

He was still the good-looking, funny and sweet guy I remember. Unfortunately, he was aware of all these things, his good looks, his charm, his confidence with the ladies. The same guy who every girl liked in middle school was now sitting across from me at a restaurant over drinks checking out women and asking me to be his wing-woman to pick up ladies. Some habits die hard, and I think being the popular, athlete who all the ladies want is one of them. He was still the same person, not ready to grow up or settle down.

The real struggle from that weekend wasn’t about Austin at all though. It was an internal battle within myself. A battle of whether or not I would allow the popular guy in school to unearth me the way he did when I was a kid. The nervousness. The shaky hands. The fast heart beat. It all came back to me.

As Austin scanned the bar for women, I began to look at myself and question if I was enough. What about me? I wondered. Am I not good enough? Why don’t you see me? Why not me? I stopped, gathered my thoughts and began to counteract the insecurities trying to surface.

You see, I am not the little, straight- A, shy girl from middle school anymore. That girl has transformed into a twenty-someting woman who has scars from heartbreak that have healed with time. She has wisdom lines on her brow from the mistakes she has made and the lessons she has learned. She has miles under her belt from the states she has lived and the countries she has visited. She has laugh lines on her face from times spent with friends who have become more like family. She has muscle from the hours she has spent serving others and learning to enjoy the moment.

Eighth grade me is gone. Although parts of her make up the mosaic of the woman I am now, that little girl grew up and is now a woman who knows she is. She is confident, strong and knows her value, and no guy, not even the hot middle school jock, gets to challenge that knowledge.

Everyone gets older but not everyone grows up. Growing up requires doing the work to learn, to change, to better yourself. Austin hasn’t grown up and reconnecting with him taught me that trying to force someone from your past into your present doesn’t work. The pieces won’t fit.

Sometimes, oftentimes, you can’t go back to the past. You might be able to revisit it momentarily or for a weekend trip to Portland, but you can’t stay there. You aren’t meant to. Life is about moving forward, letting go and accepting the now. Austin and I got older and went our separate ways, and I really believe it was for the best.

My blast from the past brought laughter, moments of self-doubt and most importantly a revelation that I am good enough, who I am now, present day me. Our last day in Portland, Austin dropped my friend and I off at the airport, and I haven’t heard from him since. I walked away from the experience knowing it’s OK to grow up and not look back. You simply have to trust the process and let go of what you thought life would look like and accept it for what it is.

This post originally appeared on Hello Giggles.

The Adventures of Unemployment

In my last post, I mentioned how the past four months of unemployment have been an adventure. The old adage rings in my ears, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” It hasn’t been easy, but I am reminded to take each day as it comes and to continue putting one foot in front of the other.

I wanted to share with you some of the ups I have found in unemployment. Gasp! Dare, I say it. There is a lot of good that comes with life’s unexpected, seemingly terrible situations:

  1. I get to sleep until 9 o’clock.
    I cannot explain to you how magical this has been. I used to wake up between 5 a.m. and 6 a.m. to workout before heading to work. On weekends, I would wake up between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. for church, to run errands or, to be completely honest, just out of habit. These days, I start my freelance work in the mornings between 9:30 and 10:00, and I workout at night. Since my desk is just in the next room from my bed, I can literally roll out of bed, make some coffee and get to work. It is a beautiful thing to get some extra Zzz’s.
  2. Afternoon coffee dates have become a reality.
    When I was working full-time, I remember friends asking if I could meet for lunch or an afternoon coffee. The answer was always a quick no. Distance, traffic and time kept me sanctioned to the area surrounding my job. I never left that area except for an hour at lunch. Nowadays, I can get a noon coffee or go for a 3 p.m. Chic-fil-A run with a friend. It’s such a great feeling to get up and go as I please.
  3. Travel is possible.
    At my previous job, we had unlimited time off, which was great, but anytime I asked off for a long weekend or for a wedding, I felt an endless amount of guilt. So much so, I usually would work while traveling. Nowadays, if I want to take a weekend trip to Portland, go home to see family in Michigan or go to a friend’s wedding in Texas, I can! I take my work with me, or I pause on taking freelance assignments. The luxury of flexibility is something not to be taken for granted.
  4. I have become more confident in my abilities.
    The freelance life is not for the faint of heart. Freelancing takes hustle, determination, grit and an entrepreneurial mind. If I am going to pay bills, then I have to write, period. There is no option. My ability to pitch stories, turn over copy in a timely manner and maintain working relationships has grown stronger.  I have grown exponentially as a writer, and I am more confident than ever in my skills. Through all the fears of unemployment, I have learned to believe in myself.
  5. My day-to-day is in my control.
    The coolest thing about working as a freelance journalist is that I set my hours. I come and go as I please. I determine how much work I take on and the type of work I get. It is up to me. I like being in control of what my days and weeks look like.
  6. I am free to use my time and energy on passion projects.
    Back in April, I ran my first half marathon, which has been a long time coming. I know if I was working full-time, I would have had less time to devote to it. Also, this month in June, a friend and I are hosting a benefit concert to raise money for Syrian refugees. Like many people, when I heard about the U.S. travel ban in March, I was angry. My friend and I wanted to do something. We put our heads together, asked some friends for help and Songs for Syria: A Benefit Concert was birthed. If you’d like to donate, check out our fundraising page here.
  7. I get to serve.
    Volunteering has been therapeutic for me. It has helped me get out of my own head and remember that there is a big world out there full of people. Since my lay-off, I have spent my time volunteering with kids and teenagers in L.A., and let me tell you. It has stretched me in a good way. The fourth Tuesday of each month, I have gotten to spend my days at in-school program where I help mentor high school girls by teaching them writing skills. Once a month on Saturdays, I read to elementary age kids in the LAUSD school district. On Sundays, I meet one-on-one with my mentee, and we work on writing exercises.

Life is all about perspective. I am so grateful for the new vantage point my time in unemployment has given me to learn about myself and to grow.

-Stephkt

Why Rejection Is a Semicolon and Not a Period

Life is hard, plain and simple. It is a truth that will forever withstand the lengths of time. Rejection is by far one of the hardest realities in this life. Whether it comes in the form of a breakup, a friendship ending, not getting accepted into a school or a job loss, rejection of any kind is extremely painful.

If we allow it to, it can leave us paralyzed with fear, the fear that we are not good enough, not smart enough, not talented enough, not beautiful enough, simply not enough. We can allow rejection to set the trajectory of our thoughts, in turn our behaviours and ultimately our lives.

Rejection doesn’t have to get the final say though. We need to go back to the drawing board. Instead of seeing rejection as defeat or the end of our stories, why not see it as a new beginning, a chance to start again? I know it was probably a devastating blow. It may have caught you off guard and left you on your knees, but there is hope for you, yet and still, my friend.

What if what we really need is not the thing we think we lost but a perspective shift? What if rejection is simply a teacher? All rejection holds universal truths and lessons we can take with us for the road ahead. So grab your hiking shoes and let’s get to climbing out of this rut.

Don’t let rejection define you.

I know I am so guilty of this. Anytime a relationship didn’t work out, it meant there was something wrong with me. I am not pretty enough. I am not witty enough. I am not kind enough. I am too much. When I recently was laid off from my job, it was so easy to fall back into this trap of allowing the job loss to determine my value. I began to think: Maybe I am not a good writer. I suck as an editor. There are people who are better at this job than I could ever be. I’m not good enough.

Haven’t we all been there? When we lose something that is so important to us, a job, a marriage or a friendship, we begin to let the loss communicate to our minds a lack of value in and of ourselves. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Our careers, our dreams, our passions and the things and people we love can easily start to define us once we lose them. I would challenge you to not let this be the case. I know it is hard, but remind yourself that no one person or thing determines your worth. You have intrinsic value that can’t be shaken.

Allow a “no” to serve as a confidence builder.

This might sound counterintuitive, but anytime you hear a, “No,” a “I’m sorry but we have to let you go” or a “It’s not you. It’s me,” be grateful. One door closing releases you from something that wasn’t the best fit for you. That’s all a no really means. Pick your head up and keep going.

This no will only make your skin tougher and your bounce back stronger. If things were always easy and all we ever heard was “yes,” then we would never know what resilience looks like. Rejection is the perfect time to see the stuff we are made of, perseverance, endurance, strength and grit. Confidence is built out of enduring hard times.

Surround yourself with positive voices.

When I lost my job earlier this year, I didn’t tell many people. I partially kept it to myself because I was in shock. I also didn’t tell many people because I was hurting and in a sensitive place. I knew the people I told would have to be people who would let me grieve the loss and then encourage me. I needed people who would sit in my pit with me and then help me climb out once I was ready to.

When you face rejection of any kind, it is painful, so very painful. The load of rejection gets lighter when we ask for help to carry it. Reach out to positive people who will be a voice of encouragement in your ear. Tell them about the rejection you are facing. Delve into all of your feelings of shock, sadness, hurt and fear. Be 100 percent real. This is your time to grieve. Be careful not to share with anyone who will cause you to worry or allow you to stay in a place of pity or bitterness. Positive voices are the key.

Determine that this is only temporary.

When we are faced with rejection, it is often unforeseen. We didn’t see it coming, and it can be difficult to know when it and the feelings that result from it will end. While there’s no definite answer, we have to remember this is just a drop in the bucket of time of our stories. It is only one chapter. Now is not your forever. Storms always come to an end. This is only temporary.

Get back in the game.

Dust yourself off and get back up. This is probably the most important truth to remember. Rejection can feel like a punch in the gut. It leaves you reeling and knocks you to the ground, but you don’t have to stay down. You can get back up. It’s a choice. It’ll more than likely hurt at first, but get back up any way.

Rejection is not the end of my story, nor yours, my beautiful friend.

This post originally appeared on Darling Magazine.

Learning the Dance of Making Friends in a New City

Moving to a new city is hard. Anyone who has lived in multiple cities, states or even countries  understands what it means to be the Jess in New Girl all too well (sans the apartment full of quirky, childlike men as roommates.)

If there is anything you desire most when moving to a new city, then it is friendships. Not those people who rarely call or text. Not those people who go out with you every once in awhile to capture an Instagram worthy pic. True, real, unadulterated friendship. You want it, but when moving to a new city, it can seem intimidating and overwhelming.

Here are some tips on how to make real friends:

1. Get involved in things you care about.

Moving to a new city is a great opportunity to get involved in causes and organizations you care about. Once you do, you’ll meet people with similar interests and passions. A guaranteed conversation starter and a road to meet like-minded people.

2. Step outside of your comfort zone.

In a new place, there will be ample opportunity to try new things. Do things you normally would never agree to. By taking a chance and adventuring into the unknown, you will expand your net and meet people along the way. Don’t forget to smile.

3. Say “yes” more than you say “no.”

After a long day of work, the last thing you want to go do is try that cardio kickboxing class your coworker invited you to or go to on coffee date your neighbor suggested. Do it! The more you are willing to be open to people, the more friends you will make.

4. Network, network, network.

The word “networking” can seem intimidating and nerve-wracking, but what it really boils down to is asking questions and listening. Find ways you can help other people and ask them for help when you need it. Networking means learning to connect and take an interest in people.

While we of course all want friends, we also don’t want to settle. Here are some bonus tips:

Don’t try to force anything that isn’t organic.

Making friends is a lot like dating. If the puzzle pieces don’t fit in a relationship, then you part ways. Same thing goes for making friends. If there is no real chemistry or you just don’t click, then it is perfectly OK to let it run its course.

Flaky or inconsistent behavior is a red flag.

Someone who says one thing and does another, someone who constantly cancels (of course unless they have a legitimate reason) or someone who only comes around when they need something, stop the friendship. Not only should you stop it, but you should actively move in the opposite direction.

Never beg.

Never beg anyone to be your friend. If you are always the one initiating or asking to hang out and their response is always delayed, they cancel, are indecisive or (worst of all) never respond at all, let it go. Never beg. You are too valuable for that.

This post originally appeared on FabFitFun.