Welcoming the New Girl

Welcoming the New Girl

You’ve seen her.  At church.  At the family dinner table.  At book club.  At the gym.   She’s the one who’s moved from the next town over, the sister-in-law your brother married, the college student who feels misplaced, the foreigner who is still learning cultural idioms. She’s the new girl.

Life as the new girl is lonely with all her seasoned friendships not here.  Life as the new girl is overwhelming with so much newness to encounter all at once, it’s intimidating since everyone already has their social circle, their clique.  But, most of all, life as the new girl gives equally unique opportunities to serve the new girl and to serve as the new girl.

With its overarching principle and universally applicability, the golden rule does still apply.  Do unto the new girl as you would want to be treated when you are the new girl.  Invite her in.  Invite her in again.  And again.  And again.

As you show her your favorite coffee shop, you’re helping her explore her new community while also letting her feel involved in the new world she’s plunged into.  Tell her about the hidden gem thrift shops, and then take her there.  You’re giving her girl time while getting your own shopping done, after all; it’s a double-win.  Invite her to a party and introduce her to your friends.   Basically, show her that your big, scary world is actually just a normal community made up of fun-loving, kind people.

But, make sure to invite her again. It’s quite possible that she said no the first time and the second time and the third time out of overwhelming desperation.  The newness of everything is stifling her, scaring her, forcing her to take extra time to breathe and burrow into the safety of her own home.  Don’t take it personally: it’s not you.  Really, it’s not.  As you are gently persistent and showing her the no-strings-attached kindness you are offering her, she will soon find comfort in your friendliness.

When she does, though, give her grace.  Lots of it. Depending on the enormity of the transition, she might be battling challenges she never dreamt of facing.  She might unintentionally say rude things, she might hurt your feelings, and — believe me — she likely won’t know she’s doing it.   When she doesn’t like the change she’s dealing with, it’s not to say that she doesn’t like you.  When she obsessively compares the new to the old, it’s not that she doesn’t like the new, she’s just, well, homesick.

I speak from experience. Raw and recent experience. I moved from North Carolina and it’s southern charm to the far-away and cosmopolitan Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. I spent months burrowed in my house trying to find the gumption to walk outside and make it to the grocery store.  When I was invited to events, I didn’t always have the emotional stamina to navigate the room full of new people and unknown cultural norms and clique-inspired minefields, so I stayed home.  When I was lonely, I often didn’t have the energy to jump into new situations with my usual gusto-and-fervour.   And, yes, I’m pretty sure I offended a few people as I bemoaned the challenges, sobbed through the homesickness, and scoffed at the cultural differences.  But I am ever-grateful to the ones who pushed passed all those pity parties and kept making sure I felt included when I was the new girl.


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