I would not describe myself as popular and do not think I ever have been, but I have more friends now than I used to. It took me a very long time to meet so many people I would call true friends. People I know I can share with honestly and openly, who I trust will not judge me and at least try to understand me. I know that when it comes to friendship it is quality over quantity, better to have a few loyal friends, than lots of people who are only there in the good times, and let you down when things are not going so well.
I remember struggling to make friends when younger. As a child I had phases of having a few friends and phases of not really having any at all. I remember not fitting in very well with others at school and spending a lot of time on my own during break. At primary school I did not always mind having so few friends as I enjoyed my own company and could often amuse myself. However by the time I went to secondary school I was feeling increasingly lonely. I was bullied to the point I would often refuse to go to go to school. I knew by this point that I was somewhat different to my peers. At the age of twelve I was diagnosed as having Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, which went some way to explain my social life or lack of, but as a teenager I realised there was more to my issues than just OCD. However I had no idea what I could do about it. For a lot of my teens I had very few friends. I did not really fit into any social groups. At times it really upset me to not be invited to things and be left out of social events, but sometimes I minded less and I suppose I got sort of used to not having many friends.
During my first two college courses I did not make any friends. I got on OK with some people, but could not say they were really friends. When I started a performing arts course I got on somewhat better with people. We had a common interest in theatre and performing. Drama people are often the outsiders, the ones who did not get on so well in school and tend to be a bit different. Also performers tend to get good at reading people and understanding them better having to work so closely together. I did not get invited out much, but back then I did not drink alcohol and I think some of my class knew I would not have enjoyed a drunken pub crawl or nightclubs much anyway. Over my three years of performing arts at college I got slightly better at socialising between classes. I did get invited to a couple of parties and had a twenty-first birthday party myself.
At twenty-three I went away to university. I felt I fitted in and got on with people there a lot more than I had anywhere else. By the time I left university I felt I had made some real friends. I think partly it was having common interests, but also I was more mature and had learnt how to socialise a bit better. I had started drinking by this point and enjoyed going to pubs and clubs more. (Although I was not really a heavy drinker compared to a lot of students and did not go to night clubs very often.)
Since moving out of my parent’s house and living more independently I have made more friends and gained more of a social life. It helps that I understand myself somewhat better now, having finally had a proper autism diagnoses and have taken time to learn more about my conditions. I am less angry and confused about who I am, which helps how I come across to others. I feel calmer and have less public meltdowns. Although I still have the occasional outburst, they do not last as long and I get over them more quickly. Also I have learnt the kind of people who I tend to get on better with and will make more suitable long term friends for me. I have found that when it comes to making friends age and sex does not matter so much as understanding. People who can accept my autism and OCD and do not judge me based on my conditions.
I have had one really good friend throughout the years that I have known for longer than anyone else, since I was in my early teens in fact. I really appreciate this friendship because this person has been there for so long and always supported me even when things in my life were not going so well, and I had no other friends. It showed me that I could make real friends if I made the effort and it was worth doing so.