Tuesday, March 16, 2010

How To Make Friends As An Adult


May I wax immodest for a moment and tell you that I have an amazing group of friends?
Really. I count some of the funniest, smartest, most accomplished, most amazing people in the land as my nearest and dearest. How lucky am I, right?

Making friends as an adult can be a tricky business, can't it? You see a cool girl in the bookshop, wearing a concert t-shirt from your favorite band and perusing the hiiii-larious new David Sedaris book. How do you talk to her without her thinking you're trying to pick her up? And how do you ask your super funny, single (male) co-worker to go rock climbing without prefacing the whole thing with "butivegotaboyfriendihopeyouknow!"

How's about we work out step-by-step instructions for The Cultivation and Maintenance Of A Fulfilling and Fun Social Circle?

Consider What You Want In A Friend
I, personally, want friends that inspire me in some form. Maybe they do great things at their job as an inner city social worker (Hi, Tara!). Perhaps they're impressively zen, balanced and non-judgmental (I'm looking at you, Kathryn and Meghan). Or they might just make me laugh so hard I choke on my Diet Coke (Darcie/Tamara/Winona/Ashley/Emily/Steph). Regardless, they all bring something to the table that I gladly gobble up.

So have a good think about the things that are important to you and what you'd like more of in your life. Do you need someone who will kick your ass (metaphorically, of course) when you don't follow up on that job lead? Do you want a friend who will joyfully trade parenting war stories with you? Or a girl that will join you when you want to dance on top of the bar? All good friends to have!

Go Do Stuff
I'm sure this will come as a huge surprise to you, but you won't actually make new friends sitting at home by yourself, dressing your cat in vests. You have to go out and meet people! It's not unlike dating, guys. Put yourself in situations that are likely to present interesting, like-minded people. Volunteer. Go to the rock climbing wall. Take a community ed class. Join a church or temple if you're religious.

Places I've met friends? A party hosted by my ex-boyfriend's co-worker. Italy. A bachelorette party. An internet message board. The gene pool of my ex-boyfriend.

Take Some Initiative
Okay, so now you've met someone awesome. Make it happen, dude. Find them of facebook and friend them. Tell them you had a great time discussing obscure Russian artists with them. Invite them to something that you know would interest them. What's the worst that could happen?

As a side note: when I meet someone I want to befriend, I have zero qualms about announcing to them "You're awesome. We're going to friends now, I hope you know." You'd be amazed how effective this is!

Awesome People Beget More Awesome People
If you've got one awesome friend, chances are pretty good that she knows other awesome people. I picked up Laura at a Halloween party (we bonded over mini butterfingers and our shared desire to conquer the world) and recently met her fantastic friend Elizabeth at a valentines-making party. Elizabeth and I are now knee-deep in plans for manicures and margaritas. Operation New Friendship accomplished!

Make Things Happen
Having an active social life doesn't just happen. We're all busy folks with jobs and families and classes and that bacon isn't going to eat itself! We all fall off the social wagon from time and time and before you know it, you haven't been to a party or gotten a non-telemarketer phone call in ages. It's easy to get a bit paranoid, wonder what you're missing and convince yourself that your friends aren't that into you. Don't.

Be the do-er. Get a group together to try that new Korean karaoke joint. Or to go to the races. Throw a miracle berry party. Sociability begets more sociability.

Make Your Friendships A Priority
Not unlike long-term romantic relationships, we might take long-term friendships for granted. Make the effort to stay in touch if you're not in the same city. Remember their birthday. Tell them how much you appreciate them. Cultivate the inside joke.

Hold Up Your End of The Friendship DealPick them up at the airport at 3 am. Help them paint their apartment. Listen to them rail against that awful co-worker. Go with them to the Heidi Montag concert. Tell them when the skirt looks better with a different top. They'd do the same for you. And if they wouldn't? Maybe they're not your friend.

Don't Be Afraid to Toss Out The Bad Eggs
Of course, there are going to be friendships that cease to work. People and circumstances change. Don't be afraid to objectively evaluate your friendships and consider if they're still working for you. If you emerge from an interaction with a friend feeling drained, negative or insecure, you know that they're no good for you. If it's just one specific behavior that's getting under your skin, try to (diplomatically, kindly) discuss it with your friend.

And if nothing seems to work? Stop calling. There's a good chance that that person has been feeling the disconnect as well. If they're still intent on hanging out, limit it to group interactions or the occasional coffee after which you have a (real or imagined) appointment that limits the interaction to an hour or so.

What's your friend circle like? How do you meet new people?

50 comments

  1. What a nice post!

    It's funny how, while at university, it doesn't occur to you that you'll always be surrounded by people your age who share your interests. Out in the real world, you have to make an effort to seek these people out.

    I also consider myself very lucky (I am sometimes in awe of how many awesome people I know. How did that happen?). However, I wish that my best friends weren't scattered over 4 continents :(

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    1. This is so so true. I actually tried to work out if I had written it myself and had forgotten about it, since my name is also Helena. I was so happy at uni with my friends who I saw all the time. Then when our course ended, and then we drifted apart since there was no reason for us to meet up anymore, and life as a single mum became very isolating.I had just taken for granted my fulfilling social life with my uni friends.I now sit in my room most days on my own. A long period of illness saw me become quite isolated and unemployed although I am now recovering after a number of yeas. I've joined a drama group with lovely people but my excuse for being there was that my kids were involved in the productions. They are no longer interested. I work a half a day a week at an inner city charity with lovely people but as I have a law degree I'm shunted into more professional and isolating roles, and half a day isnt enough to fulfill my need for social interaction. Life is miserable without fulfilling social contact.

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  2. I always see girls on the street that I just get massive girl crushes on them, and I want to walk up to them and say, 'lets be friends! I have a good feeling about you!' but thats just not 'socially acceptable'. It makes me sad.

    Helena- I totally have the same problem.... I have tons of AMAZING friends... but very few of them actually live within a days travel of me. They're spread out over three continents.

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  3. I am blessed with amazing friends. I try to send a text, e-mail or call when I think about them. Of course, there are the girls that I see on a regular basis, but it is the others that are dear to my heart as well. And as far as meeting new friends, I have started just asking people to hang out. What is the harm. If they are going to be cool enough to hang out with, then they are usually not taken aback by a blunt request.

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  4. I need to do this, I don't have really super close friends after an incident a couple years ago that cut ties with my two best friends. I hate it. Being a commuter to school kinda makes making friends impossible too.

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  5. The last few years marks the first time I've had more close girl friends than guy friends, and it's amazing. We ladies all need to RELAX a little, stop judging each other so much and learn to support each other. Asking a girl out on a friend date is, yes, very weird at first, but I've met some of my closest friends this way.

    @Alicia-I'm sorry to hear your story. That sounds sad. :(

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  6. Great post! I joined a sorority and I'm not the sorority type and I'm glad I did. I've made great friends with girls I never would of talked to other wise. I'm not the kind of person that needs 100 friends, just a few good ones and I'm so glad I joined.

    Alicia- I commute too! Join a group on campus, you'll be surprised how many people you'll meet!

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  7. Great post. Thanks. :)

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  8. can i just say that YOU'RE awesome and that WE'D be friends if we didn't live in separate states?! fabulous tips. muchas gracias.

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  9. I couldn't agree more with everything you said. Friendships are just like any other relationship... they take work. But the work should be fun! You just have to put a lil' effort in, and you will reap rewards 10-fold.

    I'm still working on "picking up" new friends, so thanks for the advice on that one. I've been going to a small gym and there's a cool girl there, so I think I'll practice with her... haha that sounds really awkward.

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  10. Hi, Sarah? You're pretty freaking rad. We're totally gonna be friends now, kay?

    No for real, this post is amazing and so good for me to read. I've struggled since graduating college and moving to an unknown city to make and keep friends, but these instructions totally make it seem way easier :)

    Recently I've made a couple of new friends who have become great friends, and it just enriches my life so much. What I've noticed is that one friend in particular is all about catching up, and I love it. If she's calling to ask me something or plan logistics for meeting up or whatever, she'll ask me how I'm doing before going into whatever the main reason she's calling is about. This happened on Sunday and we gabbed on the phone for an hour about life and it was like... HOLY SHIT THIS IS WHAT I'VE BEEN MISSING. When did I forget about how friendships work? She's totally reminding me... it takes effort and confidence that the other person is just as interested in your life as you are in theirs.

    Anyway, thanks for this post. It is totally starred in my Google Reader cause I'll be coming back to it to remind myself to step up my friend game!

    PS I love your bloooooooooooog!

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  11. I love this post. I needed it. To be honest ever since I moved a few years ago I've felt stunted in the friend-making department. I think I took for granted how easy it was in school, so I thought my whole life would be as easy as college! It's been a weird adjustment because usually now when I meet someone I want to be friends with, I almost feel like I have to "pounce" and get their name/number/email right away. When I was in school I could pretty much count on growing a friendship slowly over our regularly scheduled classes and parties every weekend with mutual friends, but now you don't know if that's the last time you'll ever see that person!

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  12. I need this post. I've been talking about how I'm going to make friends in college, but part of me is a little concerned with, 'Well... what if I don't?'

    Thank you.

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  13. Excellent post. I've definitely been feeling the strain of old friendships fading/new ones harder to make now that ive been out of school for a couple years. People end up scattered in different places and we inevitably change as we get older and have different interests. I've found it nearly impossible to meet new people where I am, but I know I haven't put in much real effort and I definitely wait for someone else to make the plans/ask for contact info/do the inviting which is the wrong way to make it happen, obviously. I recently decided to try roller derby as that seems like a great place to meet similar girls my age... Most of my friends are guys so I definitely lack that girl time that is so necessary to be really happy.
    Thanks for the great advice, I'm sure I will be reading it again.

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  14. Heidi Rose - you will totally make friends in college, just don't be afraid to talk to classmates, hall mates, etc. Leave you door open (your literal dorm door) and people will pop in and introduce themselves. Remember, no one else has any friends when they first get there either.

    As for adult life. Oy. I needed to read this post. It is really hard making friends once out of college. Especially if you don't have coworkers. I definitely need to do more things, but knowing it is one thing and getting up the cahones to do it is quite another. =)

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  15. Great post! Last time I had met a guy with no potential, but still a very nice guy, i said to him, we're gonna be friends now, ok? And then I was like wtf is wrong with me...who says that?!
    And I read it here, and I'm so glad I'm not some weirdo.
    My two best friends are living abroad too. And usually they're really busy so I hardly get to talk to them. I need more friends, but things are a bit different where I live. There aren't as many activities for the a specific age group etc.
    Thanks for the post!

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  16. wow it is difficult making new friends as an adult. there is actually a girl i met who was super awesome - she commissioned some artwork from me - but i felt weird about asking her to hang out sometime. because she was a client first, would trying to develop a friendship be weird? anyone?

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  17. This is a great matter of fact friend making post.
    I recently had a falling out with most of the people in my circle of friends. I even had to move out of my house because my bestfriend/roommate were on such bad terms.
    I am ready to move on, but I am suddenly so busy because I just started a new job and a new boyfriend. Lately it's been so easy to go through the motions and then hang with the bf and pass out, instead of trying to make plans and going to the bar etc.

    I'm going to start looking on campus for a club or a volunteer group I can join. It's silly that I live in a city and go to university and my friend group is progressively shrinking. :/

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  18. stephanie - i don't think it would be weird. My dad is a business owner and he's made a lot of friends through his business. and my bf does a lot of graphic design for his friends. so it works vice versa

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  19. This couldn't come at a better time. I have a wonderful group of best friends I have kept in contact with since high school, but I keep moving from university to university and hometown to hometown. I've been anxious wondering how I'll make such lasting friendships when I'm never in one place for too long. Your advice gives me good things to think about and DO!

    http://lesadventuresdulorax.blogspot.com

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  20. "You're awesome. We're going to friends now, I hope you know."

    This actually worked twice for me. Unfortunately, it also failed a few times and severely creeped people out, haha. I would caution against using this line too much.

    I tend to make convenience friends, as in people I grew up around, went to school/college with, worked with, etc. I guess I'm lazy, haha.

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  21. Von-face! I just moved to Wellington from Dunedin (Christchurch original btw)... away from the hundreds of people I met over 3 years of Uni and found myself whittled down to a measley number of friends. Added to that, I live in the The Hutt and my few friends live in the city. SO I went on a 1 month friend making mission where I prioritised social events in the weekend over study... and I had a little faith and managed to pick up the pace around exam time to pass:

    Making friends via my local kung fu branch (same school/club as the one I train with in ChCh and Dunedin) - very cool. Kiwis sure love BBQs hehehe!
    Making friends via church is great. Finally finding a church where you feel at home is even better because generally, church is a very safe and (supposed to be) non-judgemental place. Just gotta make the effort to get involved i.e. lifegroup, conferences, post-church supper! As opposed to attending service and jetting off straight away.
    Making friends with rock climbers = key. I made the effort to go to a climbing competition and got invited to one of the boy's 21st that very night :) They're such a chillaxed bunch + fun to look at. Win!

    The only real issue I have encountered is: "Hey! I love this banter with you guys but you DO KNOW that I have a boyfriend back in Christchurch? Cool. Lets be friends!"

    Any tips V?

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  22. Love, S,

    I always did the not particularly subtle "Oh, you like that band? Yeah, my boyfriend loves them, too!"

    But I always get really annoyed when guys use this on me. I'm not hitting on you dude, I just needed to use your chalk. Also: do you know my friend Halley? She climbs at Ferg's a lot!

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  23. sar, i will never go to a heidi montag concert with you. please don't fire me.;)

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  24. Darc, by 'Heidi Montag' I mean Britney/Ke$ha/Kylie/Beyonce/Lady Gaga. ;D

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  25. i need to keep these things in mind as i go to grad school next year--i'm so nervous!

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  26. I really enjoyed this post SV. I'm at that point in my life where so many of my "old" friends are going in new directions and, while I'm okay with letting the old friends go, I find it incredibly daunting to think about going out to find new friends. It helps to hear from someone else that I'm not some freak for feeling like finding new friends takes "work" (I used to think that meant I was socially inept, like my parents hadn't socialized me properly or whatnot lol).

    And JUST the other day, one of my newer acquaintances actually used the "We're going to friends now, I hope you know" line on me. I was pleased as punch to hear her say that (because I thought *she* was totally awesome), so I second your implied suggestion to simply come out and say that to someone you want to befriend. It made me feel GREAT, and much more confident about continuing to build our budding relationship.

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  27. "Darc, by 'Heidi Montag' I mean Britney/Ke$ha/Kylie/Beyonce/Lady Gaga. ;D"

    haha. me, too LOL

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  28. "Darc, by 'Heidi Montag' I mean Britney/Ke$ha/Kylie/Beyonce/Lady Gaga. ;D"

    haha. me, too LOL

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  29. It's funny how you take good friends for granted when you're surrounded by them - like in college. Making new friends since graduating has been a lot harder but also more fun since you have yo put more thought and effort into it. Thanks for the great post!

    Nailah

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  30. I second everyone else. You ARE awesome. I've been reading for awhile, but it just occurred to me that I have a blog from which I can actually follow you. So...I figured I should let you know instead of just randomly adding you =)

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  31. I can rarely talk with my best-best friends, since we live all over the world (Canada, Mexico, Australia, Colombia), but they are still the girls I'm more connected to. They get me, they get the meaning of friendship. Every once in a while, we have massive catch-up sessions.
    I've been kind of drifting away from my group of friends. One of them became a hermit grandmother with her boyfriend about 2 years ago, so I rarely see her. The other two are closer to each other than I am to them, even if they won't admit it. So sometimes I might call one of them up for all of us to go to lunch, but it turns out that they've been hanging out all afternoon. It makes me feel needy when I feel hurt by it, it's just something I have to accept. However, I'm realizing that we don't have a lot in common and 90% of the time I have to compromise my interests for stuff they wanna do (Go to a posh club where I don't feel comfortable, which plays shitty music). I like going to museums, art galleries, concerts for bands I've never heard of, festivals, etc, and they have no interest in any of that. While I still care about them, I've also started doing the stuff I want with other people that I couldn't hang out with much before. I make an effort. Another great thing that happened to me is that I moved into an awesome house. Currently, I live with 5 other people (four guys!). We're part of a couchsurfing network so every couple of weeks we get new friends to hang out with for the weekend! I've always been shy when talking to people, but this way I get to practice my small talk skills and hang out with genuinely cool people. I now have even more friends spread across the globe.

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  32. "Go with them to the Heidi Montag concert."

    I don't think I have a single friend that is worth that torture. :P

    But seriously, this was a great post. Thanks for sharing your tips. Ever since I got out of high school (in which I didn't have an easy time making friends anyway) I've found it increasingly harder to make new ones, and the ones I do have I hardly ever do anything with. One of my resolutions this year was actually to have a more active social life/make more friends, and I'm sad to say I haven't really been doing so well with that. So I will try to use some of your tips and see how that goes.

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  33. Fantastic post, Ms. VB! Nick and I were actually just talking about this subject, and I think your suggestions and advice are spot-on, as usual.

    I'm very proud to call you my friend. And to make you choke on your diet coke as often as humanly possible. :)

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  34. But what do you do when your husband/partner/spouse whatever does not like the friend? I've had a couple scenairo's like that and it was very hard to deal with.

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  35. I know I'm very late in commenting, but I had "starred" this post in my reader when you posted it, but never actually got the chance to read it until today. Must say I thoroughly enjoyed reading this whole post, as well as everyone's comments. Making friends has never been easy for me, and yes, it only gets more difficult in "adult" life. Your post has been really inspiring though! *starts looking for volunteering opportunities*

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  36. I really like your blog. And you! You seem lovely. I will feature you as my very first gushy rant about other blogs which encapsulate what I'm trying to do (which is be more grateful for the little things and try to get that happy feeling. Yay!

    P.S. Lets be friends.

    Oh!
    http://cm-rainydays.blogspot.com/
    Enjoy. It's dreadful, but quite short.

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  37. I'm in dire need of some new, more adventurous and more reliable friends. Somehow I got stuck with some serious flakes, and I never was a cornflake girl!

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  38. I love this post! If only I knew how hard it would be to meet new friends after college, maybe I would have been better prepared! I definitely took the college scene for granted, how easy it was to meet people and constantly be around new faces, conversations and new ideas. I definitely need to take some of your advice on how to find like-minded people :) Thank you!

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  39. Definitely a needed article right now. Most of my friends are older than me and I'm taking 5 years to graduate college so I've got all of about no one to hang out with in this area anymore as they all left to go back to the west side of the state. Of course there aren't as many people looking for new friendships at this stage in my program because they have friendships and no time as it is. I also lack initiative and self-esteem to believe that they would want to hang with me. So yeah, viscious cycle...

    Someone posted above that it's difficult being a commuter to school. Let me point out that it's difficult being the one not commuting at a commuter school because just about all my peers at this age commute so they don't want to come out on a Saturday or evening when they don't have to. At least the commuter living in the bigger place has the benefit of entertainment being in their home field... :)

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  40. Excellent advice from this 57 yr old who's loved, lost and left quite a few friends (not all at the same time, of course). You're a pretty smart cookie for a young'en!

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  41. I definitely needed this post...I graduated college 2 days ago and all of my college friends (or, who i thought were...we will see what happens when we are apart) live hours away from me. I am worried about where and how to make new friends back home when I'm in the real world. Its so true, I am thinking "where do all the people my age hang out?", now without the commonality of college lol.

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  42. I'm an American lady living/teaching ESL in South Korea. My choices for new, authentic friendships have seemed so limited here. (Thanks language barriers and well established expat cliques!) I'm dying for some lady friends that love crafting, music, and sipping beers and lattes. I met a girl recently who I thought was so cool, and I've been too nervous to ask her to hang out! I'm gonna try it after reading this. Thanks for the encouragement! ^^

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  43. Brilliant. I never went to uni so I never had that 'social group from uni where most people are interested in the same thing and are about the same age'. Apart from a couple of high school friends, most of my friends I've 'collected' through different workplaces (including my fiance) and the occasional one from social outings. You have to put yourself out there, but still be you. People, as you say, always have something in common it's just a matter of pulling off the initial conversation adn you'll be sorted!

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  47. THIS IS GREAT! Friendships are so important. GOOD friendships are hard to find, but we have some pointers on our blog and you can check it out here www.weartostandout.com/blog/how-to-be-a-hepburn-in-a-hilton-world-chapter-four and tell us what you think! xoxo, WearToStandOut

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  48. I just came across this post and I love it!! I'm recently married, moved to a new city, starting college again, and I'm struggling because I feel friendless except for my husband. But I'm excited for the new semester to start and for me to make new friends, which I've never been good at, but I loves these tips! :)

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