Getting Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable: Life Changes in Friendships with Ivana Ivanek

Friendship IRL Podcast Episode 47 with Ivana Ivanek - Getting Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable: Life Changes in Friendships

Podcast Description

Picture this. You’ve been friends with somebody for 20 years. You’ve always lived close by. 

Then, one of you moves across the world. Suddenly you have to Zoom to stay in touch – but talking online with somebody you’re used to sitting on a couch with feels uncomfortable. You might think there’s something wrong with your friendship. The reality? This is just a new way of connecting. 

Today’s guest, Ivana Ivanek, an online business coach and podcast host of Fabulous by Design, and I talk about the evolving ways we connect and spend time with our friends. She shares vulnerably about how her move abroad to follow her dreams impacted her friendships.

It has me thinking about my own friendships that feel sticky, and I think a lot of people will identify with her same frustrations. Why is it so hard to connect with this friend I’m so close to? How can we change our ways of connecting? How can we lean into this discomfort to make it work?

In this episode you’ll hear about:

  • Ivana’s move from Austria to experience her dream and live by the sea – and the struggles she found maintaining long-distance friends with the time zone differences 
  • The “online isn’t real” myth, and how to build fulfilling online connections by being ACTIVE and intentional about your interactions
  • Getting out of our comfort zones to maintain friendships and the feeling of not staying true to old friends by making new connections
  • How highly-sensitive people might actually find connecting with people online less draining than in person
  • Why it’s so easy to have all-consuming friendships as kids – and why it doesn’t always work that way as adults

Reflection Question:

Consider the HOW in your friendships. Are there places where they’re sticky, new, or awkward? Can you name it, and then work through it? What discomforts can you lean into to keep these friendships intact?

Notable Quotes from Ivana:

“I just recently shared a WhatsApp conversation about setting up this call, finally, because the last one had been six months ago. My friends said, ‘Guys, it’s almost Christmas again. It’s about time!’ And the first one said, ‘Yeah, but I have to arrange it with my husband because I have a small child.’ The other one has two kids by now. The third one is a little bit more flexible. And I was just like, ‘Oh my God, when your kids are asleep, I am + 5 hours in a different time zone. It will be 1 a.m. in the morning. I can’t make that, guys. I really can’t make that.’ And then one of them said, ‘You know what? I think to arrange this call, we all have to get out of our comfort zone a little bit.’”

“I just want to take away this fear. There is a possibility to create meaningful connections. And it works. I wouldn’t have been on this podcast. I wouldn’t be on many other shows, I will be in the future. And I wouldn’t have met my coworking buddy, who has become a friend now – we have been working together for over a year online. I wouldn’t have been open back then to that because I would have been afraid that somebody is gonna sell me something or say something that I don’t agree with. If I would have been afraid of that, I wouldn’t have met this person. And it would have been such a big loss in my life.” 

Resources & Links
Check out Ivana’s podcast, Fabulous by Design, which I recently was a guest on.

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Getting Uncomfortable in Friendship

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Until next time…

Take the conversation beyond the new podcast on friendship! Follow Alex on Instagram (@itsalexalexander) or Tiktok (@itsalexalexander), or send her a voice message directly with all your friendship thoughts, problems, and triumphs by heading to AlexAlex.chat and hitting record. 

Episode Transcript

Podcast Intro/Outro  00:02

Alrighty, gang. Here’s to nights that turn into mornings and friends that turn in family. Cheers!

Podcast Intro/Outro   00:18

Hello, Hello, and welcome to the Friendship IRL podcast. I’m your host, Alex Alexander. My friends… They would tell you; I like to ask the hard questions. You know who I am in the group? I’m the person that’s saying, “Okay, I’m going to ask this question, but don’t feel like you have to answer it.” And now, I can be that friend for you, too. 

Alex Alexander [Narration]  00:50

Today’s episode is one that took me by surprise in the best way possible. I thought that I was getting on here to chat with Ivana about what it was like to be an online entrepreneur and make connections online. And we do talk about virtual connection in this episode. But this episode is so much deeper than I anticipated in the best way possible. Today’s episode, we really get into this idea of the ways we’re connecting with our friends, the how. Like, how are we spending time together? How are we connecting? And when those are disrupted for one reason or another, finding new how, like new ways can be the reason our friendships suffer. Because I don’t care if you’ve been friends with someone for 40 years, and you lived in the same city. And you did all sorts of things together, if suddenly one of you moves across the world and you have just scheduled zoom calls, because that’s the new way you stay connected. That’s how you’re going to maintain this friendship, figuring out how to sit on a zoom call with somebody that you’re used to sitting on a couch with because it feels awkward. And this is not the normal level of intimacy you feel like having, and you have to schedule it, normally you can drop in. That’s all new and awkward to navigate. It’s uncomfortable. So a lot of people won’t do it. And that is impacting your friendships. And then I mentioned we talked about virtual connections on here. We talked about how similar putting yourself out there is in virtual connections. And it’s kind of awkward to build up that muscle and do that thing. But once you figure out how to do it, you’ll realize the opportunities that are out there. There’s no way I’m going to summarize this episode in this intro, so we should just get to it. I want to thank Ivana from the bottom of my heart. There’s a lot of vulnerable shares in this episode about feelings that I think a lot of people listening are gonna identify with frustrations where you think I am so close to this friend, I don’t understand why it’s so hard for us to connect. So with that, let’s get to today’s episode. 

Alex Alexander  03:22

Ivana, here we are again. This has been a short turnaround, we recorded already. We’ve chatted to plan the episodes already. Feel like we should just keep hanging out. We keep meeting here. It’s so nice to have you.

Ivana Ivanak  03:41

Thank you so much for having me.

Alex Alexander  03:43

Do you want to say hi and tell us a little bit about what brought you here? 

Ivana Ivanak  03:48

Absolutely. I will do that. So hello everybody listening. My name is Ivana Ivanak. Some of the people call me Ivy, that is my nickname for my childhood. So you may call me as you wish. And to give you a quick impression about myself and what has brought me here, so I am a mindset and coach for online businesses. I am working and operating my business absolutely and totally running it online. Meaning that I am meeting my people, my clients, my future clients, my collaborators, my co-working partners online, which allowed me to also be on a vacation right now in Thailand. So greetings from there guys. We are currently in Ao Nang, just checked in in our new apartment for the next three months. And we will be working and enjoying ourselves from here. And what has got me here in first place to have… to share this lovely conversation Alex was that in 2018, I finally followed my calling, my biggest desire to live by the sea. So I used to live, or maybe still officially live in Europe. I’m from Austria. But I had this big dream to live by the sea. So 2018, I started taking action and moved to Greece. And I lived. And it was the first time in my life that I realized that maintaining relationships at home turned out to be slightly more tricky and difficult than I thought. And I realized that making new friendships as an adult was tricky, too. That was not like in school that lets you decide quickly, “Hey, are we friends? Let’s go and play.” And 2021, I transition from their health and sport industry into mindset and business coaching, fully online. And this has opened up completely new ways on how to look on new relationships, collaborations that turned out being friendships, and clients that became friends, which I wasn’t able to imagine before, especially because society always kept on tapping in, checking in and telling me online is not real. And this is how I got into the real conversation with Alex, although it was online and we are meeting oversee. 

Alex Alexander  06:30

Over camera already for the third time now. 

Ivana Ivanak  06:33

So, it is possible.

Alex Alexander  06:35

It is possible. That is such a good line, online isn’t real. Because I think that so many people feel that way. You know, it’s like, online is lesser than or not the same. But really, I think it’s just different. The way you plan your interactions, the way you are interacting is just different. When you set out in 2018 at first, were you more focused on meeting new friends in Greece, or were you more focused on maybe like maintaining these old friendships? Feel like people kind of lean one way or the other when they set off on these journeys?

Ivana Ivanak  07:18

Looking back at a time, that’s a longer question. I think none of them because I was busy surviving. It was very, very tricky to, you know, leave your hometown and to settle somewhere else. Especially because I knew I was taking… I had a short transition time where I went to corporate end of tourism. So in that company, I was working, there was a team, it was full of experts, people from abroad. And this has helped me to immediately make some connections. And I was… basically I was put into that space of, here are the people you can engage with. I did. And this has also kept me from making other friendships. So in the end, when I left the company, which was very quick because I realized, okay, this is not the life I want to live and I have to go back to what I was doing. And I am brave enough to start a company from abroad. I was alone because the people stayed in that company. And I realized that also none of them, like not 100% all of them provide people. The time was passing and the impression was that I settled in, but I was lonely. And this made me realize that it’s not about, you know, I shouldn’t be waiting till people come knock on my door and be like, Ivana, do you wanna go out? Ivana are you up for dinner? Who are you Ivana? But it was up to me to go out and give people a chance to meet me. But I wasn’t because I was working on my business. So the first part was focusing on… and to maintain my friendships or relationships at home are even trickier. Because back then, they already didn’t have much time for a lot of interactions, right? Sometimes have little kids, or have babies by then, right? And yeah, it just had completely different lives. They were just, you know, lives were growing apart. But our love, our hearts were growing together. It didn’t allow much time even in the same city. So now even with one one-hour time difference in Greece and now it’s five hours time difference, it turned out to be so difficult to just talk continuously on a call. We ended up having quite some sad conversation sometimes about, oh my God, how could this even happen that we still love each other so deeply and yet are not taking care of each other? Which was not true, because it was a time… have been so busy with our own lives.

Alex Alexander [Narration]  10:10

That seems to be a theme. In the episodes, I’m dealing with people who have picked up and moved somewhere else. If you go back and listen to episode 33 with Nkem, you will find the same theme. Which is Ivana just said, you know that you can’t just depend on your neighbors, like your friends coming and knocking on your door and saying,”Let’s go and get ice cream or go on a walk or do whatever.” And I think that this is something we are all experiencing. But when you pick up and move your life abroad, it just accelerates the realization. That’s my working theory on this. Because I think everyone realizes at a certain point, that their adult friendships are not the same as their friendships when they were younger. Let me tell you a quick story. After I graduated college, I stayed in my college town for one year. Michael finished grad school. And at the end of that year, we knew we wanted to move to Seattle. I remember being heartbroken because all of our friends, for the most part, were in our college town about four hours away. We packed up our U-Haul, and we drove across the state, we’d have people come and stay with us that first year. And our friend, Caitlin came. And she was like, “You know, I don’t want to be in our college town anymore, Spokane, Washington, I want to move here. Like I can get a job as a nurse here.” So she came back and she applied, she got a job and she moved across the state. When we’re younger, our friendships are such a big part of our lives. And that’s really encouraged by society. But the older we get, not only does society start to push us towards other priorities, success in our career, romantic partnership, having a family, health pursuits, bucket list items, whatever it is. But we also have more factors in our lives. Or in our young 20s, life’s pretty simple. You either go to class, or you go to work. You do the few things that you’re responsible for, like paying your bills, and then you hang out with your friends. And now, the older we get, the more layers there are. People have not only spouses, but probably kids, maybe caring for elderly, their job, adult responsibilities. Like, I don’t know, coming up with the will are going to meet with your financial planner, not to mention all the interests and things that you want to pursue. It’s just a lot of layers. And all I’m trying to say here is I think that everyone hits this realization. At some point, that friendships are different, you have to approach them differently, you have to be proactive. But for people that pick up and move as an adult, once you are out of that stage of just your friends being everything, it shines a light on the fact that it’s different. Like I said, go listen to episode 33, you’ll hear this exact same theme. 

Alex Alexander  13:41

I love that you just said that and put that out there great. Because that’s like a really honest feeling that a lot of people have had and don’t ever say out loud, right? We’re not really supposed to talk about that with our friends. We’re just supposed to say that part about like, we love each other. We care about each other. Our hearts are connected. We’re not supposed to say, “But I don’t feel that way.” So many people leave that part out. And funny enough, that’s actually what led me to this work and like wanting to invest so much energy, is I had a bunch of friends that moved away and life paths were diverging. And I was like, but I want to figure out what’s keeping us together. What is connecting us, like how are we connected? How do we keep some form of connection? It’s going to be different, but how do we keep it because that matters to me. But I think I’m like the rare person who is so obsessed with it. I think most people are like you and just say, “I feel connected but I don’t understand what to do about it.” And I think so much of that comes from… like we’re so focused on, one, that we are connected. Two, that we know all these things about each other, like we have all this emotional intimacy. But when the ways that we spend time together change, we don’t know what to do, we’re so lost. And that’s so much about what this podcast is about, like you just hit on the actual core.

Ivana Ivanak  15:27

And you are right, Alex. That’s so… you know, also meeting you made me think about these relationships. It really made me think. And I wish I can really say that openly that I wish I would have met you earlier. Because it was, as you say, we were focusing or I was focusing on the fact that we are connected, we are like… thinking about my best friends in Ghana, we know each other since more than 20 years, and you take it for granted. And even though in the end, it was so easy to be like, “Oh, no, let’s move the coffee to next week, I’m tired, you know, I’ve been working.” A lot was going on that it was easy. But being abroad, then you see the connection we had, never established or mentioned a single word about a new relationship they have, and they expect the same outcome. And I think this leads to disappointment, which I experienced. And luckily, I was able to put it straight for myself and for my friends. But it was a wake up call.

Alex Alexander  16:35

And you have all this disappointment, which doesn’t match your beliefs about the friendship. Like you believe like I care about them. They’re my closest people, they’re always here for me, all these things. And then you start questioning. You’re like, well, but this doesn’t really feel like that anymore. And that disparity ruins so many friendships. A lot of people can’t move through that. And then you add to that, that you are probably in a new… you were in a new place. You were in Greece, but you’re meeting all these new people. And then you’re comparing those friendships to the 20 years of history you have with people in Vienna, and you’re thinking I can never recreate that. Maybe not never, but like recruiting that feels so overwhelming that why would I invest my energy into these new relationships, it’s going to take me so long to get there. Like we don’t see the value. Before they get to that, you know, really, we’ve known each other for 20 years. They think that would make sense why you’re lonely because your expectations of what you thought this was gonna feel like aren’t being met. And then you’re just sitting there thinking, why don’t I do for myself probably.

Ivana Ivanak  18:00

Yes, absolutely. I agree with that, too. It was not just having difficulties connecting with other people deeply because you want to stay truthful, you want to stay truthful to your friends, because it might have been 20 years and it’s not that we like, you know, grew apart and we are not friends anymore. We are. And we’re gonna have a call in two weeks all four together. It’s also like a feeling of guilt to… a feeling of guilt in terms of maybe you know, if I allow a new friendship in my life, if I allow a new connection, I don’t know how I’m gonna do it yet. Right? But if… right, this is our brain, creating stories that are just so wrong, but what if I find a new best friend? Am I not being truthful to my current best friend? Because if you are not used to making new relationships, new friendships like I was, because of course, we had encounters all the time, right? But this really deep relationship I had only with those three people in my life, maybe a fourth one, but that was it. Then you just feel, you know, it feels wrong, to open up to somebody else. Because is it a friendship and how deep can they go into conversations? Because as an adult, you have different conversations than children. So I am a person, I don’t like superficial stuff. So if I like someone, if I connect with someone, I dive right into that deep, great, you know, things that move us and that felt wrong too because I was experiencing myself for the first time in a situation like this. I’m like, oh my god, I’m just spitting my heart to a stranger. And then comes the you know, the little devil sitting on the other shoulder saying like, come on. You can’t do that. You have friends in Vienna. Watch out. And this has been a hell of a confusing journey for me. There, what helped me a lot was actually speaking to my friends and speaking… that we don’t have time and it’s okay. Times will change, we still love each other, we might even find a way to deal with that better. But it took so long. And it has been confusing and partly extremely painful to go through this.

Alex Alexander [Narration]  20:26

When we’re kids, we just meet someone somewhere, we continue to spend time with them, we learn more about them. And over time, they become our friend. I think quite often as adults, we forget that. And when we’ve had the opportunity to build up these friendships that have 5, 10, 15, 20, 40, 50 years of history, those are rich friendships. And they’re beautiful. I totally agree with that. But I think quite often, we hold them as the gold standard. And if you haven’t been continually meeting new people and connecting, you kind of forget the beauty that is new friendships as an adult. Yes, it’s a little awkward, it’s new. But that’s the joy of it. It opens you up to new people, new ways of thinking, new interests and activities. Maybe there’s a part of you that you’re like having a hard time admitting you want to lean into, and then you meet someone. That’s all uncomfortable, because it’s going to probably encourage you to lean in and change too. All I’m trying to say here is that, as adults, it can be so easy to compare new friendships to our old friendships, to our established friendships, to our present and historic friendships, if you use my wheel of connection, don’t do that. Don’t do that. You can’t compare. They’re different. And there’s beauty in both. And we need to lean into that. 

Alex Alexander  22:02

It’s a whole unraveling. And I mean, what you’re saying, right? It’s like, am I doing a disservice to these other friendships? I mean, you’re just… you’re… like, you were saying, you’d like to have the authentic real conversations Ivana, like, so many people are going to listen to this and think about how they’ve had similar thoughts. We’re just not talking about it. This is so common. And I know it’s common, because when I tell people I talk about this, they start sharing these real deep thoughts, but most people aren’t. So then we just feel like we’re alone. And you look out in the world and see people’s social media, or what you see on TV, and you’re comparing yourself and thinking, I don’t understand why I can’t do that. All of this, obviously, also happening while you have moved, you’re in a new place, everything’s new, you know, you’re following your heart to be by the sea. So, that part feels good. You’re building your business, that part feels good, and takes a lot of energy. And then in the background, it’s like this nagging feeling that just kind of you can’t quite move past. And I think that’s a feeling that so many people are gonna identify with. Do you feel like that went on for a short period of time? That went on for years? That’s still going on?

Ivana Ivanak  23:30

I would say it’s still going on. But in the beginning, especially the first one or two years, it has been so intense that I felt like, you know, it’s dragging me back to the place where I come from, just to settle that. And the very moments where I thought I’m gonna give up on this entire dream, I’m just building it included, literally, my biggest desire living by the sea, my business that I was building, and I wouldn’t… I don’t know if I would have continued with another transition back to another country. And also my relationship, my boyfriend was there. So it has been a lot to give up for that. But it was dragging me back. It felt like that. But I think through conversations with my friends, eventually you just settle. And I think most of the things is… what happens is not such people I did not interact with because I couldn’t be… it was just simply so weird as well that I used to meet my friends for a coffee, for a walk. And suddenly only calls, we don’t see our faces anymore. And eventually we sit in front of zoom and it feels just weird. It feels so weird. And although I was by the time used to making connections online, it was still weird with my friends. But now the more we talk about, the more I realize that it’s just part of life, and I wouldn’t be a good friend if I would go back to my hometown, just to be with them. And to put it straight, or just to put it the way it was before, right? I wouldn’t be a happy person. And I think my friends or I know, my friends want me to be happy, and I want them to be happy. And I want us to be happy together. And this requires me living abroad. So I think they settled with the fact that it’s the way it is. I settled with the fact that’s the way it is. But I think we’re still in the process of having those conversations. And I think I will have even more, especially after this conversation with you now, it’s time to find a different way, like, we cannot be stuck forever in our weird feelings, because it is something challenging at times and it’s holding you back. Whatever you look at, it’s holding you back. And I think we all deserve this, you know, feeling of little freedom, and we can create this freedom ourselves. And if it only takes a conversation, I think I’m ready to give that.

Alex Alexander  26:04

So I was gonna save this for the narration, but I’m just going to tell it to you, because maybe it’ll help you with your conversation with your friends. This is such a fantastic example of my… my whole roots framework, right? You guys have what I call really strong story beliefs. So you have beliefs about your friendship and expectations. Like you care about each other, you show up for each other, you know a lot about each other. You have really strong emotional intimacy roots, where you know your history together, you know small details about each other. And those have definitely shifted, because life has shifted. So, they can’t all be the same. Like what your favorite ice cream was in high school, is probably not your favorite ice cream now. So like certain things have shifted. But the biggest thing is what I call your shared experience roots, which is the way that you spend time together, the ways that you connect are all different. Because when you lived in Vienna, you could just go grab a coffee. Right now, you can’t do that. The ways that you spend time together, are no longer comfortable. So although they’re your closest friends, it’s not comfortable to be on Zoom. And it’s not because anything’s bad with your friendship, it’s because you weren’t comfortable meeting up for coffee, or maybe going for walks or getting dinner. This is just new and different. And we never talk about that. So then people get on these zooms, and they’re uncomfortable. And they think that it’s because something’s wrong with their friendships. When in reality, it’s just that it’s a new way to connect. This is similar to if you decided to like propose a yearly trip, or you all met up, proposing that is uncomfortable. Figuring out the details the first time is uncomfortable. You’re like, Okay, well, how far are you willing to fly? How much are you willing to spend? How long? These are all questions, we have to ask that we might get answers that don’t quite align with ours. And we have to like negotiate everything. But once you do it for one or two years, that would become comfortable. That’s a new way to spend time together. So we just, this is all to say… so often, what is actually I think impacting our friendships is that the ways we spend time together, or the things we connect about. So this could also be if you get on these zooms, and you used to talk about your businesses all the time, and one of your friends, maybe has put a pause on their business because they’re a new mom. And that friend might feel uncomfortable because they maybe don’t have as much to contribute and nobody really understands what it looks like for them to be the first mom in the group. And that’s uncomfortable. But it’s not the friendship. It’s like these super basic things. And people don’t see that. And then they’re really frustrated about the friendship. But like, those beliefs are still there. We just have to, instead of leaning on the beliefs, like focus on the how and the what.

Ivana Ivanak  29:37

I think it feels quite in line with acceptance as well, right? Because it is hard. It’s probably hard to accept from my friends that I left. And it was had to accept for me to say, I left and I’m happy about it. You know, like this… disagreement within. And what you just heard about this yearly trip together and ask thisuncomfortable questions, just recently shared a WhatsApp conversation about setting up this call finally, because the last one has been six months… like guys, it’s almost Christmas again, it’s about time. And the first one said, “Yeah, but I have to arrange with my husband, because they have a small child.” The other one has two kids by now, the third one is a little bit more flexible. And I was just like, oh my God, when your kids are asleep, I am plus five hours in a different time zone, it will be 1 am in the morning, like I can’t make that guys, I really… I can’t do that. And then one of them said, “You know what, I think to arrange this call, we all have to get out of our comfort zone a little bit. And I was like, oh my god, I’m getting goosebumps right now that we all have to. If this requires for me to be tired every now and then, if this requires a husband to sit one hour longer with a child and my friend insisting on it, so we made it. And it’s really moved me to see like… and literally I wanted to bring this into this conversation, because it has happened for the first time like this, that we are consciously unconsciously realizing that things need to change for our own comfort.

Alex Alexander  31:26

That’s such a beautiful example. Because it’s showing that like everybody gets to buy in to give a little bit outside their comfort zone to show that this is worth doing. It doesn’t just have to be, let’s say, you giving everything up. I think that’s such a great, actually like a phrase for people to use when they listen to this. If they’re struggling to say we all need to get a bit outside our comfort zone, so what can we all give up to make this happen? I love that. That’s so helpful for people. And now you’ve done it , you’ve set up the first call?

Ivana Ivanak  32:10

Yes. It’s been the second since we started calling. Yes. And we’ve done it, it’s gonna be Sunday 25th. It’s gonna be amazing. 

Alex Alexander  32:19

Well, and you’ll appreciate it because you’ve put in the work to make it happen. So you’re like, there’s anticipation, you’re excited. You’re gonna look forward to it. Like, it’s not always that, you know, these life shifts have like, created a little scarcity in your friendship. But sometimes I think that makes us all appreciate the time we do have a little bit more. Because things are so different.

Ivana Ivanak  32:44

Yes. And the excitement is on because Ivana has paid zoom, and we can call forever without interruption. And it’s also a big highlight, you know, like oh God, yes. We have pid Zoom. And we can do that. So we are extremely excited about it. But it just hasn’t happened earlier because one of them needed to take over to lead us into the direction and be like it’s about time to point it out. Which I’m sure it’s also not always comfortable to do. Because no one wants to be annoying in first place to others. No one wants to be, you know, the person telling what they have to do, right? Why isn’t everybody coming in at the same time? So I think we are dealing a lot… with a lot of discomfort there. But we are adults now, we know each other for so long. I think it’s worth the entire trip we are making together.

Alex Alexander  33:38

Yeah. Yeah. I mean, so many people think that friendship should always be comfortable. And this is such a beautiful example that if we just only stay in that comfortable zone, we’re probably gonna lose our friendships. Like so much of friendship is not comfortable. Because we have to navigate all these new challenges as life changes.

Ivana Ivanak  34:03

That’s powerful. I liked what you just said. Because yes, life is changing. And I think the moment we start getting older and establishing our own lives outside of school, outside of the comfort zone living with our family, then life starts going quick. And it goes quick. It changes, it moves. There’s lots of things happening like who would have thought that some of us would be married? Like three of them? Yeah, except for me I’m married, already two of them have children. Like back then, we couldn’t imagine. And I think it takes quite acceptance that wives are not anymore what they used to be and everybody wants to adjust a little bit to that.

Alex Alexander  34:47

Yeah, I say this thing all the time, which is that you know, when we were younger when we were in school, and we made these best friends, closest friends, dearest friends, like our oldest friends, we were very simple people. Our worldview was very small. You know, you went to school, you went home, you’re in your neighborhood, maybe your family did some nearby travel, you had dreams. But really, you weren’t balancing anywhere near as much as we are as adults. So it was easier to kind of have these all-consuming friendships because we weren’t very complex. Now, as adults, we are so complex, we have so many facets of ourselves. And everybody gets to choose different paths, like you said, so not everyone’s on the same path anymore. People live in different places, right? You’re five hours away. Some people own online businesses, some people work in corporate, and some people are stay-at-home parents. And like, that’s very different. So assuming that somebody can just understand all of us is so like, it’s just… it’s probably gonna set people up for disappointment.

Ivana Ivanak  36:14

It’s huge. Yeah. Now, as you’re putting it together, it’s immense. And I think none of us can expect to put this into one picture and understand, right?

Alex Alexander  36:27

Yes, I think when we lay it out like this, we suddenly look at it. And then hopefully, for people, they can see that, you know, maybe all this guilt that you’ve felt about seeking out other people, really, you’re doing your friends at home a favor, because you’re finding the support you need. Like they probably want you have people in these different countries, and who support you and your online business. At the core of it, like they want that, even if it’s not something they can support you in because they love you, and they care about you. And if we can think about that, hopefully, it will release so much of that guilt that people like yourself mentioned earlier, that you’ve been feeling for all this time. Did you intentionally start seeking out online community and friendships or did that just naturally happen because you had to be online for your business?

Ivana Ivanak  37:25

I remember how this first impulse came. It was my former boss reaching out to me, wanting to reconnect after so many years. I have left. And he has sent me his Calendly link. So for everybody who doesn’t know what it is, this is what we business people use, if we want people to have them book into our calendar for calls, appointments, conversations, whatever it is, and it’s an amazing tool, saves a lot of time everybody’s using it. It was new to me. Back then I was like, oh my God, how fancy is he? And what is he up to? At the time, there was no online business on this cream yet. And I also decided to run an online business, I think, unconsciously without really knowing what it means. I just made a commitment to myself not having a clue what I’m gonna be doing. I know I’m gonna be serving people. But the way how to approach the people, how to get to these people, building this community, that was not my… at all. So he reached out to me, I was in Greece, it was quite in the beginning. And we had a talk over Zoom. That was funny. I was like, oh, this is how it goes nowadays. Great. Love it. Eventually I had to go, when I realized that I want to be working online and running my business only online because at that point in Greece at the place I was living, I didn’t have any other opportunities. The community was not big enough, and only consisting, like 90% of tourists, which is difficult to run a business the way I wanted to run it or the area of business. So yeah, I am gonna, you know, I have to do more of that now and which is getting comfortable in front of a camera. And not feeling weird about it. Because I know that meeting somebody new, entirely new in a cafe, it’s weird too for a short momen. That this is the moment when you enter the cafe, knowing the person is somewhere and you start vaguely looking around, you know, looking for the red flower or for the blue scarf. This is a very weird moment. But then it disappears and connecting online has been for me for a reason, much easier than connecting offline. But now, I might have discovered why. It was amazing to answer your question. Because of my business, I started connecting with people growing a network, speaking to people, especially when I was crafting my offer, I was doing a little bit of research, you know, listening to what people need and what they want. And this was all online. And despite the fact that it saves us so much time, because you can just meet so many people in a day all over the world, not just that you’re living in your town, which is huge, right? Even to put this in perspective, right? It’s, o Oh, my God, something really cool. I discovered their online businesses existed already for so many years. But for me, it was a sensation, it was so … And what I felt. And what I only know now is, I feel more comfortable because I seem to be quite a sensitive person, I am absorbing not just the conversation, I have not only the vibe of the person, opposite of me, but the entire cafe, the entire office, the entire surrounding, which is so draining by the end of the day. So I would never be able to have five conversations in a cafe back to back like I’m having them right now. And today, of course, I am tired, because I am, you know, my focus is full on that conversation. But, you know, I feel good after that. It’s okay, I am not drained. Like I used to be when I met a lot of people offline. That was a… I’ve made. And I’m happy I’ve made this because my overall performance just, you know, went up. And I was never, you know, thinking that something like this would be ever possible for me to perform, to deliver in a way that is viewed as just to sit with people, having important appointments on Instagram, right? I think you mentioned it last time, and I was just you know, giggling there. And I said, yeah, that’s our life, because everything is conducted online. So yeah, the moment I was starting on my business, I didn’t know what it means. But today, I’m happy. I didn’t know what it means, because I probably wouldn’t have done it. On the other side, I’m happy. I’m doing it because it protects me, my soul, myself. And it gives me opportunities that are immense opportunities to connect with people, with clients, collaborators, co-working buddies, and all kinds of communities. I am regularly joining sharing conversations where I would have never met these people, if I would have stayed only within the community in the village I was living.

Alex Alexander  43:04

It sounds like once your eyes were kind of open to the possibility of connection online, you started seeking it out. Is that correct? You started like looking for groups or places or intentionally sending your Calendly link or messaging someone on Instagram. Like you’re making an effort to cultivate it once you saw that it was possible. Is that right?

Ivana Ivanak  43:27

Yes, absolutely. And it was exciting. It felt normal, and it felt good.

Alex Alexander  43:33

The reason I’m asking that question, right, is because certain people, some people don’t really think about online connection. Like you go online, and you look maybe at your social media and you like something, but we aren’t very interactive. And then there’s this whole other layer of actually sending messages. And then there’s a layer of setting up a zoom call. And it’s kind of similar to when you’re out in the world. And you might see someone and say… in your office and you’re like, “Oh, good morning.” And you just walk right past them? You know, that’s kind of like me, dropping a nice job comment on somebody’s Instagram for work. And then that’s different than me actually stopping and saying, “Oh, good morning, how was your day?” And truly meaning that and listening? Maybe it’s kind of like an Instagram DM or a quick email. And then there’s, you know, the “Good morning, how are you? You know, I was gonna go walk to the coffee shop down the block and grab a cup of coffee. Do you want to walk with me?” Kind of similar to sending over a Calendly link and actually meeting up for 20-30 minutes. You can initiate this the same way you do in person. And you and I were forced to because we have online businesses, but a lot of people maybe aren’t going to see that there is this route. They’re just not getting further into the action of making it happen. But it definitely exists out there. Have you built a lot of fulfilling connections online? 

Ivana Ivanak  45:21

Oh, hell, yes. One of them is this conversation, right? And that was over a Facebook group, which is so huge. And I have, I was able, in the same group, to also connect with a lot of people for my podcast, and what I did. And because I was short on time, I’ll just tell this story shortly. Because it was crazy how intentional and how onpoint this all was, what I did, all these people I have met in April and May for a podcast recording, I haven’t met all of them. And I think 95% not, I haven’t met them before for a conversation. I put the post in this group, and I’m like, “I’m looking for guests on my podcast. This is what the podcast is about. This is what I’m looking for. Apply here.” I made a little forum I created where I worked in order to know from the people, which I do not connect to well over messages or over written text only. So I found out tha on forum, you can put in a little recording tab so that people can record a message over a minute, I included a question. People recorded it, send it in, and I was sitting there listening to their stories. And I can tell you that with 98% of these people, it was a goal. And then, of course, I was a little bit overly excited to hopping on this conversation. Of course, we have prepared a topic over email quickly. But as I usually like the conversations to flow, there was not much of a preparation, and then you sit with those people. I was so nervous, I’m like, okay, I think this must work out. But itsn’t really gonna work out. And it worked out, up to the point where we were crying together, have goosebumps all over the place. We connected with so deeply with some people that until now, we are having regular conversations, right? And this was just for me a sign that you can create meaningful conversations, if they are meant with intention. And I think what the biggest fear is that it’s going on social media, not just Instagram, any other platform is if people reach out and ask for a virtual coffee for a networking call for maybe a possible future collaboration, you never know that people shy off of them. Even if there are… because there are things going on in the Internet nowadays. Like if you go about cold messaging, which is not… in my opinion, it’s very wrong or right to do it. I think everybody has their strategies. But people get insecure, get annoyed with being messaged without asking, right? Therefore, if somebody with a different intention reaches out to them, it’s a no, or it’s not gonna respond to that, which is a natural thing to do. But I just want to make the connection to the real offline world that we can always say no to someone, we don’t have to meet someone over a virtual coffee if, you know, if it doesn’t sit well with you, doesn’t feel well, I don’t have time, whatever it is. We can say no during the call, just as you can walk off in a cafe if your first date is total crap, you’re not gonna sit there the entire night. But you will eventually say that you have a headache and you will move on, right? And I think online it’s even easier if you really have to go. And this has never happened to me before. That you really just press the red button and you’re gone. So I just want to take away this fear of there is a possibility to create meaningful connections. And it works and I wouldn’t have been on this podcast, I wouldn’t be on many other shows I will be in the future. I wouldn’t have met my best co-working buddy who became a friend now. We are working now together over a year online. I wouldn’t be open back then to that because I would have been afraid that somebody, you know, is gonna sell me something or say something that I don’t agree with. If I would have been afraid of that, I wouldn’t have met this person, and it would have been such a big loss in my life. 

Alex Alexander  50:05

Yeah, we’re very lucky to have the online option, because it really has expanded the possibilities for, like the types of people, the interests, the shared experiences, right, that we can connect with. If we didn’t have that, who knows, let’s say you had… somebody has some super specialized career path, and there’s not a ton of people. Like online means you can find those people and connect with them. We’ve just… we have so many possibilities out there because the internet exists. And I love that you and I are both comparing this to like in person interactions. I haven’t really thought about it that way until this conversation. But I do think there’s so much overlap, and like taking the initiative to make those connections. And I would say a lot of people also are taking initiative in person. So it’s not necessarily that it’s online. It’s just that we need to make it more of a habit to actually initiate connection anywhere, online or in person for a lot of people.

Ivana Ivanak  51:20

Yes. I just had a thought, because now I’m speaking so, you know, so overly excited about the online world, which is a big part of my girls. And I’m happy that I discovered that. And it is quite interesting that before I said, speaking with my friends online, is weird. And just came to my mind this as well, that one does not exclude the other. Like, in the case of my friends, it was weird, because it was new. Just as you know, having the first conversation online was weird, because I used to go out for coffees, right? So I think it needs to be put in a perspective of, okay, how we… what do we expect of this conversation? How are we going to do it? And this needs to be clear from the beginning. And I even can tell you, I’ve been having a client now for two years, and she’s from Vietnam. And they’ve always been saying, if I come for a home visit, we’re gonna have coffee. And it was that good that we didn’t have the coffee because it was so late. So we had wine and we had loads of wine. It was a great evening and amazing night, we connected even deeper. And so it was an online offline thing. Yet, saying hello, for the first time, standing on the street has been… and I can say I’m quite a confident person. But this was awkward, like to overcome this moment of  I’m gonna hug you I’m gonna give you a hand. Because we of course, you don’t speak about that prior to the meeting. So… and this was funny, too. And I think this is just something now if you laid it out like this, this is just something really funny between human connections. Am I right, Alex? Do you agree with that?

Alex Alexander  53:16

Yeah. Yeah. I mean, what you’re saying, right? As you feel, you know, this person really well, you’ve talked to them for a long time, you’ve built up all this. But yet, the how of meeting them in person, for the first time is uncomfortable, uncertain. You’ve built up all this connection, together these beliefs, the facts you know about each other. But you’ve never you don’t know if they want to be hugged or not. And that seems like such a small thing. But it can be a barrier for people. Right? That could be the reason they maybe don’t initiate hanging out in person is because they don’t know how the other person wants to interact. And that doesn’t align with how close they feel to them. So they’d rather just not do it. Because it might not disrupt their friendship. 

Ivana Ivanak  54:10

All the other way around that people never reach out online, because they’re gonna look in my living room, right? Or how do I look in front of a camera? It’s all new spaces here discovering.

Alex Alexander  54:24

Yeah, I mean, if I had to summarize this episode, it’s kind of like the… sometimes I think we’re so focused on the big actions or themes or feelings we have about our friendships. But like these little things, could be what’s holding you back and costing you either like further connection with people you really care about or potential connections. The only way to get over that is to do it. Like the only way out is through. That phrase, I think that’s the phrase.

Ivana Ivanak  54:57

The only way out is through.

Alex Alexander  55:00

The only way out is through. Yeah. Like, even if it’s slow, even if it’s awkward, even if it’s uncomfortable, you don’t have to ever do it again. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to do it again, you don’t have to go through again. But like, the only way to know is to go through.

Ivana Ivanak  55:17

Yes. And also in one way to just prove yourself, you’re gonna live. It’s not the end of the world. And I think this is mainly what it’s also of humankind, I believe that we are trying to avoid discomfort for every price. Even if it’s the smallest thing cloud, like, it’s not like… we don’t like that. It’s human to do so. But I can tell from my experience, it’s worth a try. Can be the smallest thing, as you say, that might sometimes open up spaces, ways for you that you wouldn’t have imagined exist.

Alex Alexander  55:59

Yeah. Ivana, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart. This was such a great conversation. And you really showed up with so much vulnerability today to talk about things that people I know are out there experiencing that are just too afraid to say out loud. But if we can all say it out loud, it makes it easier to have conversations with the people we care about and say, you know what? This is just weird. But if we do it, it’s not going to be weird anymore. It’s not going to feel uncomfortable. So I just want to thank you for being here, and for participating in this conversation.

Ivana Ivanak  56:36

Thank you so much for having me. It has been a pleasure talking about this topic. It was the first time doing it in public so openly. And it didn’t feel weird at all. But with that said, let’s just be friends. And let’s be a bit weird together every now and then. Thank you, Alex.

Alex Alexander  56:55

Let’s be weird together. I’m here for that. Thanks for tuning into today’s episode. This one really has me thinking. It has me thinking about the places in my friendships, where I’m telling myself stories where I’m saying I’m a bad friend, or I’m doing this or I’m doing that, when in reality that how is just sticky. Or it’s not right, or it’s new, and it’s awkward. And if I can put my focus on the actions, instead of on me being a bad person, maybe I’m more likely to pursue them. Maybe I can move through them. So I would suggest to you maybe consider the how in your friendships. Are there places where they’re sticky or new or awkward? Can you just say it, name it and then work to move through it instead of blaming yourself? None of us like change. Change is awkward. It’s different. We have innate survival mechanisms that tell us to stay in our comfort zone. So just accept all that and move through. Now, I have truly enjoyed getting to know Ivana online. We stay in touch. We chat all the time. And I actually chatted with her on her podcast. It’s called the Fabulous by Design podcast. And we’ll link the episode in the show notes. She’s got some short little episodes, it’s not too long of a listen. But if you want to go listen to me over there, I’ll tell you that her prompt for me was what do people misunderstand the most about you? And I got very vulnerable and honest on her podcast. So if you have any interest in that, go check it out. With that, I’ll see you next week.



You’ll get the full scoop on everything we’ve been up to in the last seven days – podcast episodes, blog posts, and updates, plus an exclusive note from Alex every week with her latest, unedited thoughts. 

Podcast Intro/Outro [58:57]

Thank you for listening to this episode of Friendship IRL. I am so honored to have these conversations with you. But don’t let the chat die here. Send me a voice message. I created a special website just to chat with you. You can find it at alexalex.chat. You can also find me on Instagram. My handle, @itsalexalexander. Or go ahead and leave a review wherever you prefer to listen to podcasts. Now if you want to take this conversation a step further, send this episode to a friend. Tell them you found it interesting. And use what we just talked about as a conversation starter the next time you and your friend hang out. No need for a teary Goodbye. I’ll be back with a new episode next week.

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Hi! I'm Alex.

I am just a person who has spent an extraordinary amount of time trying to understand some of the relationships that I hold most dear. I invite you to join in on the conversation below in the comments section below.

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Hi. I'm Alex.

I'm just a gal who cares deeply about community + friendship. Why? Well, I didn't have a healthy support system growing up.

So I built one... out of friends. I believe a healthy support system is the ultimate self-care.

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