Need some really good advice? Look no further than Dear Life Kit. In each episode, we pose one of your most pressing questions to an expert. This question was answered by former first lady Michelle Obama, author of the new memoir, The Light We Carry: Overcoming in Uncertain Times. This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

Dear Life Kit,

After being retired for seven years, I'm feeling lost. I have no sense of where I want to go or how to get there. COVID has added to the isolation and distance. I want to volunteer to help but also want to meet new people and I don't know where to start. —Asking for direction

That is a good question. A lot of people these days are feeling isolated and disconnected. My recommendation is start small and be brave enough to step outside of your comfort zone.

Making new friends is interestingly one of the hardest things that we ask ourselves to do — and a lot of people don't like the feeling of rejection. But the only way to make new friends is to get out of your house, find activities, organizations, things that you care about. Start with your passion. I don't care if it's knitting — something I took up over quarantine — or whether it's exercising or being involved in a religious community.

You've got to do the homework. And it starts with looking inside to figure out: What do you care about? What do you want to learn? What do you want to do? Then you've got to sign up. Put yourself out there, engage in the world, walk up to someone new, say hello, invite someone to lunch. It's small things.

In this era of social media, we have gotten out of the habit of making real-life friends. It is uncomfortable, but it's the only way you're going to do it. And trust me, you will feel better having a community around you. So take a risk.

Have a question for Dear Life Kit? Share it anonymously here.

Dear Life Kit is hosted by Andee Tagle and produced by Beck Harlan and Sylvie Dougliswith help from our intern Jamal Michel. Bronson Arcuri is the managing producer and Meghan Keane is the supervising editor. Alicia Zheng produces the Dear Life Kit video series for Instagram.

Love Dear Life Kit? You can catch us on NPR's Instagram in a weekly reel.

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