Friends are a very complicated thing to talk about. I like friends, I like having friends and hanging out with them and I really do enjoy conversations. But enjoying something does not mean that you are good at it, or that it comes easily.
Over the years, I have gained and lost many friends. I am very good at making friends and being social as long as there is an activity to do. As long as we have something else in front of us that we can focus on occasionally, I can talk and make friends all day long. That built in distraction takes away most of the social pressure that talking to people creates. Most of my friends have come from this way, we have some activity that we did together, and we keep doing that activity. This doesn’t really create good friendships though, because it simply creates a unilateral relationship (there’s the math reference for the day). Take for example my gaming friends. We get together to play games, we have a really good time and get along well. I have known them for almost 2 years now, and we have never once talked about our jobs, our families, or other things we enjoy outside of games. Our relationship is based only on that one shared activity. And that’s fun and all, but what if I really want to share some exciting news, or what if I want to talk about something that’s bothering me. I can’t do that with those friends because they don’t care.
When talking to most people, I get the feeling of a lead weight tied to me. It holds me down to the Earth and forces me to act in certain ways, it limits the things I can do and the amount of fun that I can have. If the person is new, then there is a much heavier weight attached. The weight tells me that I have to remember to look them in the eyes, to nod my head occasionally, to listen to what they say and ignore everything else, to pay attention to the conversation, and think of things that I can contribute to the conversation. All of that stress takes away most of the positive sides to having a conversation. Suddenly, it is not very fun at all.
Sometimes though, when I meet someone I feel them remove that weight. There are some people I have met that allow me to be free around them, and those are the people I want to spend my time around, those are the people who I try to become friends with. I know that this ‘weight’ is not something caused by them, but rather a skewed perception in my own brain. A construct made by my lack of understanding of social settings and all that which causes me to stress far too much about small things.
I have been told that I am very difficult to be friends with, and I guess I would somewhat agree. I have a strong tendency to back out of plans at the last minute because I suddenly can’t handle the stress of being around people anymore. I have a tendency to ignore text messages (sometimes for days) until I have the mental stamina to reply. I have a penchant for being too honest with people and telling them that they are doing something stupid, because I think they need to know and because I would want to know if I was doing something stupid. I have a strong tendency to get upset at random things that no one else seems to notice. I have a very hard time being around people that I have no respect for, and I have been told that it’s obvious.
But I also can be a good friend at times, hopefully most of the time. I am always willing to help a friend with whatever they need (except money). I am a good listener (I have been told) and good at giving people advice when they ask for it (and even when they don’t ask for it). I will do anything to protect those that I care about deeply. I am very loyal to my friends, and very forgiving if they are rude. I also love to do things for my friends, like giving them food or something I know they will like.
I have a limited amount of energy every day, as I think most people do even if they don’t realize it. I tend to focus that energy on my work, because it is something very important to me and I think it deserves my full focus. After I am done working for the day, I have some energy left and I pour most of that into my hobbies. Then I have to spend energy to do routine things like cleaning and housework and cooking. By the time all of that is done, I am pretty much always spent for the day. I have no energy left to do anything else. So that means that talking to friends or hanging out is out of the question. There’s just not enough fuel in the tank to do that. So I put it off till the next day.
The problem is that the next day, the exact same thing happens again. I have no energy left to make the effort to hang out with people and I forget about them. It’s not that I never think about them, I think about my friends a lot. But it takes more energy than I can muster to start a conversation with them.
So months and months of that kind of thing go by, and pretty much universally, the friend forgets about me too. I have lost most all of my friends that way. Often times, I will reach out to them, and try to plan something in advance. I know that if I can schedule something for a week or two ahead then I can deal with it and be able to hang out and have fun. But, unfortunately most of the time the other person is not up for that. They almost always have ‘other plans’ for that day, or ignore me completely. So I have learned over the years to mostly give up on that sort of thing. I am not very good at planning things with my friends and so I don’t.
I owe most, if not all, of my social success (whatever that means) to my Sunday School Class. I joined because an old friend recommended it to me, I went because the leaders hosted it at their house and gave a free lunch. I am the kind of person who will join any group in order to get free food. I once spent an entire year going to a Mormon bible study in the morning because they had free donuts and kolaches, and I am definitely not Mormon (nothing against them, they are great people, but I love coffee and tattoos). Anyways, I joined this college age Sunday School group and immediately loved it. The people were very nice and welcoming. They were very honest and open, and treated everyone with respect, but still managed to have a lot of fun. Every Sunday they would have the group over for lunch and then a discussion, and then afterwards there was all kinds of activities to do. We would play board games, build random things, go to concerts or festivals, basically normal people stuff I guess. But it was the first time in my life that I had experienced that sort of thing. My friends from high school had never really done that stuff, or at least they didn’t invite me to it.
I loved this group so much. They were honest enough to tell me when I was being stupid, and to call me out when I would get really angry at random things. I appreciate and need that from people. It taught me to be more self-aware of the way that I acted and how it affected others.
I think the main reason I was able to be a part of this group was the regularity of it. I knew that every Sunday I could go over there and hang out with who ever showed up that week. I could skip a few weeks, and no one cared. I could leave whenever I wanted to, and show up late for any reason. There was such a level of trust and familiarity that allowed me the space to be as ‘trapezium’ as I could be. I truly don’t think that I would who I am today if not for that group, they took me in and accepted me and gave me a place to be weird but also a place to learn how to get along with other people. They gave me the chance to observe and participate in things the way everyone else does. I don’t think I could ever thank them enough for that.