I got a Christmas card in the mail today, along with a bill for my new car. Where there's sunshine, rain is always close behind.
It got me thinking about my friends back home, and how no matter how much I travel I can't seem to shake the unsinkable feeling that I may never make another friend. Like, how do you get to know people today...Tinder? Bars? Meet-ups? I don't know. It all seems uncomfortable and forced. Like trying to shove a square peg in to a round hole.
When you're in school, you make friends because of proximity. Closeness comes with shared experiences. When you're in college, you meet people in class or at the bar, you find common ground because of a mutual life struggle. You bond over the fact that you have no money, or because you both have to take some dumb ass class you don't care about. You make friends because they've been around since high school. You keep friends because well, you don't know anybody else.
After those shared experiences end, and you're on your own...you come to realize that you have no idea how to actually make friends.
I was stumbling through a bar for hip, young, filing cabinet professionals last week. Putting on my most adult looking outfit, trying to be all expensive and out of touch, I tried to make friends. I mean...I was actually trying.
The dark bar was the perfect place to make friends, because people can't see you all that well. When drinks flow, there's nothing stopping you from being your maximum personality. Whether that leads you to a state of drunken delight or cold indifference is up to whatever part of your brain is turned on by the liquor.
Wading through the fake laughs and forced smiles of people who aren't drunk enough to function normally can be an exhausting feat.
Like a tightrope walker, you tiptoe around the crazier parts of your personality, trying to put your best foot forward. "Oh I've never had a substance abuse problem. I've never broken anyone's heart. I've never destroyed myself. I am not my job, but it's all that I have. No, you can't have my phone number or my information, but you can take a business card, so I can promote myself."
It's a careful process, involving a lot of niceties and small talk.
And if you're successful enough at this dangerous first time interaction game, then you might just walk out with a friend.
I have no idea how to talk to people.
If you're having this much of a crisis, whether it's talking to someone for the first time or for the millionth time, you might just be as maladjusted as I am.
I was so bored of listening that my mind started to drift. I moved around a lot as a kid. Constantly reinventing myself for different states and schools. Little kids love telling lies, and so do adults. It's fun. It's verbal fiction. You can make yourself as exciting or strange as you want. And most of the time, when you're dealing with single serving friends on airplanes, or in bars, that's just fine.
You'll never see them again, so you'll never have to answer for what you say.
Advocating for liars is like playing the devil's advocate, but everyone knows how much I love doing that...so there. Before you call me a righteous old hypocrite, check yourself. Everyone lies, and everyone tries to make themselves cool, aloof, interesting or put-together in order to impress others, and ultimately make friends. Right?
We want to be seen as the tip top versions of ourselves at all times, because well...that's how we get ahead. That's how we get popular. And that's how we fill our "human interaction" quotas for our days.
What is way more risky, is actually telling the truth, which, at least for me, is way crazier than any fiction I could spin.
I think when we start to let the demons out of our heads, we enter into this bizarre state where we stop caring about what people think of us, and we search for that pure, human connection that is often read about but is never real.
But that's harder to get to than anything else in the world, because of the fear, the fear of appearing to be the whacked out weird-o that you know you are. You're not put together in the slightest. You have no idea what you're doing and you have no idea where you're going, but you're trying. Somehow, you convince yourself that people don't want friends that constantly live in a state of "work in progress".
And you're just alone. Spinning more and more out of control by the second. Stifling every impulse to go out there and be a real human.
Looking out the rearview mirror of my car, I can see all the people that might be behind me forever. All the casual acquaintences that never became full-fledged friends because I was so foolish and so young. So irritated and closed off. So entrenched in the act of destruction that I couldn't have make any room for them. I'm not sure if I missed out on my true love, or a life-long support system. But I'm going to try harder...to not regress into madness. To make more friends. To not be as pessimistic.
I'm not sure what makes any 23 year old in particular special.
I'm not sure what makes any of us worth hanging around, but somehow through our friends we see what others see in us. We see ourselves as energetic, fun, happy, exciting. When we don't have friends...all we know is how we feel about ourselves. Most of the time, we don't feel good at all; but if there is such a quality, some thing about me that is special, I hope I can start to see it myself.