As I alluded in yesterday’s post, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking on a variety of levels. Today, I’ll focus on my perspective on friendships.
I’ve always been a pretty social person. You could say it was apparent as early as first grade when my teacher tried every possible (and still legal) tactic to try and stop me from chatting up my fellow classmates. I was placed in a different seat almost every day because she thought who I sat next to mattered to me. It did not. If they had two ears, they were getting talked to. (Side note: there was ONE boy that I didn’t chat as much with. He was weird, picked his nose, and smelled like pee. I was polite to him, but I pretty much lived in fear that the pee running down his leg was going to get on my shoes. And since I was relatively quiet around him, I ended up sitting next to him for about half the year.)
Flash forward to high school and things didn’t change much. I had my best friends, but I generally liked almost everyone. I never had problems finding people to sit with at lunch, or in a class. I didn’t play sports or cheer; I wasn’t particularly good looking or talented; but I wasn’t picked on or made fun of either. I just flocked from group to group, often the 3rd or 5th wheel in social circles. Generally liked but never identifying with a particular clique.
As for college, well, this was when friendships became a disaster for me. Long story short, I isolated myself in many ways. My best friend at the time ended up going away to college with me, and we made the unfortunate mistake of sharing a dorm room together. I don’t care who you are, but if you put two girls as close as sisters in a room the size of a closet, who are learning how to respect personal space at the same time, there will be fights. Everyone told us not to live together. Everyone. But we didn’t listen and by second semester, we all but hated each other and spent an entire summer not really speaking. What few friends we made in the dorms, she ended up keeping. She was always better at making friends anyway. Instead, I turned to guys and ended up in a 3-year long-distance relationship. And so goes the rest of my college years – spent on the phone or online, taking trips to visit the boyfriend, and therefore making zero effort to develop friendships with the people around me. I didn’t play sports or music; I didn’t join a sorority; I didn’t even go to church. I had a couple of friends I could rely on to accompany me to the occasional party or two, but that was it. In short, I hated college.
But that was more than 9 years ago. I still kept a couple of close friends from high school, but I was eager to move on with my life post-college. I broke things off with the boyfriend and by summer 2004, my social life was FULL. As in, I’m-dating-two-guys-and-living-with-two-girls-so-I-party-every-night kind of life. It was awesome. I also lost about 20 lbs and was skinnier and happier than ever. I had my old friends, my new work friends, and friends of friends to hang out with whenever I wanted. It was fun, but also exhausting. Shallow, meaningless, and self-indulgent compared to life now, but that’s probably why it was so fun at the time.
And then I met my now-husband and I fell into my typical pattern of alienating most friends when a new guy was around. I can’t help it. I’ve just always been one of those girls. We still hung out with people, mostly his work friends or my work friends, but we also just liked spending time together. After less than 9 months of dating, we got engaged. Then it was wedding planning time in tandem with house-hunting time and then puppy-adopting time and suddenly, I didn’t have much time for friendships. I could count on two hands the number of friends that were invited to our wedding. Everyone else was family. As we created our new life together, I shed my old one like a snake sheds its skin. “I’ll make new friends,” I said. “Couples friends that we BOTH like. Friends we can go on vacation with and do double-dates with and have game nights with.”
Except, we were only 24 and 26 years old. And in this day and age, that’s a tad young to be getting married. We didn’t know any couples our age and it would be awhile before we met any. Besides, where do you go to meet couples friends? Match.com should get on something like that. Couplesfriends.com or something. Except that sounds like a site for swingers.
To make things even more difficult, my husband traveled about 75% of the time off and on for the first few years of our marriage. When he was home, it was “our time,” which left little availability for hanging out with friends. We would go months without ever seeing our closest friends. And with a dog at home that needed letting out, it’s not like I could take many people up on happy hour offers.
It’s easy to look back and see it all this way now. How time and circumstance kept us from developing deeper, meaningful friendships with others. But for the last several years, it’s never felt that way. I always felt left out. I would look at Facebook and see groups of people I knew hanging out together and I would get jealous. Jealous I wasn’t invited (to a child’s first birthday party when were were still childless). Jealous I didn’t have such a large group of friends to go to a concert with (when I already declined multiple invites to watch a friend’s band play). Most of my jealousy was pretty irrational, but again, it didn’t feel that way at the time.
I’m now 30 years old and as of Jan 30th, a mom for 8 whole months. Life is different now, and time is even more precious than it was before. So after years and years of feeling like my friendship circle just wasn’t big enough, I’ve finally come to realize that it is. I have lots of people I can email with, grab lunch or coffee with, and just generally shoot the shit. But there are only a couple of gals that I feel are my best friends (and their husbands too), that I talk with at least a couple times a week, if not almost every day. And I’m ok with that. If I somehow acquire more super close friends? Great! But if not? My life is not empty or friendless and I need to stop thinking that it is. It’s taken me years to finally overcome my friendship insecurities and be grateful for the few close friends that I have. They’re the kind of friends that I can talk to about anything without judgement. They know me better than most, and they still like me despite my flaws and our differences. And that’s really something.
Best of all, this self-reflection has helped me to stop feeling guilty and empty. The only thing I feel guilty about now is wasting so much time and brain space comparing my friendships to others. The problem was never with me, and I certainly don’t have a lack of friends. It was simply a case of lost perspective. That thing that happens when you look at others through just the Facebook lens and think their life is better than yours. It’s not. And I finally realize that now.