Friday, April 27, 2012

Getting Friendly

I've been thinking recently about the subject of friends. How to make them. How to keep them. How to grow and nurture relationships. This is a hard subject for me. I don't make friends easily. I am a pro at making acquaintances. I am fairly outgoing and can chat up anyone. When I was a kid I was told that I'd never met a stranger. I have no fear of public speaking. I can speak to ten or a thousand (not that I've ever had to speak to a thousand people, but I have performed for several hundred at once), and I barely get nervous. That's just how I'm made. Put me in a group of people, and I will talk. Usually too much.

But friends? No. I am not good at the friend thing. I have a handful of people that I consider genuine friends, and yet I am not social with any of them. Not really. I have one especially close friend who is more like a mom to me than a girlfriend. And I rarely do anything social with her either. I guess I just really don't know what I'm doing.

Lately, this has started to irk me. I appreciate that I have a couple of people that I can turn to when I have heavy stuff on my mind, and they will listen, advise, and love on me. But I also know that I'm not a very good friend if the only time we really talk is when I have a problem. That's awful. It's selfish and one-sided. I think we need the social part. We need the gab on the phone ever once in a great while bit or to get together for a movie or lunch and just be girls. We need the laughs and the social interaction to balance out the crying on shoulders stuff. I haven't always done well in this area.

I am not antisocial...exactly...but I'm dang close. Part of it is just the stress and chaos of being married with kids. Not only am I not always available, but most other women I know are just as busy...(if not busier) I am. Part of my problem is that I am a loner at heart. I prefer my own company...until I don't. I like being alone most of the time, but I still need to get out and have some laughs with a good friend sometimes. The balance has been hard...okay, impossible for me to strike.

There's a dang good chance that this tracks back to childhood. As a kid I was self-confident, outgoing, and loved to goof off and play. I made friends super easily. Let's face it. It's just easier for kids to put themselves out there. We see people at school everyday and we have our groups. But as I got older it became harder and harder to connect with others.

First off, it's hard to make friends when you never know how long you are going to live anywhere. In 7th grade I went to Northside Jr. high; moved to Northwood Jr. High; moved back to Northside and then ended up at Cabot Jr. high. Yes, we moved 4 times in one school year! To top it off, I had started that year almost a month into the school year. I missed the school physical for athletics, and my parents didn't have the money to take me to see a doctor on our own to clear me for sports. We also could not afford the high top Nikes that were required for me to play sports at that school. So I was kicked out of athletics and put in P.E. That was a huge blow to me because I had been looking forward to playing basketball for my school.

See, that brings me to my other HUGE issue growing up. I don't just come from a poor family. I come from an impoverished family. As in, we weren't always sure we were going to be able to eat at night and a lot of times we had to stay with family members because my parents couldn't afford to keep us in a home of our own.

The first move we made that year of 7th grade (from Northside to Northwood) was because my folks had been evicted from our home and we had to stay with an Aunt and Uncle in another school district. They weren't just evicted. My Dad had made arrangements with the landlord there for more time, but the guy went back on his word and my parents got arrested for not vacating in the specified time. My sisters and brother and I sat in the police station waiting for my Aunt to pick us up. She took us back to her house, and I fell asleep on her big chair in the living room. That afternoon I woke up with my very first migraine. It was a nightmare.

Needless to say that I NEVER invited people to my home. I tried to keep all the turmoil of my home life away from kids at school. I was embarrassed. It was bad enough that we couldn't afford to dress like other kids, but I sure didn't want them to know that sometimes we didn't get to eat.

I can remember coming back to school after the holiday breaks with dread. People always wanted to know what you got for Christmas. I had a blanket reply of "Oh, this and that." I didn't want anyone to know that there were times we didn't get anything but a $5 sweatshirt. If that. Or that sometimes generous Aunts and Uncles would try to get us something. That kind of stuff is mortifying to kids. It was like that throughout my childhood and teens.

I couldn't go to the mall and hang out like other girls. I didn't have the money to go get a burger or chill at the skating rink. I couldn't go to a movie or the fair. We just never had any money.

So, I got good at keeping people at arms length.

And, 7th grade was not the only year we moved like that. It was commonplace in my world to move several times a year. The worst time for me was 8th grade. It started out awesome. We had moved back to the Sylvan Hills area where I had attended 3 whole years of elementary. I already knew most of the kids there and already had some friends. I loved it there. However, right after the first nine weeks of school we moved to Vilonia (a town about half an hour away). I had to make new friends. As much as I missed Sylvan Hills, Vilonia turned out to be a great move for me. I immediately found a group of girls I fit right in with. There were about 5 of us in all, and we were inseparable. We laughed all the time!!! I even got to go to parties for the first time in my young life.

But my family never stayed in one place for long. Toward the end of the year we moved again. There was only a few weeks of school left, and we moved to a town in North Little Rock. It was a new school. I was a stranger. And I was angry.

I gave up. I decided it wasn't worth the effort to try to make real friends, so I didn't even try. In fact, it would be years before I ever really tried again. By the time I decided I really wanted to have some REAL friends and not just people I was friendly to in the halls at school or was too late. I just wasn't any good at it anymore.

Lately, I've really started to feel this void in my life. I think it would be nice to have one or two female friends that I could hang out with ever once in awhile. Someone to see chick flicks with...or any movie for that matter. Someone to hit the gym with or go to a museum. At the same time, I really want to find a friend or two who I have things in common with. Things like art, theater, and books. It would be kind of neat to have a friend who was actually into the same things as me. At least some of the same things.

So, I've been thinking about the subject of friends. How to make a friend. How to keep a friend. I would like to meet new people or just get to know some people better than I currently do.

It's a scary thing. No one can really know what it costs me to even try to strike up a friendship. It takes courage for me to ask someone if they want to hang out sometime. There's fear of being rejected. There's fear that someone doesn't really like me much and I'm putting them on the spot. I would hate to make anyone uncomfortable.

So, this is new territory for me. I'm trying to find activities outside of my home where I might meet someone that could be a potential friend. At the same time, I don't want to appear desperate or pathetic. Like I said, I'm a loner by nature, so I am a bit socially awkward. And I know that I would not expect anyone to just be available any ole time. I'm not. I'm busy and tied down sometimes also. But I also recognize that if I want to make a friend, I am going to have to put myself out there, make myself available, and be willing to even inconvenience myself sometimes.

I think in the end it will be well worth it.

1 comment:

  1. I know your platonic despair all too well (j/k). I too have a hard time making friends. I felt like all my life I had to try hard to get friends. I would be extremely generous with my time and my toys when I was younger. I since learned not to bring my toys out to play. The people in my life who wanted to be my friend stayed and the other I let go. I am not a social person either. I have come to despise people simply because of the torturous teasing growing up, the constant bullying, so when I do make friends it takes a while for me to trust them. I also think that if I threw a party that practically no one would show up. I posted a party invite on Facebook and so far there are about four people coming. I'm surprised. I honestly thought I would not have thought people liked me. I wasn't the most well liked in high school and college I had a wonderful circle of friends. Some of which I am still friends with today. There is hope! I'll be your friend!