Him: “Yeah, I went to the movies this past weekend, it was my fun thing for the month.”
Me: “You only do one fun thing per month?”
Him: “Well, it’s probably more like every other week, but yeah.”
Me: “Oh. But don’t you want to spend time with your friends?”
Him: “I’m kind of a Lone Wolf.”
Me: “Uh huh….”
Him: “I don’t have time to have a social life like you do.”
Me: “Hmm. I will ignore your condescending tone and actually think about this.”
So yes, I am lucky to have the time and energy to maintain the social life I do. And having had to jumpstart it twice in the last three years (yippee!), I’ve collected a lot of experience and information about making friends, and having friends, and what friendship can mean, and what can go wrong in a friendship, and what I want. And I have a bunch of theories about friendship and social dynamics that I occasionally trot out. (I want to say I bring them out at dinner parties, but I am never actually invited to dinner parties.)
Anyway, here are two myths about friendship that I’ve been thinking about recently:
Myth #1: Everyone has a lot of friends and a swinging social life.
I don’t know why I ever believed this one, but maybe it’s a weird remnant from high school or something? Anyway, as is becoming the norm for me, I’ve been meeting a lot of people, and as I talk to all these people, I’ve recognized a thread that keeps returning.
Not everyone has a lot of friends. And a lot of people are kind of sort of lonely. A lot of these people are really busy in their professional lives, and, like the guy in the conversation above, they don’t feel they have the time to prioritize friendship. Some of them don’t really know how to be a friend. Some of them don’t really understand how one goes about making new friends. Some of them feel stuck.
Of course, the amount of ideal social activity varies from person to person. And there are plenty of people who are content with their social lives. But this isn’t all people.
If you are unhappy with your social life or if your life is kind of unbalanced right now, you are not alone.
Myth #2: Having friendships and an active social life just kind of happens.
I don’t know why I ever believed this one either. Because oh my gosh, maintaining a busy social life is A LOT OF WORK.
I know, tiniest violin, right? I’m not saying this is something warranting complaint, but it is simply fact that it takes a fair amount of effort. Maintaining social ties takes work. Making new friends takes work. Keeping in touch takes work. People say all the time how bad they are at keeping in touch, and the reason that’s something it’s even possible to be bad at is because it requires thought and action and time.
And of course, when you’re kickstarting your social life, it takes even more work. Or, um, when you’re running your social life close to capacity. Which, yes, is what I’m doing right now, and so I’ve been feeling like I’m running behind, and like I always have messages I need to answer, and occasionally I forget them because my brain cannot hold all the information it needs to hold, and I can almost always make time, but that works exactly the way it sounds, with a whole bunch of effort put into somehow making that time materialize. And then once in a while I have no plans and I don’t have to schedule or coordinate or drive for two hours or find parking or figure out an activity or restaurant suggestion or communicate clearly and instead I can sit on my couch with Nala on my feet and eat ice cream and watch Star Trek and that is the best thing ever.
Have I mentioned I’m just the tiniest bit tired?
It’s completely worth it, or I wouldn’t be doing it. The rewards are incalculable. But I have also realized that five years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to do this. It would have been actually impossible for me. Because the only way I can keep this up is by communicating as clearly as possible and asking for what I need and sometimes saying no and not moving heaven and earth when the logistics are really complicated but instead just accepting this isn’t the right time. The only way it works is if I can trust my friends to take care of themselves the way I’m doing my best to take care of myself. The only way I can do everything I want to do and spend time with everyone I want to spend time with is by accepting that in the process, I’m not going to be perfect.
I couldn’t have done those things five years ago. And as a result, I might have been a bit of a Lone Wolf. I didn’t really like being a Lone Wolf. It was lonely, and also I didn’t have as many choices, and also when someone behaved poorly, there was more incentive to ignore that instead of taking care of myself.
But no longer. When the particular Lone Wolf at the beginning of this post spent the conversation putting me down and proceeded to make a “joke” telling me I needed more exercise (implying what? that I’m fat? really?), I was completely happy to run, not walk, the other direction.
I’ve got better places to be.