11/29/2005: "a few chums short of a life"
A few times each year Jannette takes the kids down to California to visit her parents (now just her Dad). When I can, I accompany them, but those trips are not very common. With my recent career history, taking a week off to stroll along the Pacific might be nice, but not prudent financially. Thus, I typically stay home most trips, work, and try to get through my honey-do list.
While the three of them were away this time around, I made a startling realization. Usually the house is extremely quiet with everyone but myself and the cats around, but this time around it seemed overly so. I realized it wasn't the house that was quiet, it was just that I was spending so much more time in the house (not having a day job that requires leaving the house generally) and not having much to do. That's when it struck me. When I'm all by my lonesome, I should be visiting my friends and spending time with them like I typically can't when the house is full. Problem is, I only have two friends in town. Two!
I have by no means ever been a loner. During university especially I had a wide swath of friends and acquaintances spread across the land, with a large concentration of them right here in town. Of course, once we all graduated, most of my friends left for other cities (with one exception). Back before I was married (or even engaged) it wasn't a big deal just to hop in the car and go visit said friends in other cities, but nowadays people on both ends are married, some with kids, and the time between visits stretches out into years instead of weeks or months. It's not just a lack of getting to see my university chums that live in other cities. No, I think there's a much sadder truth to the whole situation: I haven't made any friends since I graduated 8 years ago. Acquaintances? Some, but none that stand on their own merit.
One friend already lived locally before university, and stayed. Now he's got a wife, kids, and a new job, and his own business keeping him busy. I do get over to see him once in a while, but the frequency of those visits is usually measured in months. The other friend moved away and back again, and really enjoys spending time with both me and my family. With a Ph.D. thesis needing lots of attention, and other friends in the city as well, once again our visit frequency is measured in months.
There have been people I've enjoyed spending time with at work, most notably my last full-time job. Very few work relationships have ever gone beyond business hours, however, and with a combination of job-hopping, being laid off, and working contract jobs, I haven't seen a single co-worker outside of work (on purpose) for well over a year. Before that? Maybe 6 years? My new line of work isn't going to help things, either. When I'm working at home, I'm at home. Anytime I actually meet someone, I'm in another city. Even in the unlikely situation that I become really chummy with some of my new sales calls, I likely won't be inviting them to drop in for dessert anytime soon.
Jannette and I have been attending the same church for 5 years now, and until last year were part of a small group of like-aged young married couples. Did any friendships spring from that? Well, sort of. I was kind of the odd man out, not really being a sports player or fan of any particular sport. I have very strong acquaintances with the men in that group, but it would be a stretch to call them good friends. Even with the church's monthly men's meeting, it only amounts to being fractionally closer to the men I recognize from church, but still not truly connecting with. (Not enough men my age come out.) I've met other people in church as well, but in a church as large as ours, without a solid personal commitment to become socially active in the church, friends don't just jump out and say "boo!" Again, a few acquaintances, but no "close" friends.
So what the hell happened? Jannette and I know that we haven't been taking enough time for ourselves after becoming parents. I had joined an improv comedy troupe doing weekly workshops, and that was very rewarding socially, but I haven't been back in over 4 years. Jannette and I were both in a community orchestra (where we met), but again haven't been back since Isabelle was born. Not great friend fodder, but socialization is a decent substitute.
A few years ago Jannette went through a friendship crisis, realizing that she had no friends locally. Now she attends La Leche League meetings, takes Isabelle to preschool and gymnastics, regularly meets with some women involved and interested in childbirth services (as she is), and has successfully generated a base of friends in the city. She also gets at least a minimal dose of socialization over the course of her weekday life. I, on the other hand, have gone to work, come home, and tried to do my share of the child-rearing and housework. With no friends resulting from work, I've developed no new social contacts, and meanwhile my existing social network has been slowly eroding, through time, distance, or neglect.
Net result? I have a week all to myself, a relatively short honey-do list I've nearly completed, and I'll have sat at home every single night (save for tonight, when I visit one of my two local friends) by the time my family comes home tomorrow. The only people I've even talked to on a non-work basis are my parents, the friend I'm seeing tonight, and Jannette down in California. That sucks.
Have I forgotten how to make friends? Or only how to place myself socially in order to do so? I'm guessing the latter, but either way I'm not even sure where to start in rebuilding my local network of close friends. There's no point belabouring why I find myself without any close local friends (they all moved and I didn't, QED). Instead I need to figure out how to build new friendships. It's not even that I need to retool my life and find time to socialize. Just having a social interaction will be a good start.
But... where to start? How to start? Where can I find a group of people with similar interests? Once I finally get into my Masters program that might help, but I don't think that I should wait until then, or even rely only on school to form relationships, especially if the other students are going to generally be 8 years my junior. Something has to change, but what... and how?