There was a time in my life when I scoffed at the idea of “community” and was proud of my lone-wolf, individualistic life. Years went by where I felt almost no emotional connection with people, and I was fine with that. The reason for this self-imposed solitary confinement is multi-faceted: I felt betrayed by previous religious and social institutions, my heart was broken by someone I was engaged to, I was basically alone on the east coast while everyone I truly loved was thousands of miles away, my introvert nature made being alone easier than going out, I had embraced an individualistic political philosophy with just enough understanding to be dangerous.
In the end, the reason is irrelevant. I spent years shutting myself off from people, including the few people who knew me since childhood, and it is beginning to hurt. I don’t feel like I have a real community. I see friends who have 2-3 couples who are a tight part of their regular lives but I don’t have that.
I failed to take Baz Lurhman’s advice to “work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle”. I didn’t work hard. I thought my friendships were immune from entropy, but they weren’t. Without new energy my friendships decay. As my lifestyle changed and views on the world evolved I didn’t work hard to keep in touch with those people I knew when I was young. I often wonder if it is too late.
Maybe the geography and lifestyle has become too much to overcome. Despite modern technology, thousands of miles do prevent strengthening relationships, particularly relationships that have not been strengthened in decades. The friendship decays like unused muscles, and the pressure that you could once endure easily now cause you to collapse into a heap of weeping regret.
Lifestyle provides its own challenges. It isn’t just political or religious views, those are easy to overcome. When your friends start having kids and you choose not to you will likely be left behind, unless you work hard… before the children are born and for every year afterwards. It isn’t enough to just to talk, action must be taken. Financial differences are just as difficult to overcome. I don’t fear that my friends love me less because I live a simplistic life below the poverty level, but when my whole budget for social activities is $100 for a month it makes it difficult to connect with friends who see no problem dropping twice that in one night. It just makes things difficult.
It has never been easy for me to make friends. I am skeptical of people and a bit stand-offish. My views on the world are, umm, unconventional, and I tend to advertise my strange views regularly. It is particularly difficult for me to make friends with guys for reasons that may be worth going into in another blog post, and making friends with women when you are married and openly “non-monogamous” brings the assumption that I’m only looking to hook-up. Again, I am to blame for most of this, my fascination with sex is well documented and even I have trouble separating my curiosity from my platonic friends.
So, while I see my acquaintances have deep friendships with a non-biological family I feel alone. My friendships have deteriorated and I’m not sure how to fix them. Making new friends is difficult because there aren’t a lot of social groups out there really looking for new members. I feel like I’ll always just be an after-though, someone on the periphery who moved to Wilmington and kind of hangs out with a group of people who are all best friends.
That doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try though. I should try to make friends here. I should also try to repair my old relationships. There was a time when I was part of a four-person group that seemed inseparable. College, the military, and all the travel in between has fragmented that group… maybe it can be fixed, if I’m not the only one who wants to fix it. I often daydream about having adult friends that I go on vacations with and visit each other regularly. And, there are other couples that I feel like we connect with in a way that could provide a family for me (despite lifestyle and geography), I need to learn from my mistakes and work hard to keep those relationships growing. “I suck at communicating” can no longer be my mantra if I want community.
I long to feel like I’m part of a peer-family… something ten years ago I would have never said. Hopefully, my 20’s didn’t fuck things up for the rest of me.