Posted by: jt | June 24, 2009

we might both be having the same imaginary conversation

Maybe it’s that my mom, two aunts and grandma were all teachers, or maybe it’s just cultural. Regardless, I tend to self-evaluate in educational terms. Lately, the comments on my personal report card haven’t been so stellar:

Doesn’t play well with others.

I fail at life.

Cognitively, I’m aware that neither of those are true and that the latter is just a tich melodramatic. I do not fail at melodrama.  A more accurate assessment might be:

I’m introverted.

My work/life balance issues are exacerbated by being in a new place and not knowing people.

Terminology doesn’t change the fact that I don’t make friends easily and that my community is ridiculously far-flung at this point in my life. This week I’ve heard or read the words, “I miss you” from people in New York, DC, Minnesota and Florida. And it’s only Wednesday. I’ve decided I need a more positive construction for that phrase.

“I miss you” sucks on all fronts, unless you’re going to see that person again in the immediate future. It accomplishes nothing. We don’t always have to accomplish something and it’s okay to just sit with missing someone but, given that everyone I know and love is more than a thousand miles away from me, “I miss you” is not a phrase that does me any good.

I miss everyone. I miss my friends that I’ve known for a decade (or decades) who know me, backwards and forwards. I miss my friends through work that I only see once a year but connect with so innately that it doesn’t lessen the friendship. I miss my friends who are just easy, casual acquaintances I can meet for lunch and laugh with. I miss my friends that I met last month and knew for 48 hours before I sent them home to countries I’ve never seen.

Isolation hit me hard this week when I had a scary allergic reaction on Monday night and realized, there isn’t a single person in this city I would call to take me to the emergency room. There are people in Minneapolis, in Amman, in DC, in Belgrade, in Albany, in Vienna, in Atlanta, in Pensacola, in Miami, in New York…and not one in Seattle.

I’m not sure how to build that community. I’m great at building a superficial one – Trevor makes my latte and Keith has my scone in a bag before I ask for it. Paul and I compete for who’s had, or will have, the longest day when he lets me into the building. Stephanie pushes her co-workers aside to find out if I want organic strawberries or local cherries this afternoon.  I kick ass at the local life – and I love that about Seattle. It’s something I missed every day when I was in DC. Here, after just a couple of months, my day-to-day community was well-established and thoroughly charmed.

It’s the 4 a.m. phone call to take me to a doctor when my throat’s closing off that I’m missing. It’s the people whose couch I can just fling myself down on and talk. Or not talk.  It’s connection.

I’ve never had large cadres of friends. I don’t do parties or group events, which seems to be everyone’s method of choice here for introducing me to people.

I connect with people pretty intuitively. When it happens, it usually happens fast – almost instantaneously – and I don’t know how to facilitate that. I can’t walk down the hall and say hello to someone and make it turn into a 3 hour conversation. I can’t attend a meeting and offer an opinion and guarantee that the person who leeches onto me afterward will become a lifelong friend. It just seems to happen in my world and I don’t know how (and I don’t want) to force it.

Part of my challenge is that pieces of me want to be elsewhere. A substantive part of me wants nothing more than to go back to St. Paul and slip into comfortable places and activities like I never left. Another part of me yearns for Vienna, where everything is familiar but simultaneously challenging and intriguing.

I think in order to settle in Seattle, I need to find a way to let go of that – not permanently – just for a while. I excel at living in the past and the future – at living inside my head. I need to let go of what else is possible, of what else I want, just a little bit, and let myself be here.

It’s scary here. And it’s cozy inside my head. I’m not here yet, but I’m trying.

I still don’t have a positive construction for “I miss you” though.

As ever, I need a piano. Tonight, we hand it over to a straight boy with a piano. I know – what are the odds? Skim forward to around 52 seconds in to avoid a brutally annoying “interview.” And no, the irony of this song’s title and premise is not lost on me. But it works.

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Responses

  1. I don’t know how to build that kind of community and those kinds of relationships either. I was thinking similar thoughts recently about my friends here and how they aren’t the type/degree of friends I could call in an emergency. I think part of it is, it’s hard to meet people and forge relationships as an adult in the working world. When you’re in school you have a common connection with people, so that you’re together in a common environment a lot of the time. I don’t know how to replicate that elsewhere.

  2. I can’t attend a meeting and offer an opinion and guarantee that the person who leeches onto me afterward will become a lifelong friend. It just seems to happen in my world and I don’t know how (and I don’t want) to force it.

    Same here, and honestly, I don’t think that kind of thing *can* be forced. If it’s forced, it’s not the real deal. That doesn’t mean the lack of it doesn’t suck, of course.

  3. Came over to read this after you linked to it in the comment on my blog…

    I connect with people pretty intuitively. When it happens, it usually happens fast – almost instantaneously – and I don’t know how to facilitate that.

    Oh, this. This! I frequently tell people that I can honestly not remember the first time I met the vast majority of my best friends, or the friend-making process…because it JUST HAPPENED. One day I did not know them. The next day I knew everything about them (metaphorically, of course).

    Would love to meet up for a cupcake, scone, or other baked good of choice! My e-mail is linked from this comment, so please do let me know if you’d like to get together.


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