Tuesday 7 March 2017

Me vs The Lost Art of People Gathering

Until we moved 3 years ago, it had been approximately a thousand years since I'd had to actively make new friends. I'd lived in the same town my entire life, nobody ever moved away, and even after high school, I still saw the same people around town on a regular basis.  Many of the people I still consider close friends were those I'd known in high school, rock climbed with years ago, or met early in university during a criminal psychology course, when together we realized the majority of the people in our tutorial possessed very few critical thinking skills.

I even recently reconnected with an elementary school friend after years of lost contact. It was amazing to chat and reminisce about a part of my life when none of my current friends knew me.  She knew the younger me. She remembered making up dance routines to Meatloaf in the basement and that time I passed out when I got my ears pierced for the first time. I don't know of anyone else who can make that claim. This is probably not a bad thing. Also, thank fuck we didn't all have camera phones at the time.

The one really nice thing about having an existing batch of close friends, is that you don't need to go actively hunting for new ones. I use the term "hunting" on purpose, because that's what social media allows for now.  Following an initial meet and greet, let's be honest, we all mount some kind of getting-to-know-you expedition though the muddy pot holes and river bends of their Facebook pages, all while wearing our pith helmets and twirling over-long moustaches.....Dr. Livingstone, I presume?

It's like early dating, but without the should-we-kiss-at-the-end-of-the-night issue, but which still allows for the awkward social difficulties of trying to decide if they like you (please like me!), and wondering if it's too early to ask them to come over to your place to hang out? 

And so I became complacent about making new friends as an adult.  Dramatic, yet completely unsuprising foreshadowing: skills that go unused are not kept, and only re-learned with a shit ton of effort.

Unfortunately, moving hours away from your established support network of long-time friends does make the getting together a touch difficult. This is not to say that I have lost touch with them, but I realized that moving meant meeting new people.  This was something that I had essentially not done for 15+ years, and the idea of going out into the unknown and making new friends was about as appealing as a actually going on a malaria-infested expedition through the jungle with a cadre of Englishmen. I couldn't imagine getting to know anyone as well as those I had moved away from; it didn't even seem possible. My initial plan was simply to get a lot of cats.

When I realized that obtaining a sufficient number of cats was out of the question, I more or less threw myself at people and all but bluntly asked if they wanted to be my friend. It was awkward and I could frequently be seen muttering "I'm too fucking old for this" quietly to myself, but eventually I got the hang of it and I believe I found that fine line between being personable and an obnoxious stalker.

Adding to the overall difficulty of this task is my shitty, shitty memory. Generally, once someone tells me their name, I'll forget it by the time I've reciprocated the introduction. I don't mean to do this, but apparently I have the memory of a goldfish. Hi, my name is Sealice. Nice to meet you, I'm Jamie. And then it's gone (although to be fair, I'd probably remember Sealice, as I see it as either Sea-Lice, or hear it as Cialis, the erectile dysfunction drug.  For reals found this one on a baby naming forum years ago. It's my favourite horrible name).

Occasionally, carpet bombing the town's population with my friend requests led to participation in some extremely out of character activities. One invitation came in the form of a Spartan obstacle race. I agreed to do it before I really knew what it was, but I survived and gained some really close friends, and an ongoing and somewhat masochistic racing hobby.  This same tendency to go with the flow in the interest of getting to know people also found me at a country music concert for no reason other than I was invited by nice people. I don't like country music, but it was a good time with good friends in any case. I'll even admit to liking at least two songs. 

At the end of the day, I've come across some amazing people that I'm happy to add to my collection of friends. Because of our move and a necessity to put myself out there, I've had experiences that I never would have had otherwise, like a wine tasting party, where I quickly came to realize that wine and I will never, ever be friends. Because wine is an asshole.

If nothing else, I've come to view making new friends as an ongoing activity, and not something that happens without effort.  We all just need to suck it the fuck up and invite people to do things, even if it's hard and you'd rather just binge-watch netflix in pyjama pants. 

And to all those friends who have been won over by my particular brand of crazy, thanks for initally taking the chance on that strange person talking at you.  You're all amazing.  :-)