Saturday, July 7, 2007

Being with people

A week ago today, I was with some people I've known a long time who are perfectly fine people, but not people I've been able to be friends with. I left that event thinking that in high school and before, I was an unpopular misfit, then I went to college and felt like a normal person who fit in with everyone else and had friends, and continued to feel like a normal person after college, up until two years ago, when I turned into an unpopular misft again. Sort of like Cinderella -- the enchantment wore off, returning me to my original state.

Yesterday I was with some different people. One was an old friend whom I last saw 9 years ago and last really regularly spent time with 22 years ago. The other was his wife, whom I had never met before. Seeing them was the opposite experience of last week. I realized that when I'm with the right kind of people, it just works for me to be with them, even if I haven't seen them in a long time, even if I never met them before. So many times I've met people and they seemed like perfectly nice people and I wanted to become friends, but I just couldn't make a connection with them. So often this happens and I beat myself up about it. Then, several times a year, I meet someone with whom I can make a connection. I realize that that connection is something that just is or is not there, and if it's not happening with someone, it's just that we don't have that connection. It doesn't mean that it's a failure on my part for not being able to make the connection happen, and it doesn't mean that no one exists who is on my wavelength.

The two activities I'm in this year -- the radio station and the community garden -- seem to be very fruitful places for meeting people. I've met some really good quality people at both places. Some of the activities I've been involved in in the past, such as a ski club and a singles club, really did not have my kind of people.

I saw a number of similarities between the couple who visited last night and the couple whom I think of as the only true friends I have left living in this area. It was reassuring in a way. It showed me that there are certain traits that characterize my friends, and sort of explained why I'm not friends with certain other people.

Still, I had a creeping feeling of insecurity, a feeling that if these two couples met each other, they would hit it off so well that I would be a bit of an outsider.

I guess that's what I expect based on my experiences since I've lived here. Most of the people I was friends here with used to hang out with me but then they met people they liked better.

When I was with these friends last night, I found myself talking at length. It felt unusual. It's like the people I see on a day to day basis aren't interested in what I have to say long enough to let me talk for that long. It's not like someone could just decide, "I want to be your friend, so I'm going to let you talk at length." Intent is one thing, and it's valuable, but it's not the same as being on the same wavelength. That can be seen in my desiring to make a connection with many people but being unable to, and also in how an ex-boyfriend explained his inability to be close to me before we broke up: "I want to want to." That's why I can't fault the people who only hung out with me until they found someone they actually liked to hang out with. I wouldn't want them to hang out with me only out of a sense of obligation. Being with people who don't connect with me, who don't enjoy being with me, just reflects back at me the idea that I'm not a fun person to be around. The magic combination is to find people who both have the desire to connect with me and who have the inherent interest in talking about the same things I like talking about.

Seeing this friend I knew back when I felt like I was a normal person, reminded me of a few things from those days. It reminded me of the job I had two summers in a row -- after the first summer, they wanted me back for a second summer. During that time, I was also working as a babysitter. I babysat for one family who then recommended me to other families. The kids liked me and so did the parents. I remember there was a class for which we had to write a paper in conjunction with a partner. I ran the statistical analyses, and my partner wrote the commentary about what the statistics meant. I did not have the knowledge about the topic (politics) to write the commentary, but my partner did not have the experience with statistical software that I did, and he was impressed that I could do it.

There are people who appreciate what I do in my work now. It doesn't feel the same though. Maybe it's because I know that what they appreciate is only a small piece of what I'm capable of, because I feel that people don't appreciate me for all that I am, but only for something that is less than what I am.