I often find myself feeling closer to people who have had similar experiences as I have. To be sure, some of that is simple human nature: People tend to like others who are similar to themselves, and when we’re talking about things that are a large part of who we are–whether we would like them to be or not–that emotion is strengthened.
But for me, I think it is more. I was musing about it the other day when I realized that part of me is looking for understanding. I have been depressed, chronically and acutely. I have been, and am, socially isolated. I am not comfortable around people I don’t know and I avoid those kinds of interactions–which is an interesting Catch-22 (how do you get to know people you avoid because you’re uncomfortable about not knowing them?).
In turn, my social skills are essentially nonexistent. I can communicate well, especially in writing and especially anonymously (hi Internet!), but I avoid the interactions. I don’t do the things normal people do. The Friday before Memorial Day, we were debating closing the office early. One of my co-workers asked if I was going to come with if they went out for drinks, something I had turned down two or three times before. “You don’t have to drink,” she said, “just socialize.” But I still turned it down. If I got off early I was going to go home and… I don’t know, be alone I guess.
That’s not who I want to be, but it’s who I am. And so something I think I need in a friend, a reason I am so attracted to people who have had similar experiences, is understanding. Understanding why I am who I am and how I am, naturally, but also understanding when to push and try to get me outside my comfort zone, yet also understanding when to back off and they’re pushing for something I am not in a position emotionally to give.
It’s a tough balancing act and a lot to ask. Why would any friend want to deal with my shit? Why would anybody want that responsibility and that burden? For somebody like me, who has no particular self esteem, it’s an even tougher question than it would be under otherwise identical circumstances. But then again that’s not the point of this post, is it?
Perhaps this is part of the reason I find making friends to be so hard: I need too much. I’m not sure it even enters my head to reach out to people who don’t fit that criteria, and I honestly don’t even know if that is a good thing or a bad thing; the last thing I need in my life is to open up to another friend who realizes later that I am more headache than I am worth, so perhaps this kind of “pre-screening” might be appropriate.
Who knows. If I had answers this blog probably wouldn’t exist. I’m just a guy struggling with a lot of questions and self-analysis and trying to muddle through them out loud.