Used to Be (aka: Seeking Community When You’re a Nonconformist)

colorful latex balloonsWe used to have parties. It is one of those observations, briefly uttered by one of my kids, marking the contrast between who our family is now compared to who we used to be. Or maybe it is less about our family, and more about who I once was. I used to throw parties. Big, noisy parties full of distant relatives or church group acquaintances. Small, intimate gatherings with close family friends. Colorful and silly children’s parties, messy with icing and confetti and cupcake crumbs.

Used to.

Back when I was a different person, I used to throw parties, which are now distant memories of music and laughter and food successes and failures. I used to receive invitations to parties, too (and not just the everybody-come-and-spend-your-money types, either). And every now and then, in moments of loneliness, or perhaps in a passing celebratory mood, I think, how nice it would be to invite a few people over! How nice it would be to have an excuse to cook some special dishes and mix up drinks and dust off the party games which have not been opened in several years. But then I think, now whom shall I invite? And just like that, my sense of enthusiasm for party planning deflates like a loosely tied balloon. friends party

Whom shall I invite? Who is my group? Planning a party was so much easier back during the days when I was part of a primary group or two. Now, I am no more than a drifter, skirting around communities of people which either change so rapidly that I rarely see the same faces twice, or are so large that I wander around, lost; or are so well-established, that I do not see how I can possibly contribute.

I recently tried to make friendship a tangible goal. Throughout the summer, I made it my personal growth project – like a mission, to try things that I had not tried, in order to change the situation. Make friends. Join the group. Be social in real life. And so, I attended Meetup event after Meetup event. When I met interesting people, I asked for their contact information, so that I could stay in touch. I said “yes” to going out on a few dates. I put away my iPad and forced myself to join the conversation, or even (gasp!) start a conversation with someone I did not know well.

The results of the summer project? Well, I had some enjoyable conversations with people I will probably never see again. I did a few fun things that I can now check off on my personal list of Neat Things I Got to Experience in Life. I learned some new ideas from strangers which continue to change me in small but significant ways. I learned that coming out of my cave is not always scary and disastrous. And I think that I even managed to make a friend (though at times I am still unsure if I have yet earned the right to use that term).

topsy turvy weird bird

But as positive as the results of my summer project may have been, I am still sadly lacking in the social department, with little more than superficial connections. Perhaps I could squeeze my way into some social group the old way – by watering down my personality so that I can conform to the norms of the group. As much as we like to think that our society honors the individual and celebrates diversity, the truth is that nonconformity makes us uncomfortable. It is human nature to form our social groups based on commonalities. Be yourself! We preach. But if “yourself” happens to be too weird to fit into a group, then learn to love yourself, be your own best friend, save yourself, date yourself, treat yourself, enjoy time alone, because obviously, you’re going to have to.

Sometimes I wish that there were some website for people seeking meaningful non-romantic social connections. Something like Linked-In for bestfriend wannabes, where you can post a personality resume. Something like:

Name:

Tiare (aka The Girl From Jupiter)

Roles You Could Potentially Fill in a Social Group:

Comedian

The Melancholy Intellectual

The Clueless Airhead who has no idea what is going on down here in the real world

The sweet, cookie-baking Nice Girl who still feels guilty when she says bad words

*The Storyteller

Things You Are Into:

Writing stories & poetry

Sports (esp. soccer and tennis)

Classic literature, films, music, and other esoteric shit

Silly memes, YA books, vampire shows, and other shallow things that keep life from being too serious

Camping, hiking, geocaching, nature

Cooking and baking

Talking in a British accent, like a valley girl, or in Spanish when the mood strikes me

Handicrafts

Daydreaming about world travel

 

Then, anyone who registers for the site can come along and browse one another’s Desperately-Seeking-Social-Group ads, and say – ahh! Just the right type of weird individual to fit into my ideal social group! And with a few clicks of the mouse, I have created an instant community of people to invite to a real-life party at my house. Friends Wanted Advertisement

Okay fine. Maybe the world couldn’t work that way, exactly. And maybe it would be foolish and dangerous to invite a bunch of carefully-selected strangers into my home for fun. People do lie about who they are, after all. But I suppose I am feeling nostalgic, or wistful, wishing that there were some way to fast-forward to the magical day when life will cease to be about who I used to be and what I used to do and will suddenly be what I wish it could be.

But some goals simply are not tangible.

 

 

 

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6 responses to “Used to Be (aka: Seeking Community When You’re a Nonconformist)

  1. I understand the dilemma. Personal friends I see quite often? Few. Part of the problem is living in Ventura. I’ve gone to a few Meetups. I quashed the atheist meetup because of the name. I could go with a humanist meetup or a Unitarian one, but I have an uneasy suspicion that somewhere out there someone is gunning for atheists. A mild paranoia but caution in the face of extremism is no sin.
    My views are best seen in FB as J Carlos Deegan and I have opinions. I have friends for more than forty years but in the ebb and flow of time we are on the antipodes of the earth. Many of my “friends” are actually in Spain, Portugal, Iceland, I keep busy on machimon.wordpress.com (lately neglected but with ~600 posts).
    I am vaguely satisfied with life but frustrated that I no longer travel as I used to, availing myself of first-class Central American buses with chickens on the roof. Frustrated at not having climbed on Mayan ruins, slept in my hammock, or been stopped by indigenous rebels for a dollar here and there.
    Finding a congenial mind is something we need, but the energy spent raising children and solving problems leaves us disconnected.

    • So very true, Carlos. Raising my kids does take my time and attention, although they are much more self-sufficient than they used to be, which gives me some breathing room as a parent. 😉 What a lovely and rare thing it is to meet like-minded individuals in our lives! I am trying to learn, however, to appreciate and admire all sorts of people, and mot just those who are most like myself. There is so much to learn from people who think differently or react differently to life, too. Still, I suppose it is the regular interaction and support that comes from a social group that seems so appealing.

      I am so surprised by how many Meetup groups exist. There is practically a group for everything. I have gone to quite a few to practice Spanish, play tennis, take dance lessons, and do activities with a very large single parent family group. Hoping something more intimate will develop from that, but we’ll see. Sometimes I feel discouraged by how slowly connections develop, or how they never quite get off the ground. :/

  2. I like your description of the drifter!

    And I think your idea for a Linked-In for BFFWBs is a great one – it would probly be a huge success! Maybe you should do it and then you’d also get financial freedom as part of the mix 🙂

    • Haha…funny. Nope, I am def. Not the entrepeneurial start-up type. And really, I don’t think that there is a such thing as financial freedom. 🙂 Even people who earn a great deal of money must learn to manage it well and live within their means.

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