I have always been obsessed with friendship. When I was a kid, I would rush to my elementary school as soon as the class lists were posted a few days before school started, and eagerly scan mine for the names of new girls. Because new girls meant new friends, and I was obsessed with friendship. I could never fall asleep before the first day of school, fantasizing about all the new friends I would make.
This remained a pattern throughout my life. In high school, I threw parties at my house every weekend. In college, I tried to have plans every night of the week. And I only survived graduate school by engaging in constant shenanigans with my cohort.
As a result of being hyperly social, every period of my life has been defined by my friendships.
When Doug and I moved to Iowa together in 2011 after two years of a long-distance relationship, I didn’t know anybody else here and didn’t have school as a safety net for making friends. That was scary to me. I definitely didn’t want to become one of those girls who only hangs out with her boyfriend. I never understood those people. The thought of limiting my social life felt suffocating.
So I did start to make new friends here, but I quickly realized I didn’t have nearly the drive to be social as I used to. Making friends felt exhausting rather than energizing (it takes a lot more effort when you aren’t in school, turns out). Getting dressed, going out, and trying to be likeable required a million times more effort than staying in with Doug, who has to love me even if I stop showering for a few days or pretend that random round objects are my nipples.
Even when we are doing separate things around the apartment, just knowing he’s there is, interestingly, enough to make me feel socially fulfilled. I started to understand exactly why people become less social when they get into relationships. It’s so ridiculously easy.
So as time passed, and I realized I wasn’t going to die if I didn’t make a million new besties, I became content spending time alone. And as more time passed, I became even more than content—I came to prefer my own company to being with anyone else. I officially became my own best friend.
And it was amazing. I got to do all my favorite things, all the time (reading, writing, and watching Glee clips on YouTube). Turns out, I have everything in common with me. I never argue with myself, I can finish my own sentences, and I’m always in perfect agreement with myself on whether we should call it a night or watch Rachel and Kurt sing “Defying Gravity” one more time before bed. It was the perfect arrangement. I was the best friend I ever had! I thought about getting matching BFF tattoos with myself.
And when friends expressed concern, I had three ways of justifying my new lifestyle:
1) I had already had more good friends by the age of 25 than most people have in their lifetime. I’d met my quota. It was time for me to step aside and give others a chance.
2) I was still friends with my old friends, even if they lived far away, so that should still count. (Bevin and Noemi, who are both single and live in big cities, would text me updates of their social whereabouts on weekend nights and I would just smile and shake my head, like a satisfied mother amused by the adventures of her children but not especially nostalgic for her own youth.)
3) I was too busy to socialize even if I wanted to. When I wasn’t at work, I needed to be writing. (Never mind that I was a much more productive writer when I was in graduate school, working longer hours than I do now and still socializing every night of my life.)
But spending time alone really was good for me. After an extremely social two and a half decades, it was very important that I was learning to enjoy solitude.
But then I turned 27 a few months ago, and I thought about all my past birthday parties. And I thought about having another one. But I couldn’t think of enough people nearby who I felt connected to enough to warrant a celebration.
And then I realized something disturbing: I couldn’t remember the last time I really had fun.
Being alone is rarely fun. It can be relaxing, peaceful, and intellectually-fulfilling—but it’s never fun, in the way these things were:
At best, it’s kind of like:
And at worst, it’s kind of like:
Over the following weeks, I started to notice more downsides of being alone.
My grad school cohort started an email chain about planning a reunion, and my first thought was “I’m not going because it won’t be any fun.”
This had been my default reaction to all the invitations I’d received for months, but suddenly it occurred to me that THIS WAS TOTALLY NOT A NORMAL REACTION, considering I spent the bulk of graduate school doing things like this:
I guess I had become a jealous friend to myself. I had become possessive of me, to the point where I was telling myself lies to keep myself away from other people.
After that I started to realize how boring I had gotten. I have always been someone who talks out loud to myself. But I used to talk about interesting things, like my friends and family. But when I started to pay attention to my self-dialogue lately, I realized I was just reciting lists of errands I had to run, or deadlines I had to meet. I was literally just listing the dates that bills were due, or that I had to turn in applications, or when I was going to get a haircut or drop things off at Goodwill. I had officially become the dullest person in the world.
That’s the danger of being alone: the more time you spend alone, the more time you keep wanting to spend alone. Until you look up one day and realize that you’ve been alone for a very long time. You haven’t seen your friends in ages. Who are you anymore? You have become thoroughly boring, even to yourself.
That’s why I’m posting this today. I need to break up with myself, publicly, so that I cannot take it back. Like any failed relationship, things were wonderful in the beginning but it’s time to face that this must come to an end. I must keep the positive lessons and memories, and disregard the rest.
Right now I’m picturing myself saying to myself, “It’s not me—it’s not me.”
See how weird this has gotten? See what happens when you spend too much time alone?
Anyway, I’m over it. It’s time to get back some of the life I had before. It’s time to start seeing other people.
Let’s hang out.
Reblogged this on My Blog………JB.
Wow! I think you just summed me up. I grew up in a city called The Gold Coast in Australia (I’m guessing you are not in Australia, looking at the language you are using) where I had so many friends it was just rediculous. I met my husband and we moved to a tiny town called Berridale. Berridale had about 499400 people less than the Gold Coast (yep, Berraz has a population of 800) and I LOVED it there. I became friends with half the town in the first three weeks of arrival and it was just awesome. Then the money side of things went downhill as work was scarce so hubby and I moved to Canberra (our nation’s capital) a year after moving to Berridale.
I didn’t know a soul in Canberra, which I found was delightfully refreshing. I got to hang out with me. Then I discovered an organisation called Meetup, which is an online social website that consists of many different groups, who organise fun events in real life/. It was perfect! Friendship without the commitment. Every single meetup event I have attended or hosted has been fantastic, and I have had loads of fun, but then there is NO commitment about making actual real life friends with any of the people who have attended the meetups. Of course, you can if you want to, but if you don’t either, then that’s great. You will no doubt see some of them at the next Meetup event you attend. Meetup is a worldwide thing that might be something you could even be interested in. Meetup.com. 🙂
p.s. I moved to Canberra a year ago, and while I have not pressed to make friends, I still had list of over 80 people that I invited to my 40th birthday party a few weeks back, of which over 40 attended…. but I still do hang out with ME on a lot of occasions. (and my husband). It’s the perfect balance, I say!
Thanks for the thoughtful reply! You covered two of my favorite topics- Australia and Meetup. I studied abroad in Wollongong (at least one of my pictures above is from there) and loved it. I found Australians so friendly and outgoing- it was so easy to make friends in my Australian dorm.
And yes, I have used Meetup. It’s how I met every friend that I have here in Iowa. For me, I’m not a huge fan of the Meetup events themselves… I just went to a couple, exchanged numbers with people, and started friendships with those people outside of the group that have lasted over time. The only downside, I have found, is that since Meetup tends to be full of people who are new to town, they are also more likely to move away from town relatively soon, which has already happened to most of the friends I met that way.
I think you’re definitely right that life works best when we have phases of alone-ness and also phases of intense friendship. Your birthday party sounds awesome- you are lucky to have many great people in your life!
Happy holidays! I hope you find the right holiday balance of time with others and time with your own fabulous self.
Reblogged this on Strawberryquicksand and commented:
Thoughts on friendship, anyone?
If so I’ll be sure to say howdy.I’m new-ish to the area (moved down from Bellingham last year) so I only heard about the meetup arnuod the same time I heard about WC. Stoked to know there’s one so close. Will be there May 12 and as often as I can make it out.
Exactly how I am feeling right now. Awesome post, Julia!
Thanks, Casey! So nice to know others can relate. P.S. CONGRATS ON YOUR WEDDING!!
I remember even the first day of preschool, you had a BFF!
I don’t waste any time.
OK, I laughed out loud at the queoitsn My dream girl has eyes the size of dinner plates, is part robot or, optimally, both. (my answer is no)My score: 13 Out Of 50You wear a Can’t sleep, clowns will eat me shirt you bought at Hot Topic, but you rarely have trouble gathering a crew to play Left 4 Dead at your place. Sure, you might not have been prom king, but you’ve found your niche and similar people to you and you’re making it work for yourself. You can’t really argue with that.The funny thing is, now, I want that t-shirt.
“Champions aren’t made in the gym. Champions are made from something they have deep inidse of them–a desire, a dream, a vision. They have to have last-minute stamina, they have to be a little faster, they have to have the skill and the will, but the will must be stronger than the skill.”— Muhammad Ali.
Wow. This post kinda hit me hard in the head. I guess it’s the wake-up call i needed. Thanks!
I’m so glad you were able to take something from it- thanks for reading!