Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Welcome To The Jungle

I had a dream during my brief, 90-minute slumber. I’m slowly recalling it, and it’s more and more strange as it comes to me in pieces.

A Vietnam setting. I was in the war, crawling in the mud through swamps. My troops and I come to a small muddy island, maybe 30 ft. x 8 ft.; long and narrow. The wierd thing is, my allies are donald duck-looking guys. Like, seriously, a bunch of Donald Ducks and Scrooge McDucks. They were all wearing army gear and all serious and everything; yelling, waving troops in, ducking, rolling, shooting into the forest, everything.

All of a sudden, these... cuban-looking guys (which is odd, considering this is supposedly Vietnam) jump on my back and grab my hair and lift my head up. The other one jumps in front of me and looks me in the face and brandishes a machette. And then he smiled and grabbed the back of my neck as he sliced my throat.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Rembrandts

After an interesting week, I suddenly have a flood of people swearing they're my friends - and always have been. To each of them I politely nodded in quiet acknowledgement, shrugged, and mustered my best, "All right." This isn't to say I felt they were lying. I'm sure they genuinely believed their words. But the truth is, what they consider "being a friend", I consider "being a mere acquaintance". Friends aren't people you have to chase down and tackle just to share what's only now barely appropriate. Friends are people who find out what's wrong alongside you because they're willingly a part of your life every day. They call. Or come over. Or offer lunch. They're just there. Constantly.

But as we get older, finding friends like that becomes virtually impossible. From your mid-20s and beyond, you have to concentrate on your life and work on becoming the person you're meant to become. Unfortunately, the side effect of that is that you have no time or energy to actively deal with other people's problems. In fact, many times, someone else's problem is your gain, and you're taught to use that advantage to improve your own situation in life. So misery is actually a good thing, provided you're sidestepping that landmine and ensuring others take the fall. Thinning the herd, so to speak.

My point is, the type of friendship that would genuinely benefit me right now can't really be provided by anyone anymore. And that's no one's fault. That's the simple evolution of life. You grow up, be your own person, everyone else be damned, and only after you're successful do you circle back and check how everyone else is. Usually to stand and compare at the finish line.

It's this race of life that put me in the predicament that I'm currently in: Somewhere around 6th or 7th grade I stopped caring about coming in first place and started caring more about what people thought about me. Chalk that up to abuse at home, skipping grades, losing friends, genetic faults, whatever you want. The fact remains that I was never rewarded for intellectual or academic superiority; only punished for not behaving properly or bullied for not being likable enough. The true consequences in my life occurred based on my lack of personality and charm, not grades and rubric scores. So I adapted. I went for the funny. I watched Saturday Night Live, In Living Color, MadTV, Friends and other movies that had characters everyone at school enjoyed and laughed at. I did impressions, accents, jokes, skits, dances, and even miming through the windows for my classmates when the teacher made me stand outside for misbehaving in class. I may have plummeted from Principal's Honor Roll to pasting Ds and Fs across the board (always As in PhysEd, though), but I was popular. Everyone knew me, everyone wanted to be my friend, and girls liked being in my groups. Along the way I was voted "Funniest" three years in a row. I figured my home was a nightmare regardless of my scholastic progress, so I might as well have fun at school. I never skipped classes, never ditched, never intentionally acted sick to miss a day. School was my sanctuary. I couldn't be touched or hurt there, and I was surrounded by hundreds of friends who adored me and I adored in return.

This strategy obviously doesn't translate very well by the time you're 30. The world wants documentation and papers and citations and numbers proving your worth, to which I have none. And friends don't have all summer to hang out anymore. Everyone has a career they're hammering away on, children they're trying to juggle, and a husband, wife or a divorce they're tolerating/smothering with love. "Hanging out with friends" is, at best, 4th or 5th on the list of priorities. At worst, it's deemed a waste of precious time.

You're going to lose friends. Period. The longer you live, the more friends you're going to lose. Because the more time people spend existing, the more opportunities life presents them with ways to differ from each other. When you're in elementary school, everyone's on the same page: Dogs bark, cats and cute, and glitter is edible. In middle school, physicality starts bubbling to the surface, and the athletes separate themselves from the intellectuals, and vice versa. In high school, those subgroups are fragmented even more by music and after-school life, with surfers, skaters, jocks, nerds, goths, hipsters, band kids, theater groups, and so on. By the time college comes around, politics and religion have entered into the mainstream of the young consciousness, further splitting everyone into smaller and smaller groups.

This is why we all played "Duck-Duck-Goose" in groups of forty in 2nd grade but now discuss global economic policies with a only like-minded friend or two in a coffee shop.


So relationships become the primary source of emotional, physical - and sometimes mental - equilibrium. We start craving for a connection with someone else on our astronomically specific level of personality combinations. As previously pointed out, friends simply don't have the time or resources to truly understand or care about you or your problems in depth. But that one right person does. Call it love if you want (or don't), but that spark is the highly saturated remains of a desire that no longer gets fulfilled by spending time with dozens of friends every day. There's a reason friendships become more important as you get older: There's less of them. But the same need for them exists. And when no true friends are possible, the intensity for a meaningful connection magnifies And that's why finding someone you click with feels so mind-blowing, amazing, scary and overwhelming at times. They're essentially every friend you've had/needed in one being.

I appreciate the friends I have now and all the reaching out they've done. I won't use names, but there have been a few pleasant surprises. But I also know that if I don't initiate texts or calls or speak to them, they won't text, call or speak to me back. Which, again, is 100% normal and can't be criticized. We'll see who cares enough to stick with me this time around.

I'm done helping people at the sacrifice of myself. I've been burned over and over and over again, and if I'm being honest, it's my fault. I've been forcing my naive 7th grade mentality on the world, believing that just getting people to like you is enough, and that trust is a default setting. But the adult world is cynical, negative, and needs an ass-kicking. And I'm tired of being nice. I've given up on having good friends.

But friends or no friends, all I want is my one connection.

So I have someone to share my world-stomping with.

-HKR