Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Real life friends

I've always enjoyed reading Catherynne Valente's LJ, and recently she's been blogging every day about something relatively substantial in nature. I thought it was a neat experiment, and so I'm going to do it here too. Thirty days of having to write a decent blog post every day should be an interesting experience and discipline, at the very least.

So let's start, shall we? =)

One of the things that I haven't told you about my time in Japan has been the utter joy of having friends in real life. I had people that I could call up and say, "Want to go get dinner together?", and then, we would actually go get dinner together. I went sightseeing with my friends. I sang karaoke. I played with bunnies. I went out to lunch almost every day with my friend from my Japanese class. I had people who were near my own age, and who had similar interests as me, and I got to interact with them in real life, in realtime, not just seeing them every now and then and mostly being online.

And don't get me wrong, because I sincerely, sincerely love the friendships that I've made online, and then transitioned to real life. I wish I could see those friends more often. I am continually sad that I don't often get to have everyday experiences with them, and that I am limited to e-mails and ichat and infrequent visits at cons or at each others' houses. But for the last five years, my group of online-to-real life friends has been the highlight of my social experience, outside of my husband and my family. I know it sounds sad, but it isn't meant to be.

I live in suburban NJ, right around where I grew up. It's a great place to raise children. But it's not a great place to be an adult in your mid to late 20s, while you're trying to find people who aren't interested in drinking all the time on the weekends. You know, people you'd be happy discussing politics and books and silly anime with on a regular basis. It's also not a great place to live if you can't drive at night, which I can't, due to night-blindness.

The combination of all that resulted in precisely new two friends. One moved to Oregon, and the other one lives 45 minutes from me. I have a scattering of other friends who live in and around NYC, who I see infrequently due to the distance.

So I grew accustomed to not having people to do things with. I grew accustomed to hanging out with my mom. I lived for when my husband came home because I could get him to drive me somewhere and we could do something fun. I tried to plan my days around not being able to drive in the dark, which sometimes worked, and sometimes didn't. And the whole time this was happening, I was lonely in a quietly subtle way.

But I didn't realize how lonely I had been, until I got to Tokyo and started having real life friends again. I started being able to act like the natural extrovert I am, and I was so incredibly happy. I realized that you can have friendships of many different kinds, both online and in real life. And that while I have a rich and varied online life, I don't have that in real life. I am hoping that taking college classes this fall (more Japanese) might help me find more real life friends in NJ, but I'm not kidding myself. The school is over an hour from my home in traffic, and don't forget the whole unable-to-drive-at-night thing. I am temporarily resigned to being lonely again.

But I am no longer resigned to continuing to live like this forever. My husband and I are very, very slowly trying to figure out where we want to move for the next couple of years. I'm lobbying for Tokyo, but it's more likely we'll end up closer to New York City (hopefully, in it), or in California. Maybe we'll end up in Spain or London or Timbuktu. Maybe we'll find more friends together and have more real life adventures with people we care deeply about. Maybe I'll find lots of real life friends wherever I go; maybe I won't.

There's a lot of uncertainties in life, but the value of real life friends is something that never changes. Who knew that it would take going halfway around the world to make me realize that again?


Jess said...

I can totally relate--I'm late twenties and am extremely happy with my husband, baby girl, and teenage stepchildren, but sometimes I miss those close connections with people my age...none of my friends in the city an hour away have children, and I feel myself drifting out of their circle. As you get older, I've found it's a little harder to develop close relationships with people you meet. Occasionally I think it's just as well, and that I don't have enough time for closer friendships, but that's just crap. You should always make time to keep and nurture the good friends you have (even if they're far away) and be open to new people too. Thanks so much for the post!

veela-valoom said...

I'm so glad to hear someone say this. I'm SOOO lonely.

I'm 25, working full time with Girl Scouts (which is an organization I love), living in the mother-in-laws suite attached to my parents garage. I have a boyfriend who hasn't showed up in a week (he has a broken car but he could have gotten a ride) and my whole family is actually on vacation right now leaving me with the pets (6 dogs, 3 cats, 1 turtle).

I've also had some serious life struggles lately (My very-healthy grandfather suddenly died 2 months ago and I'm still grieving, depressed, and can't accept this new reality). All of this has led me to the realization that I have no friends HERE.

Yeah I have friends in Ohio, England, Texas, 1 who just moved to Montana, but I have no one to support me during my day to day life. No one to just go to a movie with and get out of the house. I'm an extrovert too and find the solitude a bit overwhelming. The only people I know in this town are rather...irresponisble...and not people I would spend lots of time with. I grew up here but moving away for college I lost all of my connections at home.

I just spent a 4 day weekend knitting and the loneliness of being a non-married, mid-20s, full-time working grown-up is really weighing on me.

ryan field said...

I can relate to this, too. I work at home, communicate online or over the phone with editors and publishers, and spend most of my time writing in front of a screen. I have a lot of friends in my area, but most are working all the time, just like me. I do have one good friend who lives out here who has been an agent for over thirty years. But he's only here on weekends and spends the rest of his time in NYC.

I've lived in Manhattan. It's much easier to make friends and do things than it is in the suburbs. And I agree with you. I'd like to move back eventually.