My longest friendships are with women I have known since childhood … and who currently do not live anywhere near me.
Credit Image: Patsy Melendi on Flickr
I find it difficult to maintain friendships as an adult. I have no problem making friends, but keeping them or having them develop into something meaningful -- that is difficult for me.
I have never had a problem plopping down next to someone in class or in a meeting or wherever and making small talk. As a student, turning to work with whoever was next to me was not an issue. Getting put into groups with people I didn’t know made no difference to me. In fact, in middle and high school my teachers often told my parents that it just didn’t matter where they moved my seat -- I would talk to whoever was there.
But maintaining friendships is hard for me.
My best friends -– who live far away -– are relatively low-maintenance. We rarely talk, sometimes text, and see each other only a handful of times a year. We pick up where we left off when we see each other, but other than texts and cards, we don’t really talk otherwise. But I know that when I need them, they are there. And I know they know that about me, too.
But the friends I have here … close to me … I am not a good friend to them.
Because I don’t know how.
I am uncomfortable a lot. I get nervous that I will do or say something that will instantly make me not “hangout-able.”
Being friendly with people is easy; being real friends is difficult.
When someone says, “Hey, we should see that movie sometime,” I don't know if they are just being nice or if they would really like to hang out. So I say, “Yeah! I would love that!” and then I wait for them to set it up because I am afraid if I try to set it up, I will look like I am pressuring them to do something they maybe didn’t want to REALLY do in the first place. Maybe they were just being nice.
So I wait for someone to make the first move, and when someone does go through with setting up legit plans with me, I get so anxious that half the time I end up canceling because I am so paranoid and overwhelmed that I will be a complete letdown.
It’s also hard for me to set aside time to actually have a friend. I have local friends, don’t get me wrong. The problem is that they all live a minimum of a thirty-minute drive away from my house, so it’s not like we can every just randomly drop in.
I do have a couple of friends who actually live in my neighborhood (::waves at Kelsey and Sarah::), but I feel like my life is so different from theirs. I am running around like a woman possessed during the school year and only really get to spend time with them in the summer when we can have play dates.
I feel like I know what it is to be a good friend, but I feel a little unfriendable.
I want my friends to know I think about them often, but I don’t find the time to tell them.
I see them update their social media about fun things they are doing and I get sad and jealous, even though it’s my own fault for never inviting people over or asking them out to coffee or a movie. It’s my fault for canceling or being unavailable so often that I just don’t get an invite anymore.
The truth is I feel inadequate. I feel that I am not good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, funny enough to hang out with the people I call friends.
The way my life is right now, my family and my job are my priorities. This leaves little time for hanging with friends.
I look at my planner and I realize that I have made myself unfriendable.
Maybe subconsciously I do this on purpose. I avoid rejection by filling my life with things (my jobs) and people (my family) who won’t reject me. Ever.
I throw myself into my work -– both teaching and blogging/writing -– to the point where any extra time I have, I give to my family. I don’t even know how to start with having a “regular friend.”
And now that I have written all of this, I am afraid that any friends who attempt to spend time with me are doing it out of pity and the experience of hanging out with me will be truly underwhelming and I will never hear from them again.
I am making this all much harder than it should be, I am sure.
Katie Sluiter (pronounced Sly-ter) is a teacher, wife, and mother, and writer. She chronicles her life at sluiternation.com
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