Let me rephrase. Making friends is really difficult. I don't know how people did it as children. In 1988 my mum told me that Amy was my friend but she wasn't in my kindy class - she was in the other kindy class. I was KW and she was K some other letter.
I remember speaking to her once before she had to go back to her class but then I didn't really know where her classroom was.
I spent my lunchtime with Sarah who nobody liked. I didn't like her either, because I was incapable of forming my own opinions about anything and wouldn't be able to do so for another twenty years but we hid under some of the bushes because it was a more pleasant way to spend time than anywhere we could be seen and the other kids would make a big deal about running away from us.
In 1992 Ramona was my best friend and we were, actually, friends. She beat me at monopoly every time and we had our own pretend radio station we'd announce from the trampoline. But somehow at school she and the other kids would talk about stuff that they had done outside of school that I was never invited to or involved in. Parties with boys. Who was dating who. It was like she had this whole other social world that I wasn't a part of.
I've never had the sort of self esteem problems that made me think people (in general, or specific) hated me. I never had enough self for that, I suppose. I had friends. But I always felt that everyone else were much better friends with each other than they were with me.
We'd start off on the same footing. In 1996 I sat with a group of other girls in English and by the end of the year they were best friends and I had never invited any of them to my house.
I'm exaggerating of course. In 1997 I had three people who I called my "best friend". One at school, one interstate and one in another country. I wrote a lot of letters.
But I didn't feel like I really "got it".
In 2000 I joined the coolsig forum and I met a lot of cool(sig) people. I had some pretty great electric friendships. They seemed easier to navigate somehow. You talked to people when they were online. You replied to their forum posts. If the last thing in the chat was something the other person said that means it's your turn to speak. Easy. This forum won't be important later.
In 2001 I would probably have called Vanessa my best friend. If I had to name one person who I was the closest friends with. She threw a party for her birthday and she was very sincere in her apology that she couldn't invite me because it was at a Theatre Restaurant and she really could only have 10 people there.
It hurt a lot but not because I thought I should rate somewhere in her top 10 people because, obviously she liked other people more than she liked me and even if she did like me better all her other friends went to school with her (I was out of school, by that time) and were all better friends with each other so it made a lot of sense. But I felt emblematic somehow of my friendships. I liked people and they liked me, I thought. But the whole "being friends" thing was weird and elusive.
Somehow I managed though and in 2002 and the following I met several people who I am confident that I am friends with to this day and I married one of them so I am pretty sure he thinks I am okay.
Actually I think I was always okay at the romantic relationship thing. I mean, I was terrible at it in a teenage too-intense and whoops I am actually mad in a not-always-fun way but I felt like I knew what I was doing even when I was breaking hearts or breaking up.
With friends I never really knew how to start. Or how to continue. Or how to anything. And like I said I still pretty much fumbled along but I was always very sure that this was an area where other people probably knew what they were doing and didn't just stumble upon a few amazing people on second floor and stay friends forever.
And as I got older I realised that nobody really knows what they are doing and we're all just making it up as we go along -
I mentioned this to my godteens recently. I told them that being a teenager is weird and confusing and scary and that being an adult basically feels exactly the same except that one the one hand there is nobody to tell you what to do, which is awesome. But on the other hand there is nobody to tell you what to do, which is terrifying.- and probably there are some people who've got the whole friend thing down. And it's not like competence is evenly distributed or, as an ex-coworker of mine seemed to claim, that incompetence in one area is just proof that you're really really awesome at something else. But I can fold fitted sheets, okay?
"You mean everyone is pretending to be an adult because that's what they think adults do but nobody is actually an adult because everyone feels that way? That's really stupid."
Yes. Yes, it is.
Anyway I moved cities in 2012 and even though, by luck and coincidence I had a fair number of amazing friends in Melbourne I didn't really know anyone in Sydney.
But I went to some meetup events and met and became friends with some people pretty quickly. Which made me think... maybe this isn't an area that I suck at. Maybe I am actually okay at this. Maybe it wasn't just luck and coincidence and Twitter that gave me Catherine and Morgan and Stefan and Lap and too many other people to mention HI I love you. (and Suresh, obviously)
And then I started some acting classes and in the first class I would be all like "Hi, I'm Elise I make websites tell me some interesting things about you" or whatever and in the second class people would be like "Oh Elise hello I want to sit next to you!" but then by the end of the 12 week term other people would be talking about things they did with each other on the weekend and giving each other lifts home and walking to and from the station together and it was like... how.
But one day as I was walking home, it hit me.
I don't become friends with those people because I don't want to. I like them just fine but they like, I don't know, text each other or something. There is effort and stuff involved in being friends with people and I just... I don't want to do that. I have enough trouble keeping in touch with the people I already know I like.
I thought about how much time and effort I would need to spend in order to remember these things about these people and ask up about them in the future and I would need to think about them (when they weren't even there) and then tell them I was thinking about them and keep up some kind of dialogue of texting or phonecalls or facebook messages in order to build up a friendship. I thought about all of that and I thought "nope. I'll just stick with being the friendly acquaintance, actually. You go be buddies with each other and I'll go home."
And I assume that for a lot of people that sort of thing is automatic. You probably don't need to remind yourself to think about other people when they aren't there. You just do it. Or you see them regularly and that prompts you. Or whatever.
But honestly when Suresh is away I could pretty easily go a week without hanging out with anyone socially. Then I start to get... weird. But I don't really... miss people when I don't see them.
But anyway. ANYWAY. That revelation I had about how other people probably think about each other and text and stuff and that's how they become and stay friends made me realise that even though I really didn't want to do that with most of the people I was meeting in my acting classes it was probably something I could do with the people that I actually already know I like.
And as I mentioned earlier this year I've been using HabitRPG as a sort of reminder checklist and todo-list and I've put tasks on about texing or IMing or otherwise contacting some people that are important to me. Just because they're important to me.
And I joked to my mother, when I was talking to her recently about this sort of thing, that I was ticking off my "call mum" task and she said "isn't it sad that we have to remind ourselves to talk to each other?" and I thought. No. I don't think it's sad. Probably other people just think of their mothers or their daughters or their sisters or their friends and then just call them. But I don't. I have very low social requirements and I don't think of other people mostly unless they're something specific going on. (I'm so great at crisis management. And I can fold fitted sheets.)
But even though I don't do that automatically... I can learn to do it manually. So I try and text Catherine every day even if it is just to say hello. And other people I feel like it's appropriate to talk to them every second day or a couple of times a week or once a week. It's just about finding the rhythm that works and feels right for the friendship. And sometimes I sit at my desk and I think "Text Morgan? I don't have anything interesting to say to them" but then an hour later I'll see a cute dog or think of something funny and I'll send a snapchat or whatever. And I guess I'm trying to have some kind of open dialogue with other people. Because deep down I do really love people and I care about their lives and having some kind of regular communication with them is great. And it's a good barometer of my state of mind because when I start to withdraw from people and not want to talk to them or see them I can prepare myself for whatever storm is approaching.
On the latest episode of The Anxiety Shut-In Hour Anna and Erin talked a bit about friendship. And how it's hard. How it's hard to make new friends as an adult. And I thought "ugh it's hard to make new friends as a kid making friends is terrible and I am terrible at everything" but then I realised, actually. I might not be terrible at friendship anymore. Maybe I was never terrible at it. I still don't feel like I know what I am doing and folding fitted sheets is way easier and more straightforward. But I feel like this is a thing that I can actually do. And I don't know if I do it the same as other people and I don't know if it takes this much actual work for other people (and maybe it doesn't feel like work because it's just enjoyable all the time? I don't know. For me, it's effort. But it's effort that is worth it so I keep doing it).
Anyway The Anxiety Shut-In Hour is a really great podcast. There have been three episodes so far and I recommend it and I think I would like it A LOT even if I hadn't met Erin on that forum (see, not important. But have a callback regardless).