What do we really want?
When I was a child, I never had friends. I did have playmates in the neighborhood and in school, but you know, there’s always that kid: the one that doesn’t “get” social cues, and somehow just cannot speak the nuances of the play language that the others speak. The one that has a million things they can easily be teased about, and will react in the best possible way, that is, with dramatic, hyperbolic tears at best (which are of course hilarious to everyone) or with righteous tattling at worst, which always results in unifying the entire group against the teased party.
Though my social skills would improve in adulthood, as I grew up I coped by staying more and more in my own little world where I was alone but safe and relatively happy. I would eventually make my first truly close and beloved friend at age 15, but with the gift of retrospectiveness, I realize I had other chances to make friends before that. I had classmates treat me with real kindness and attempt to form a friendship with me, at the risk of their own social standing. Others were as ostracized as me, and sought kinship. Ultimately none of it would ever stick. But the one who sabotaged it by not responding was me.
I have had good friends in my life. Besides the friend I made when I was 15, the first friends I made were a group of kids between 17 and 20, all boys, when I was 18 and freshly arrived to the USA. That was the first time I really fit into a group and was completely embraced, and the first friends I made who liked anime, video games and Yu-Gi-Oh. In both cases, there were shared obsessions in place (cartoons, comics, anime, video games –specific ones to different situations). Getting together meant engaging in these obsessions. When the engaging on the topic was done, which would last a few furiously delightful hours full of banter and laughter, we would part ways for the day.
This also meant that when the interest petered out, the friendship would fizzle out as well.
When I think about friendships I’ve had without such strong shared interests, generally it’s been people who would engage with my husband while I could sit on a spot drawing and just enjoy their presence without having to interact. But one-on-one interaction about nothing in particular seems to have become much harder as the years go by. Even with people I feel like I really “vibe” with.
I like the idea of socializing and having friends. I suppose most of us do. I have a constant need, a craving, for companionship. I am lonely a lot of the time. And judging by this past week, so are a lot of others. I’ve counted 9 journals/posts accross different platforms regarding the deep desire to connect with others, and the lack of said connection. But many of those who post them seem to relate to my own feelings of wanting to be in their own bubble yet not alone at the same time.
For me, I’m lonely, but it seems the moment I am with others I desperately crave my little world again. I’m starting to come to the conclusion that I don’t actually want company or new friends, yet my mind seems to be constantly tricking me into thinking that I do.
And it’s not like this is new. Even many of you who know me for years will remember what I’m like at conventions, most at home walking around by myself, or sitting in some corner drawing and people-watching. Perhaps I look a bit lonely or maybe even creepy. But at those moments, I am enjoying myself the most. Sometimes I’ll get up and go meet a few people, but I can always go back to my room or just sit quietly by myself. And looking around me at everyone, I’m enjoying everyone’s company so much. But I prefer to be left alone. That small ache is often still there: something inside me screams, connect! Make friends! It’s what you should be doing! But a part of me also feels a very real dread at the idea.
It’s not like I’m averse to having new people in my life. Not exactly. After all, I have made new acquaintances even during the past year. But I do believe the desire to be alone and the pain of isolation exist in almost equal parts within me. And sometimes I wonder if that’s the case for many of you, too.
Socializing with others seems to induce a lot of anxiety in many people. Forget IRL, even just chats. Yet we all seem to crave it at the same time.
I wonder what’s the solution for me. I ignore so many people on DMs. The amount of energy replying takes me is unbelievable. If you get DMs from me, even just ocasionally, you’re probably really damn special to me, so please know that, even if I stop replying for two months.
I’ve realized that my old friends of many years rarely ever see me anymore. Making plans can fill me with dread, so some have not seen me for literal years. They probably think I don’t like them anymore. But it’s not that. It’s just that more and more, one-on-one socializing takes way too much out of me. I think I am happy with this situation, but at the same time, a part of me keeps saying I shouldn’t be, because I am too lonely.
And you know what I’ve realized? I’ve always had this feeling, even at times in my life when I had friends I saw weekly and loved very much. There was always this little part of me that simultaneously felt like I was missing a certain “type” of connection, while also wanting to be alone.
Maybe things will feel less isolating when our house parties resume. And when I attend my next con, which I imagine will be FWA. And, most of all, when our local park (closed for vaccination) reopens and Starbucks opens for indoor seating again. People-watching is a balm to me. It feels so wonderful. Then, I am not lonely. But I am also not overwhelmed. I have missed that terribly.
See, I guess that’s it. And why I write these posts. It’s a form of self reflection, and it helps me sort my feelings out. It seems recently a lot of friends/artists I follow are struggling with this. I can’t really give a solution since I’m 37 and still figuring it out, but maybe we all will eventually.
At least, I hope so!