Thursday, August 5, 2010

Learning to fly solo

One of my favorite bloggers, IntrigueMe, blogged recently about how to be alone.  I love all her posts (because they're honest and candid), but this one really struck me. Possibly because I wish I had read that 10 years ago.  Or eight.  Or seven. Or even five.

Some people are impressed when I tell them I moved to Texas all by myself. Literally, I loaded my little Neon with everything I could and drove to Texas by myself.  Everything I couldn't load, I either bought or had shipped there.  My first job and post-college home was in town where I knew no one.  I had met my supervisor once (for the interview).  I was really, really alone.  I spent a lot of nights in those first few months crying myself to sleep and wondering if I'd made a huge mistake by taking this big adventure in the Lone Star State.  I was tempted to move back, but I didn't.  First, because I had tried to find a job in Iowa after college and failed, so I knew there wasn't a job for me.  Second, because I wanted to prove I could do it...survive on my own so far from friends and family.  Third, because I really did believe there was a reason I landed in Texas, and there was still much for me to learn about myself and see.  I was right on all those accounts, but it took me a long time to realize that third one.

I've never been someone who makes friends easily.  I can be shy and guarded at first, afraid of what new people might think of me.  Then, I give the title of friend quickly and expect too much out of the other person.  This only results in me getting hurt when they don't invite me to hang out.  It has happened so often in my life that it's just second nature and I expect it now when I meet new people. 

But anyway...my main friendships in the two towns in which I worked were my co-workers.  My best friends, Nikki and Bruna, lived hours away, so I didn't get to see them as often as I would have liked.  Thus, I developed pretty decent friendships with Chris, Scott and (a little bit) Jake at the Corsicana Daily Sun.  Some affectionately referred to us as the Brat Pack.  Ha ha.  Pretty appropriate. But they were boys, had different hours and some different interests.  So, I really only conversed with them at work. I'm still in touch with all of them and other Daily Sun co-workers, and have quite fond memories of my time there.  Poker nights at Raymond's were epic.  When I moved to Ennis, I had the same experience.  I developed a bond with both Melissas (although the one with Melissa S. was stronger), Stephen, Matt and Tye.  I spent a lot of post-work time with Melissa S., Stephen and Matt, and Tye and I lived in the same apartment complex, so we shared a vaccuum cleaner and I saw him often.  In all of these cases, however, our friendships could only go so far.  After working together all day and all week, sometimes we just didn't want to hang out in our extra time. Understandable, but sometimes painful for me as I struggled to find people to spend time with.  This resulted in some ridiculous crushes and attachment to guys who never had any intention of giving me a serious chance.

Before you start feeling sorry for me...or maybe you weren't...I found a great network of friends via the internet and John Mayer's music.  A few of them lived a short drive away in Dallas, but most of the others were scattered across the state.  And if you know Texas, you know it's a big state.  Mostly, I saw these friends at shows (Mayer and other related artists).  They were and still are terrific friends, and I feel blessed to know them. 

But I still didn't have that one type of friend.  You know, the one you call after a bad day at work because you really need to hash it out over a martini.  The one who will go see the movie you choose one time because she'll get to pick next time.  The friend who is content to do nothing but just hang out. 

I didn't have that friend in Texas. 

Until I met Amy. 

I found Amy via music, and our friendship grew over baseball.  While most of our time was spent going to Rangers games or chatting online while we watched them in our individual homes, we also did a lot of other things together.  I saw her two and three times a week (even though it meant driving 45 minutes each way), and I talked to her every night.  This was the friendship I craved and needed.  Needless to say, I was devastated when she passed away unexpectedly in her sleep one night in March at the age of 29.  I had lost more than just my ballpark buddy (although she was a really good one) and concert roadtrip companion.  I had lost someone I could talk to about everything and nothing for hours on end.  I had lost the person who e-mailed me randomly throughout the day to break up the work stress with Rangers tidbits, a funny joke or a crazy co-worker story.  I had lost the friend I'd searched so long for and finally found.

I panicked after I lost Amy.  I had grown used to having someone with whom to have dinner, go to the ballpark and see a movie.  I didn't know how to do those things alone, and I certainly didn't want to retreat back into my shell of lots of takeout food and hours in front of the television/computer. But I felt like I didn't have any friends who could fill that void (none that lived close enough to be successful in this anyway), so I immediately began a job search to move back to Iowa.

After I moved back to Iowa, I really thought all my social woes were over.  My high school and college friends were within driving distance, so I figured I'd see more of them.  I assumed too much.  I have spent considerable time with long time friends, but I am still lacking that friend that Amy had become. 

But I'm not content being a hermit.  Don't get me wrong - I love my time at home.  I'm quite the house cat.  But televised games and itunes only does so much to feed my baseball and music addictions.  I need a live fix every now and then. Not very many of my friends like these things as much as I do, so I've learned to fly solo.

I remember the first time I went to an Iowa Cubs game alone.  I was uncomfortable at first, but mostly when there was nothing going on on the field.  After a few innings, I relaxed, particularly when I started making conversation with my seat neighbor (who just happened to be Tug Hulett's grandfather).  Being alone wasn't so bad.

I'm still open to having a co-pilot for lots of things (my friend, Alicia, will be roadtripping with me to a concert this Saturday), but I'm still content (and sometimes happier) going places alone. I like being on my own time schedule.  And I've come to realize that being alone in public doesn't make me look like a loser. In fact, it makes me more approachable and open to conversations with new people. Most of the time, this is very good. I've met some neat people this way (Grandpa Hulett included). I've learned to love going places alone, and this has expanded to the movie theater, restaurants and even the Civic Center (being alone sometimes nets great seats, as was the case for me and "Spring Awakening").

In the past, I used to view being alone as being lonely, but I've learned that isn't always the case.  Sometimes the best company I can have is my own.

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