happiness now

Most days–the good days–I am reminded why I am so glad I moved away. Those are the days I accomplish something I would never have done otherwise. When I revise a story, finish a book proposal, start editing my book, make a to-do list that includes writing, and then, with a flourish, cross that off as done and done and then go have a margarita. Some days, though, even when I get stuff done and I am filled with a sense of accomplishment and go-getterism, I cannot shake a sadness that has everything, I think, to do with feeling isolated. Almost everyone I am close to is very far away, and sometimes emails and IMs do not cut it. Sometimes I go a whole day without speaking to another human being.

I have E’s roommates and family, and they are wonderful and I love to spend time with them and I should trust them when they tell me they are happy to have me and it’s great I’m around and woo, let’s be buddies! I’m lucky to count them as friends. But sometimes I feel like I’m crashing a party. They’re very kind to the party crasher, and I am very glad to have crashed the party (the appetizers are divine and the music is rocking). Saturday night, they had a D&D arts and crafts party, and we spray painted swords and made Viking facial hair out of yarn and bracers out of tin foil and shouted huzzah! and ate amazingly delicious food and giggled a lot. I made myself a winged Valkyrie in a tinfoil skirt, and hung out with fellow crazy nerds and was totally happy, and this family I lucked into, it is a goddamn great one.

But they are not mine, not really. Do you know what I mean? I feel like I need a separate existence, outside of my
boyfriend, a space apart, some room to breathe for both of us. It
feels unfair to him, to come in and depend upon him for my social
existence. We are careful to give each other space, as the
relationship parlance goes, and it is wonderful to sit home and work on
projects and watch television and read, but sometimes, I want to go
out. I want people of my own. Do I sound
ungrateful? I don’t mean to be. It’s a long way around of saying I miss
my friends, I guess.  

I’m not really sure how to make new ones. Sometimes I think I should
go get a part-time job–you make friends with co-workers, right? When
I’m at the gym, I want to talk to the cute girl who is reading an
interesting-looking book, and suggest we start a book club and be best
friends. When I drive into Salt Lake with E and work in the café all
day, I want to stop women with cool haircuts and ask them where they
got it done, and where did they get their eyebrows done, and where did
they get their awesome shoes, and can we be best friends? I am out of
practice with this. I am so shy.

At the bookstore, I strike up a conversation with the cashier who is
wearing a funky T-shirt, and it is pleasant and nice to have a
conversation, and she and I might have so much in common and I open my
mouth, ready to say “Hey, so–” and I don’t know what comes next and I
shut up and run away before she hates me. “Let’s be best friends!”
always springs up and I am pretty sure they wouldn’t know that I am
kidding. Mostly. I have not yet had security called on me; I don’t want
there to be a first time.

This is something I have to figure out, because feeling isolated is not
good for me. It makes E worry about me, that I am not happy, that he
has no solution. He is not good with not being able to solve a
problem. But mostly, it’s something I have to solve–I don’t want
homesickness to overcome me, unhappiness to overwhelm me. I came out
here to work, but I don’t want this to just be a waypoint, I don’t want
to be just marking time and waiting to not be unhappy. I want to work
for it now, not hope for it in the future.  Anyone want to move here
and be my best friend?

6 Replies to “happiness now”

  1. Hey Anne, I have to say that I can relate with your feelings entirely. I wish I could say there’s a cure-all for being homesick and that you can open friends-in-a-can and everything will be a-okay! But I’d be lying to you and well, that wouldn’t be very friend-like would it? I think what you need to do is allow yourself to better understand your surroundings and take time to observe what in them instigates your fear, or makes you feel self-conscious or shy. I’m not a psychologist but maybe once you get a grasp of the situation you’d probably be more likely to open up. Either that or you just have to suck it up and put it all in the open, make friends, and smile because you have a reason to and not because you’re insanely uncomfortable. I know, terribly unhelpful but huge HUGS!

  2. Hi Anne, I’ve been a lurker, thoroughly enjoying reading you for a while now, and I had to step out of the shadows for this one! You’re right – it’s hard to not have your ‘own’ people. Is there maybe a bookstore that already has a book club you could join? Do you take your laptop to a cool coffee shop every day where the barristas or regular customers are out-going and friendly? How ’bout that yoga class? It can usually happen pretty organically in a situation like that. One way or the other, I’m sure you’re going to find some of your own peeps – you’re smart and funny. Those characteristics are magnetic. I’d totally be your best friend if we were agonizing in downward dog next to each other!

  3. I totally understand what you’re talking about and I only moved an hour away from where I was. However, that hour makes it hard to connect with friends in person when everyone is so, so busy. It takes a huge effort just to get a couple of people’s schedules to coordinate for dinner out.

    I got married and moved to where he lived and now we mostly hang out with each other and with his friends because I really don’t have any friends in Rhode Island. I still have a part-time job up in Massachusetts with two co-workers who are my age and so fun and who sort of fill that social void during the week, but if my job in Rhode Island goes full-time I’ll lose that too.

    I’m looking into stitch and bitch groups. I don’t know if I’l have anything in common with the people there, but at least I’ll get out and meet some people, right? I found one group at meetup.com. Maybe there are some awesome book clubs or something in your area meeting this very moment that you just haven’t found yet.

  4. Wow… I could have written this. This describes exactly how I’ve been feeling since I quit school. Though… if I’m honest, it describes how I felt before then too, though at least while I was doing that I had an excuse and a commonality for making small talk with other people. My fiance has always been more social – I don’t know anyone he can’t be friendly with – and sometimes I feel like I’m letting him do all the work, because as long as I’m vicariously social, I don’t feel a lack in that area. But I’m working on developing some of my own interests too, so that I’ll have venues for meeting that new best friend and things to talk about when I do.

  5. Patience, grasshopper. You’re settling in to a whole new world and life. It takes time, but you’ll find the places that are yours.

  6. Oh, geez. You’ve just described why I haven’t moved away!

    I’ve come and gone from my hometown several times, but I’ve settled here now and am not sure I want to stay… but I’m afraid to do what you’re doing, so here I am. (I’m doubly afraid to do what you’re doing – afraid to move away, afraid to give up my career track to write)

    And when I’ve lived elsewhere, I’ve done all the things you’re supposed to do to make friends. Take classes. Join a book club. Chat up the people at the coffee shop. It never works, you know? You create a wider and wider set of acquaintances, but it’s hard to find the chemistry to make a brand new friend.

    That being said, I have one wonderful success story. When I first moved back here after grad school, and I only knew a couple folks from high school, I put an ad on craigslist to start a book club. I’ve done that before, in pretty much every city in which I’ve lived, but this time it worked. Six or seven women showed up at my house one night, two or three drifted away, someone’s sister’s best friend moved to town and started hanging out with us, and now five of us are best pals.

    Anyway. Hang in there! If it’s sunny here you live I’ll totally consider moving out there and being your best friend.

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