I am not a social person. If you haven't yet seen all the sides to Ashley, then you need to count yourself lucky that I've formed sentences to speak to you, not because I feel that you are beneath me, but because I probably feel so unworthy of recognition that mustering the courage to make commentary about the weather has me internally spazzing, wanting to crawl back into my hole where I belong and leave you other socially capable people to carry about with your much more important business of just existing with confidence.
Writer chats help breakdown some of those barriers. One, because without making small talk we all understand that we have something in common. Two, because we aren't forced to invest in these conversations any more than we feel comfortable. I can step back, or jump in, and people are free to chat back or ignore me without any expectation of investment. Three, we're all a little insecure and vulnerable.
I love these chats, but it's also a reminder that my real life is seriously lacking in the ability to jump into these kinds of conversations whenever inspiration strikes. Especially today.
The theme for today's #JustAddTea is friendship. My initial response was to skip this one. Not only is a touchy subject for me right now, but the project I'm working on has a lot of links to my own real life struggle with friendships, so the timing couldn't be worse. It's not something I was sure that I was ready to put into words, especially into words that will be livestream displayed.
My thoughts on friendship haven't changed. I still hold that real solid friendship is something that can handle all of the good, the bad, and the totally confused. It's something that always comes from a place of love, where you share in joys, despairs, and quirkiness. You don't have to agree, have the same hobbies or favourite genres, but you have to connect with mutual respect and sense of goodwill for the other person.
I like to think that I'm a good person, but when I think about how my friendships have changed throughout my life, I can't but wonder, "is it me?". There are very few people from my childhood that I still speak to. It isn't because of a fight or anything, it pretty much always comes down to a drift. I don't necessarily feel bad about losing some childhood friendships. When you're young, your sense of self and life is pretty different than what you'll grow into. I've always had a pretty strict moral compass, and there are things that I don't invite into my life, so when those around me venture elsewhere, I refuse to feel obligated to follow. I'm not an impulsive person. Makes me a bit dull I'm sure, but it's who I am. I'm not secure enough to not think about the future.
The other huge impact that I've had to contend with is moving around. Again, not losing friends from any kind of conflict, but that drift always comes about. Some friends and I can jump right back to where we left off when we reconnect. Others, I guess it just seems so forced, that without that one common activity we once shared, like a class or job, it's hard to keep that momentum going even when reconnected.
I don't live in the same city as my closest friends. Most of the time, not even in the same province. That adds a lot of strain to friendship. Add to that the life changes that start making us different people. Very few of my friends are married, it doesn't change who they are to me, but it does result in different realities. Add kids, and then for some reason the game really changes. I love my family, but it is all-consuming that I often just don't have the mental capacity to add checking-in to my daily to-do list. I try to keep tabs, but there's no knowing when I'll find that spare minute. Add distance, add insecurities, and add the fact that one of the commonalities that I have with my friends is that social insecurity, and then friendship turns into a guessing game of "Do I bother them or wait for them to want to talk to me?"
Having my son, and having his medical complications that have been the focus of my life since before he was born, has really changed the way that I fit with my friends. Those I was closest to have decided on my behalf that I don't have room for them, while others who I might not have claimed as my own friends have gone above and beyond to make sure that I'm okay.
I've read countless times how common it is for everything to change when kids come into the mix. The thing is that I don't feel any different. Sure my day has a few more demands in it. I have to adjust things around doctor's appointments and nap times, but the things I love haven't changed. My desire to be involved in my interests hasn't changed, my need to be silly with people I'm most comfortable with hasn't changed. I will admit that my ability to deal with bullshit has changed. I do not feel obligated to just go along with people's lies or showboating just to keep the peace. And, I guess, the other new obligation is that I need there to be acceptance of my son. Just as I probably wouldn't be able to maintain a friendship with someone who either hates or tries to ignore the fact that my significant other exists, I can't handle that about my kid. My family is not something that I have, they are part of me, and I guess understanding that is yet another one of those drift-making things.
I guess my dream is to have my university friendships back in the state that they were, but until then, I'm just going to keep doing me, the me that I am now, and the me that I strive to be. And all I can do is wish those who have come in and out of my life the same: the confidence to be themselves as they are and who they strive to be, regardless of what role I may or may not play in that journey.