There was a great tweet that I ran across on my timeline last week.
Adult friendship = 2 people saying “I haven’t seen you in forever! We should really hang out more” over and over again until one of you dies
— Lyndsey Gallant (@apocalynds) July 23, 2017
At the time, I liked it and had a laugh, and went about wasting more time on Twitter. Today, I experienced this exact scenario (without the dying part). It set me thinking.
As someone who followed the expected middle-class American life path (to an extent) by attending a four-year college where I lived in a dorm and had classmates from various parts of the country, the diaspora of my social group began almost immediately upon graduation. It continued as people found jobs out-of-state and followed family or friends or lovers to new opportunities. As a result, I now juggle several different social groups. There are my local friends, the people I see on a regular basis because we live within an hour or two of each other. And then there are the more distant friends, people I only see once or twice a year (if that).
I’ve never been good at initiating social communication. It would be easy to blame this on my depression, but I can’t say with confidence that it’s anything more than a bit of social anxiety. I worry that I’m bothering people by messaging them. That I’m inconveniencing them with conversation. Some of them have expressed the same feelings of reluctance to initiate contact – which means that none of us talk to one another because we’re too worried that we’re being a nuisance.
As part of my resolutions for 2017, I committed to reaching out to the people in my life that I don’t see regularly. I had specific social goals – communicate with at least one person via non-gaming channels at least once a week. I’ve already failed, but periodically I revisit my list of resolutions and am reminded of the goal I set. Overall, I’ve been better this year than in previous years. During my lost year in Arizona, I hardly spoke to any of my friends. Now, I’m a semi-regular participant in group chats, social gatherings, and I even took the initiative to start an online book club to give us all something to talk about together. It may not be every week, but I don’t feel like I’m an outsider in conversations anymore.
It’s easy to say “We should do this more often,” when you’re spending time with a friend you haven’t seen in months. The reality, however, is that we go back to our lives and our routines and before we realize it another year has passed and we’re meeting up at Christmas again. If you truly want to maintain regular contact with friends and acquaintances, you must be willing to be the one reaching out and initiating contact. Be the planner. Set things in motion. I am terrible at this myself, but I know that it is something I can change if I prioritize it. I can say to myself, “Maintaining a more active friendship with so-and-so is important enough to override my aversion to communication.” Does that make it easy? Not in the slightest. It’s still something I have to make a conscious effort to do.
Maybe this is nothing more than a version of “Be the change you want to be in the world.” Instead, it’s “Be the kind of friend you want to have.” People will reciprocate, or they won’t. But I don’t want to reach the end of my life and realize that I let friendships fall to the wayside. I don’t want to regret staying quiet and waiting for people to reach out to me. It’s hard. I still worry that I’m inconveniencing people. I still worry that I’m not important enough.
But I don’t regret starting conversations, and that’s what matters.