I’ve been feeling quite melancholy lately.
I’ve been feeling, somehow, separate.
This is a recurring theme in my life. I find it relatively easy to relate to people and I consider myself fortunate to be surrounded by a lovely spread of interesting personalities, but I often find myself at odds with the lives of others. Running parallel but never intersecting might be another way to put it. Caught in between.
It’s rare to find someone that I feel I can truly connect with on a more resonant level, and unfortunately those people are not largely present in my life because of time or distance or both.
This is not all to say that I don’t have a wonderful life right now. I should never lose sight of that. I love what I am doing and where I am going. I know that it’s a lot to ask that I be able to get everything that I need to feel full in life from a single entity because I suppose that’s what a lot of life is about - you have the group that you talk to about your career over here, the group you reminisce with there, the group you talk about the article you just read over on the left, the group you go to for life advice on the right. The chance of your venn diagram of friends and colleagues overlapping in all areas is slim, but I guess that what I’ve been finding is that I feel off-kilter if I don’t have at least a handful of people standing near, if not in, the center.
I like to think that one of my strengths is that I’ve become fairly good at adapting. I can empathize somewhat freely and I often try my best to view things from different angles and understand where someone else is coming from.
I’m not perfect, but I do strive to keep in mind that everything is relative and just because something might not be important to me doesn’t mean that it isn’t incredibly important to someone else. There will always be someone better than you, there will always be something worse happening to someone else, there will always be something that is “more.” When something is truly upsetting someone, pointing this out to someone generally isn’t productive. It doesn’t solve anything and I don’t believe that it really ever makes someone feel better. Gaining perspective is a lesson I’ve always found most effective when I discover it on my own.
The world is large, the universe is larger, and there’s plenty of stuff that I don’t [and never will] completely understand. There’s always learning to be had, and I try to impart things that I’ve learned or experienced through my short span of time here when I can.
All of this makes it relatively easy to make friends, but sometimes the edges blur a little bit too much and I lose sight of what I am feeling or thinking in the pursuit of trying to understand where others are coming from.
And, this is going to sound incredibly pretentious and whiny, but I’ve also discovered that the interest I have in trying to understand others is not something that a lot of other people possess.
Part of it’s my fault. I’m not particularly vigilant about trying to share aspects of my life. I don’t often walk into a room and say things like, “Can I just TELL YOU about the day that I had?” Sharing the bad bits feels like complaining and sharing the good bits feels like bragging. So I often find myself simply not sharing. A lot of other people don’t seem to have this hang up, or have gotten over it, and thus I find myself doing a lot of listening. Which is fine. No, really. I don’t mind it; I even enjoy it. It’s just that…
Listening can be lonely.
And it’s not to say that when I start to feel like this I don’t try to press myself and open up, but let me step up onto my little soap box for a second.
I am getting tired of trying to talk to people while they’re looking at their cell phones. I don’t care whether you can understand what I am telling you while you text your friend - if I wanted to have a faceless conversation I’d be talking to you on Facebook and, let’s be honest, we probably wouldn’t be hanging out. BE PRESENT WITH ME. PLEASE.
I am tired of feeling like someone is simply waiting for their turn to say something when I’m trying to tell them about my day. I am tired of feeling like I’m caught in an idiotic competition to see whose day was “worse.”
I get it. I do these things too from time to time. I’m not proud of it. For example, sometimes I catch myself trying to share a story in return to show someone that I understand where they’re coming from, and halfway through it I realize that it’s sounding like I’m trying to tell them that, “I get it better.” I can be judgmental. I can be a right pain in the ass. I often give unsolicited advice when I feel like all people want is for me to listen to them.
I’ve been finding recently that don’t need to agree or disagree or weigh in at all. People just want to be acknowledged. Heard.
Which makes sense, because I think that a lot of the time that’s all I want as well. I don’t want to be argued with or taught anything or patronized or etc. I want someone to listen to me and feel like they’ve learned something about me or understand me a little better and be happy with that. I want people to appreciate me - which pains me to type, but that’s pretty much the heart of me.
This was long-winded and somber, I know. I enjoy being carefree and having fun as much as the next person, but I don’t feel complete or like an actual person without being serious about things sometimes. And that can be lonely, too, because I feel like a lot of the people I know aren’t particularly interested in being serious.
I don’t know.
I’ve had so many thoughts about this recently and I’ve only been able to make less sense of it the more that I think about it.
I don’t know why I keep coming back to it. Something has been feeling off lately, and I feel as if there’s a part of me that knows what I should do, but my brain hasn’t caught on quite yet. It probably involves pushing myself further outside of my comfort zone and making some changes that are going to require a fair amount of personal effort on my part.
If I force myself to get to the heart of the matter, and at this point in my self-indulgent rambling I think that I owe myself and you, for patiently reading this crap, some kind of valid insight, my life could be better if I could get over wanting to be liked by everyone. I know that I listen half because I really care and half because I just want people to like me. Oh, yes, I should have acknowledged far earlier that it’s not completely selfless: the listening. I’m just as selfish as everyone else, I think I’m just better about hiding it sometimes. Often, it starts out because I want people to like me [and just as often it works because we’re all at least just a little ego-centric] and eventually morphs into listening because I actually care. And now that I’m typing this out, I guess that the tipping point occurs when I realize that someone is going to like me with far fewer conditions than a typical person would.
I guess that what I need to work on [and there’s always going to be something I can work on] is trying to get to that point - caring without worrying about the payoff - earlier. And on the flipside, I think that I owe it to myself to be more upfront and open about how I’m feeling to others. It’s really only fair for me to get upset about it if I make it clear that I want someone to care and they continue not to, I suppose.
And if I care about someone and they don’t return the sentiment, what do I do about the self-righteous voice that creeps in and tells me they don’t deserve to be my friend? [It’s a constant presence, that damn voice.] People show that they have a genuine interest in you in different ways, I guess, but maybe what I’m saying is that I need for it to be in a certain way. Is that a lot to ask? I suspect that if I really care about them, I wouldn’t care about any of the stuff that bugs me. But in the interest of self-preservation I feel like it isn’t too much to expect to want people to ask me about how I’m doing and mean it from time to time. Right? Right?
Too many questions. At what point am I being unrealistic and at what point am I living without a backbone? Is it selfish that I feel that I should be able to decide who is “deserving” of being my friend or is that absolutely my decision to make? I am not a wise enough person to be able to render judgment on anyone, but at the same I feel like it’s my damn life so I should be able to do what I want with it.
Ugh. I am no Dalai Lama. I never will be. I am too self-righteous, I’m too materialistic, and my ego/pride are too large to wear that robe.
But the answer is here somewhere. It’s as simultaneously tangible and abstract as shafts of light, piercing through cloud cover on the Pacific. I can see it, but I can’t touch it, and if I get there the light isn’t going to be clearcut and easily defined anymore - it’s going to be immersive and unquantifiable and look completely different from how I saw it when I was miles away. But would I rather be bathed in light or looking at it from afar?