At the moment, the fault lies with me. Or rather, my current teaching profession is a social energy sucking lake of quicksand in which I’m able to see a different path, but I’m kinda stuck right now.
If I quit my job, I’d have more chances to reserve the energy needed for finding and forming close friendships. However, there are some other reasons currently shielding me from effectively reaching out.
My emotional puzzle piece is from a completely different box set from everyone I meet. I just can’t seem to click comfortably. Someone told me once that finding good friends is like dating. You have to have a ton of awkward first dates, need to get caught with salad in your teeth at some point, and someone needs to be invited to “come in”.
To play video games, guys! Video games!
It doesn’t help that I already suck at dating. My tally: three boyfriends, none in which lasted more than four months. I got with them for really selfish reasons. As I kid, I felt unloved and thought that I would grow up unable to express it, so I initiated these relationships to force myself to “learn” how to love someone. Yeah, I know. Bad plan. I now know that my emotions develop no sooner than a light year because that’s my demisexual nature. It’s impossible for me to form close romantic relationships without seeing my partners as friends first. Catch 22!
I also live on a remote island called South Korea. I ferment kimchi in a hole in the ground and I have a beloved rice paddy named Doraemon. It’s honey butter flavored. And no, it’s not really a “peninsula” because North Korea.
While there are tons of Koreans and non-Koreans looking to make friends in a new country, many people simply leave Korea anyways after only a year, or they stop talking to you when their English test is over.
It’s not like I’ve been sitting on my ass eating a jumbo pack of gummy worms while binge watching Hell’s Kitchen the whole time. (Although that can be fun.)
I’ve invested time and energy to make friends. I’ve called people to ask how they’re doing, for light conversations and tried initiating deep conversations. I’ve visited them, with gifts and without, for a long time and for quick hellos, with intention and by surprise. I’ve offered to hang out with them on weekends, even invited them over to my house. These things all happen and they still happen.
I think I drain my HP and retreat to my bed from exhaustion before the other person gets the slightest bit interested. Most people already have their close friends. I’m a stranger to everyone, but I’m comfortable with that knowledge because it’s true and fair. So what’s the real problem?
Childhood Trauma – Grew up with abuse.
My childhood sucked. With mom and dad out of reach from birth, I lived with a cranky old grandma who rivaled Cinderella’s stepmom. A verbally and emotionally abusive shell of withering skin, she expressed her negative thoughts about me like a tattoo gun on my brain. To make it worse, if I tried to have friends over from school for too long, my grandmother would start treating them the exact same way she treated me. Not cool. So as a means to protect the people I felt the slightest bit close to, I refused to develop a really close relationship during K-12. So, unlike other people who were able to practice developing those bonds at an early age, I’m quite inexperienced with making friends because of my childhood.
Temperament – A not “charming” INTJ.
I’ve told stories inside of my head all my life. My imagination rivals the biggest currently known galaxy in the universe – IC 1101. Living in my head is easy and comfortable due to my dominant cognitive process, so I can get so obsessed with my inner world to the point that real life just seems dull. So it’s hard to find people I would consider interesting.
On top of this, I’m super introverted. Compare me to a gadget that runs out of battery after a mere three hours or less. And on top of that, I need maybe 15 hours to recharge. When I walk out of my house into the crowd, I think many can sense my exhaustion. I’ve been told many times that it seemed like I didn’t like someone, or that I was really guarded and intense. In reality, I just lack a lot of energy and smiley-bubbly is not in my temperament dictionary.
Ok, I lie. I wear the act during job interviews and for disarming people. But if I’m going to make friends, I don’t want to draw them in with ingenuity. I want to introduce my true self right from the start.
Unrealistic expectations – Maybe friendship is just disappointing as fuck.
Perhaps I treat the notion of friendship like a chick flick. Maybe deep, intellectual conversations are beyond friendly capabilities. Maybe superficiality and small talk are the limits of relationships. Maybe it’s cool to be the host of an interview instead of exchanging questions and ideas in a fair and equal conversation. But we all know that it’s bullshit for a person to just accept these conditions if they don’t work for us.
I guess compared to the status quo, I have a high standard of friendship. I’ve tried to settle for something sub-par, but my energy drains faster than Kool-aid in a colander. Deep interactions are a psychological need for me, as crazy as that sounds.
Psychological Issues – The “friend barrier” is all in my head.
I read a study once about children who don’t grow up with supportive parents. They become emotionally awkward adults who have a hard time learning to bond with someone. I can’t find the original paper because I read it years ago, but this article mentions what I’m talking about.
My extreme social anxiety also plays a part. Most people think anxiety only stems from a confidence issue, but that’s not always the case. Being high-strung doesn’t only mean shouts and mangled fingernails around new people. No anxiety exists when I’m by myself or just speaking with people who don’t know me. If I’m trying to get closer to someone, that’s when it hits. It’s subtle, sneaky, and gripping me like a Chinese finger trap. I’m working on easing out of it.
Lack of experience – How to be a good friend?
So here’s the thing. I went to school, joined clubs, initiated social interactions, and have hung out with people a lot. I’ve tried partying for so long that I disrespected my boundary for space and my need for alone time. I’ve tried having book dates and even hosted art nights and movie nights at my house. The real question is – have all these experiences taught me how to be a good friend?
I think the answer is no.
I think I’ve only learned how to settle. I think I’ve only known how to make people more comfortable by pretending to be smiley or bubbly which only led me to my exhaustion. I think I’ve looked for typical people at events I don’t give a shit about because “everyone likes barhopping”.
There’s a reason I wasn’t given the name “Everyone” at birth.
However, in my 20s so far, I’ve also tried being that good friend for people by actively listening, treating them with respect, and finding compatible hobbies. I think I’m on the brink of breaking through this barrier. Or rather, terminating this shield that I apparently have around me. I’m getting rid of the anxiety, coming to terms with my past, and I’m looking for others who also like deeper conversations. I’m only hanging out when I absolutely want to so I’m not going out when I’m already super exhausted. I have some people around who are close to me. Just not my friends – yet.
And see that smile in the red zone? That’s my current boyfriend, and he’s the closest person to me at the moment.
I never said I was boyfriendless. 😉