One of the odd things about me is that I have historically allowed myself to be passive when it comes to my social life and activities, living my life and finding my friends and experiences through other people. On the surface that sounds like a bad thing, but it’s not a uniformly bad thing. Indeed, at various times it’s been a good thing.
The last time I unequivocally took the lead and made friends and initiated activities was when I was practicing law and, for as much as I still love some of those people, it was a negative experience. We bonded over shared misery, not joy. It revolved around drinking and, at times, the people I was with seemed more interested in escaping their families than in complementing their home life with a social life. When I recognized that all of that was rather toxic, I cut back on going out and doing things with those people pretty sharply. I’m not going to say that caused my eventual estrangement from the law – there were obviously other factors at play there – but there certainly was a correlation.
As a reaction to that, for the next few years I sought most of my social opportunities and friendships through my wife. That worked for a good while. Those people were and are good people interested in positive things and I had a lot of fun experiences with them. But, obviously, when my marriage ended, most of that ended too. I still consider those people friends and will say hello to them if I bump into them, but a divorce, especially an unpleasant one like mine was, limits you to just that.
To the extent I was meeting people on my own and forging friendships before my divorce and in the couple of years after it, it was somewhat unconventional due to the nature of my work. Specifically, I was “meeting” people online via my writing and the social media community that surrounds it. In one respect that was fantastic, as I met a very special person that way who was and remains an important part of my life. Beyond her, I have met scores of wonderful people, many of whom I consider close friends now and many of whom I could rely on if I needed to for anything. There are some who disdain such virtual communities as somehow inauthentic, but that’s bullshit. I wouldn’t trade the friends I’ve made and continue to make online for anything.
But it’s also the case that we’re all geographically scattered. Living a largely virtual, online life is cool and amazing and very 21st century and I love certain aspects of it, but the fact is that it would be easier for me to schedule a social outing in New York or San Francisco right now than it would be to schedule one in Columbus. The fact that I could do that is pretty spiffy, but at some point there is no substitute for actual in person interaction that doesn’t require an airline flight.
As far as real life goes, the past couple of years of my social life resembles, in some ways, the couple of years before my marriage ended: most people I know in town I know via my partner and her pursuits and our activities like parties and dinners out and other gatherings went through her and them. Like that previous time, this has been a good thing as these are positive people I likely wouldn’t have met otherwise and I’m a better person for knowing them and their lives than I likely would’ve been had I taken the lead, I suspect.
But, as most people know, I’m single again. It’s a very different deal than my divorce, of course, as the circumstances were not ugly and unpleasant like my divorce was and we’re doing our best to remain friends. As such, I presume I’ll still be seeing these folks on occasion, all of whom I still love very much and consider them to be my friends too. But the fact is, it won’t be quite the same now that I’m not their friend’s partner and default +1, so it’s up to me, really for the first time in close to a decade, to take the lead in making sure my life outside of my house is as satisfying as my job and kids are to me.
That’s kind of a scary proposition in a lot of ways, especially given that, since I’ve been working at home, my hermit-like tendencies have intensified and because, since I’m older and more health-conscious than I used to be, I am not the sort who will do much going out late, going to a lot of concerts and bars and all of that easy stuff people do. And dating, for the foreseeable future anyway, is not something I’m super enthused about doing and is probably something best avoided for now.
But just because something is scary does not mean it’s impossible. I talked to one of my close-but-geographically-estranged friends last night and she made some good suggestions to me about how to approach all of this. Her suggestions dovetailed pretty well with some strong, positive, but ill-formed impulses I’ve had which have allowed me to break out of the depression I was experiencing last year as well. It’s less scary to do new things when they’re not really new things but, rather, are merely extensions of your interests and impulses which you simply didn’t recognize as things you could easily do anyway, locally, and without a big fuss.
Last night I found and joined a group that organizes hikes and on Saturday I’m going on a group hike in Hocking Hills. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do but didn’t bother with because it seemed hard or I had other obligations or because – and this was a key symptom of my depression – it wasn’t a perfect, ideal hiking outing. Hocking Hills is not Camelback Mountain or Yosemite or the Appalachian Trail or other great places I’ve hiked before, but I can actually do it on Saturday and be home before dark. One should not avoid doing things that are good merely because they are not perfect. So on Saturday I’ll do something good.
On Sunday, I’m going to a craft beer event I’ve always known about but never went to for a lot of reasons too. Same sort of situation as the hiking, really.
A lot of people will probably chuckle at all of this, as hikes and beer outings are just things people do. I don’t begrudge the chuckling. I’m sort of amused at how basic all of this is myself. But because of the many odd circumstances of my life, I’m not really most people in that regard, so it is kind of a big deal to me. It’s the stuff of a healthy and normal life that, hopefully, will offset the somewhat strange life I have in which meeting actual people in the flesh and leaving my house is not necessarily easy. And the sort of life in which, however positive it was and how well it worked for me, I kind of outsourced to other people in the past.
Anyway: I’ll probably post hiking and beer pics here on Sunday. Feel free to make fun of me for acting like I’m the first person to do this kind of stuff.