A little while ago I found myself sitting around moping.
I had taken a look at my current life and came to the conclusion that I have next to no real friends. I tried to think of people in my life I could consider friends. Anyone outside of family that I could call or text at any time and they would be there willing to listen, laugh, or just even play a video game with me.
I came up with virtually no one. No one within the past few years or so that I felt a true connection with. Don’t read what I am saying the wrong way, I have acquaintances I would call my friends. People that I work with and see regularly that I count as friends.
I have quite a few friends to whom I can say things like, “How was your weekend?” or “How’s your family?” and have polite conversations. I’m not socially awkward for the most part. As a matter of fact, most of the people I know would peg me as an outgoing individual.
However, it has been over eleven years since I felt like someone else and I truly connected on a deeper level. Before that the last person I felt really connected to was in the third grade. So it’s fairly safe to say there hasn't been many.
For a while I sulked. I couldn’t understand why no one would want to be my friend.
I watched groups of friends form all around me in every venue in which I found myself. “I wouldn’t want to be in that group anyway. I’d shoot myself if I had to hear ______ talk about his foot/relationship/money problems.”
I blamed others for not finding the amazingness I had inside of me.
Then the blaming others stopped. And the blaming of myself began.
Maybe I’m just not a likable person. Maybe… people don’t like the things I do or say. Maybe I say stupid things all the time and no one tells me because… well nobody likes me. I know people used to like me, but clearly whatever drew them to me in the past, I no longer possess or is invisible now.
Whether or not those things are true (they aren’t) isn’t the problem. Whether or not I believed they were true is the problem.
What was a semi-attractive, thirty-something, moderately successful man like myself to do?
Then one of my close friends (wait, I thought you said you didn’t have any close friends…) heard me complaining about not having any friends. That person suggested that I put myself out there. Make the effort to make friends. What was she on about? Make the effort she says. Like you can just go out and try to make friends.
Turns out you can.
Turns out you can actually find people and groups of people you like or are like you and… befriend them. Engage them. Invite them. Who knew?
I started Twittering. At first not because I wanted to make friends, but to get the word out about the fact that I am a pretty decent wordsmith and I was writing a book. I was told Twitter is the place to build a following or buzz so that is where I went.
Turns out you have to make friends to get either.
So I dabbled. I posted links to my website and blog thinking for some reason I'd gain a following that way... And they were promptly ignored by the 20 or so people that were following me. I had heard you had to follow people to get followed but that's not what I wanted to do! People should want to follow me! I don't want to follow others. Celebrities don't follow everybody back and everybody loves them!
As it turns out I'm not much of a celebrity.
I don't even remember exactly how I found my first real connection on Twitter. Although I'm thinking it was because she was an attractive girl promoting a book about zombies she had just recently published. We men are still like little boys in that way: if it's shiny, pretty, or touches on gross things (like the undead) then we are drawn like moths to a flame.
In any case I shared my affinity for zombies with the author and she asked if I'd read a sample from Amazon. I purchased and finished the book in a short period of time, posted a review and praised the author for her work. Since that time we have cultivated a friendship that I hope will last a long time. You should follow her. She’s going places.
I started to seek out and find other writers. Other people who were doing the same thing I was, writing, reading, and connecting. Really great, really interesting, really friendly people who were at different stages in their writing career. People who are published authors that can have fun talking for hours about nothing at all but talking about everything at the same time:
Along the way I have also found people who write amazing blogs that tell me how to learn my craft, how to get out of writer's block, or that make people laugh and think about their outlook on life:
Then there are people I've met who are just good people. People who you're better off now that you know them:
Believe it or not, I found people who actually read and enjoy my work. Wha...? I found people who are willing to take my rickety, extraordinarily rough draft of a book and actually read it and rave about parts of it. If you are a writer by trade or hobby, you already know the feeling of someone quoting your work and praising it. If you aren't then believe me when I say that the feeling is not unlike when your crush sends you a note or text in 3rd hour algebra saying that they really really like you with a heart and a winky-face. These are my winky-faced beta readers:
Each of these people are people I did not know 30 days ago. Each of these people have brought something into my life that was missing. Each of these people probably think I am mentally unstable in some way, but they seem to like me anyway. I guess what I discovered was that I didn't feel like I had any friends because I wasn't making friends nor was I being a friend. The effort I had put in was the result I was receiving.
Having these new friends has also made me more aware of making and keeping friends in the offline world as well. I had been pushing people away and not even knowing it, and this week I have accepted invitations to do things and go places I would have turned down before. It may just be a movie, or a lunch, but I am excited.
I have friends. :)