Monday, September 10, 2012

thoughts on being new

As a kid, I never had to change schools. The kids in my kindergarten class walked across the stage with me in high school, and since there weren't many of them, I knew them all. Every once in a while, we'd get a new student, and we'd all become really interested in him or her for a few weeks. Soon enough, however, that new student became just one of us, and we went on with our regular elementary school lives.

When I got to college, I was at the peak of my now draining extroversion, and I made friends immediately. Looking back, my methods were questionable at best; I met two of my best college friends by walking up to them in a huge field full of freshmen and demanding their screen names, and I met another of my college roommates by sharing a bed with her. My dad's never met a stranger, and his approach to meeting new people rubbed off on me tenfold. I guess College Me just always assumed that everyone I met was just as excited to be my friend as I was to be theirs, and for the most part, it worked out pretty well. I'm sure I creeped a few people out, but don't we all sometimes?

Moving to Cincinnati was hard for me because, for the first time, I was up against people who already had friends, thankyouverymuch, and didn't need an obnoxiously peppy newbie to add to their circles. I went to church by myself for months before it occurred to me that not everyone shows up to church sans a posse. The more I realized I was missing out on socialization, the lonelier I became, until my friend Beth invited me to her small group. Beth's friend group largely consisted of transplants - young adults who had moved to Cincinnati after college and were creating new lives there. Despite the fact that I liked the Jonas Brothers at the time, they welcomed me with open arms. Every time I drive away from Cincinnati now, I cry knowing that I don't get to live life beside those people anymore.

When it comes to making friends, Korea takes the cake on ease of execution. I met my friend Kristen by facebooking her a month before I even moved there, and the day we all met Kelsey, we escorted her all the way back to her apartment. All my friendships were on steroids there; everyone remembered what it was like to be new and did everything they could to help ease the transition.

California's not the same.

I've been here for nearly six weeks, and aside from my coworkers, I haven't made a single friend. It's not for lack of trying; I've been to three different churches and two different young adult groups. I've tried to join six different bible studies and only one has actually given me enough details that I could show up. I thought I had found friends at a singles group I found (don't even get me started on how much I hate the concept of a "singles" group), but whenever I'd ask the other women in the group out for coffee, the resulting expression of confusion and annoyance made me want to get sucked into a hole in the ground.

I've never experienced such resistance trying to make friends. I went to a picnic on Saturday, and I nearly had to pull my car over on the way home because I was crying so hard. I think about those Sunday mornings in Korea that I slept through my alarm, only to be awoken a half dozen times as each of my friends realized I wasn't at church, and it physically hurts. Aside from the people I knew before I got here, not a single person has my phone number. I suppose people could have tried to add me on facebook, but since no one has asked me why I'm not to be found, I'm guessing that's not the case.

I promise this isn't just a post to gain your sympathy (okay, maybe a little). This new kind of loneliness I've been experiencing is really causing me to reflect on the kind of person I am when I'm comfortable in a new place. Once I've been around long enough to recognize the regulars, I want to be the person who always notices a new face. The kind of girl who invites new people to small group or has friends over for dinner. I want my friend circle to never feel closed off; I want to always have enough room in my life to spare an evening at a coffee shop to get to know someone who desperately needs a friend.

Before you panic and contact me on every form of communication available to you (Grandma), it's really not that big of a deal that I don't have a lot of friends right now. I'm still getting used to my job, which means I'm the last car in the parking lot at night and the janitor sometimes has to kick me out because he's leaving. I come home and crash on the couch before I even acknowledge what time it is. I spend eight hours a day listening to my own voice, and the last thing I want to do when I finally get home most nights is talk to another human being. It seems my introversion is skyrocketing these days, leaving me little energy to pursue any conversational exploit more complicated than talking to my television screen. For right now, this is my life. And even when it's lonely, it's so very good.

1 comment:

  1. I love you Nik! and believe me I am super thankful for you being in our posse here in Cinci. You always brought such a fresh energy to us and I miss you almost every time we all get together. Love you sweet lady.