Friday, June 18, 2010

On relationships and anthropophobia.

URI freshmen orientation was kind of like RYLA all over again.

When I first showed up, I was dispirited to find there were so few people "like me." That is to say, "my kind of people." I don't necessarily mean people who think the way I do or like the same things I do or come from the same background I do, though I have been spoiled to know a lot of fantastic people who foot that bill. I just mean, I didn't happen across anyone on my same wavelength, with my same expectations and attitude towards orientation.

I mentally sorted through the people in my group, deciding who would be friends with me and who wouldn't give me the time of day. I sized up the kids from LaSalle who wouldn't look me in the eye when I asked them questions, and the short standoffish preppy brunette, who probably already disdained me. For some reason the sporty outgoing twin who I tried to converse with met my questions with laconic answers, and another blonde girl simply ignored me. And I decided it was going to be a long two days.

Parenthetically, am I a freak for hyper-analyzing these minute interpersonal interactions? I think it's interesting, generally, but I am also probably too emotionally invested in this particular scenario to have unclouded observations. I am very afraid my perception was inaccurate, but I have no way of knowing if I was seeing things as they actually were, and if not, how to fix my perspective. I'm so very chained inside my own head! Anyway.

Everyone I met, I asked the desperate question in my head, "Are they like me?" The kid with the toggles in his ears whom I played pictionary with, maybe. The giggly threesome with the perfect tan, probably not. The unkempt girl in the community service workshop, possibly. I honed my interpersonal intuition, trying to figure out what kinds of people I was encountering: what stereotypes they fit, what made them unique, how they were feeling about orientation, and most pressing of all, how would they receive me? I watched people while drafting a social contract in my head, deciding with whom I should bother and with whom I had no chance or future relationship.

Oh my soul, is this what real high school is like? I definitely wouldn't be able to take it. Why isn't church like that? GTC? NCFCA? Are we just super chill, or am I confident enough in those spheres to overcome my barriers of insecurity?

If I may indulge another parenthetical from my original point here, it's occurring to me that I was looking for someone with whom I could rest. Be comfortable, be frank, be unabashedly personal with. And I think that's too much to ask of a two day orientation group of strangers. But instead I extroverted an edited version of myself, and it was exhausting, and it made me retreat even further into myself. Implication, application? Be real always, don't expect too much, our Father gives all the affirmation we need. I don't know, I need to think about this more. Anyway.

It's just so ridiculous! When did I fall into this way of thinking? This, "We can't be friends, it would never work." I thought I was not a "narrow" person, with a tightly defined demographic of friends. I like nearly everyone. And still, without hardly realizing what I was doing, I selfishly evaluated potential relationships by how they would meet my social needs. I'm horrified. This is not what I want! I want to treat people in such a way that they feel set at ease, comfortable, accepted. I don't need to be BFFs with everyone I meet, I just want to, love them. Above all, I don't want to disregard the potential for a relationship just because it seems that there's no potential for close friendship. I do, I really do like people who are different from me. I want to interact with others for their sake, not for my own.

[Or maybe, more selfishly, I just want to be liked.]

It's strange, though. I thought stereotypes weren't real. I was expecting that the people I met would not match the projected image. But so many people did. Fit a stereotype. And it caught me off guard. And I started believing in it. I'm relearning a lesson I thought I had learned solid the first time around, that time with the PCOM girls in San Francisco: do not judge. People are not what they seem like on the outside. People are not what they seem like in a two day orientation. And dare I postulate that where there are people there is always potential for relationships? They don't need to be "my kind of people" for me to befriend them. And we don't need to be best buds to have a relationship. Love does not require proximity of souls.

I still worry, though. Just because I want to love people doesn't mean they want me to. The people I tried to talk to rejected my small talk. Shouldn't I take the hint and terminate the relationship potential? Not annoying people is a form of loving them, right? I'm just kind of a lame person. I don't mind that. But I mind that other people mind. I do, I really do want to be liked. I wish I didn't . . . I'm amused by how insecure I sound, because, though I am insecure, I also don't care. I spent most of day two in sullen silence because I was so, so tired, and it's occurring to me now how rude I must have seemed. Which I regret, I suppose, but my silence spawned by insecurity is something I regret because I failed to love, not because I must have appeared socially maladjusted. Implication, application? I lack gentleness. Working on that.

This is what I really hate about HIMYM. Ted is a jerk. He goes on these dates with these girls, and if they're the slightest bit weird he freaks out and ditches them. Whereas, he himself is a psychopath, it's the girls who ought to be running out of there. I don't know. He's fictional. But I feel like telling him that just because someone does something he doesn't like, it doesn't give him license to treat them without courtesy. Should people have to hide their true selves until you know them well enough to not be scared off? I don't know. To an extent, it's inappropriate to dump all your baggage on someone without some kind of relational context. Friendships are not instant, they build and have progression, and this is right. But by the same token, we're all weird, and idiosyncrasies shouldn't be deal-breakers. I don't know. I think I've inappropriately framed the question. There are plenty of people I thought were bizarre when I first met them, but I grew to appreciate what I used to think was weird. How should a friendship progress? What is the ideal development of a relationship?

You know, most of my friends, especially my close friends, I just decided to be friends with them. The people I casually grow close to, somehow those relationships aren't as binding. Hm. I wonder why that is.

Every small step of progress I make in this area is almost always compensated for with retreat. [Is that allowed? Two prepositions in a row? It seems wrong, but I don't know how else to say it. Is the "for" superfluous?] Small victories are matched with slightly larger defeats. My character and habits are so deplorably weak, I am so unversed in the language of loving. Begging for more opportunities to try and fail seems masochistic, how many do I need before I learn this simple lesson? I hate regression. This discourages me, I ought to be discouraged, but I can't help but be heartened beyond understanding by my weakness. And on this weakness I stake my claim. I love you, O LORD, my strength.

One more thing I learned about people during orientation: girls are girls, wherever you go. Boys, I thought I had a working understanding of boys. No. I don't. And if I may make a gross [but flattering?] generalization, the boys at college are not half as nice as the homeschooled ones.


Michael said...

"You know, most of my friends, especially my close friends, I just decided to be friends with them."

That's strange, but the same is true of myself.

I feel like all of us are pretty bad at overlooking peoples faults when we don't know them that well yet. It's easier to do when you're already friends . . . but at first it's hard, and we somehow pragmatically decide we don't want to be friends with people who chew their food loudly.

I . . . am making comments about small things you said, but I'm not sure how to express how I feel about the whole post or how you are . . . I want to get at the heart of the issue and say something encouraging, but can't think of anything to say and I'm afraid I'll miss the mark anyway.

Art said...

I'm going to take this opportunity to think... (I feel like I haven't had time for introspection and yet I still want to think and be refreshed and for my mind to be renewed)

"Be comfortable, be frank, be unabashedly personal with. And I think that's too much to ask of a two day orientation group of strangers. But instead I extroverted an edited version of myself, and it was exhausting, and it made me retreat even further into myself." I have so noticed this in how I relate to strangers especially at camps. It's usually in situations where I want to belong but know no one. And I tell them about my interests and likes and end up not expressing myself at all... or maybe, not really loving them...

I haven't thought very much about loving people over the past few days; I've thought about survival and faith and trust and joy and feel content in who I am and in God (though I still seek) but... I don't know, it's unexpected for me to think of all the considering and intentionality involved in love.

But I so, so liked this "Love does not require a proximity of souls." I used to think it did, but it doesn't, it really doesn't. Why is it that life still seems so much richer though when souls are close?

(insert thoughts on community here)

Perhaps one day I will learn to miss things without needing to catch up, and skip and tumble held firm to Christ!

I hope you'll forgive my ambiguity, Hayley. it's hard to explain the context of everything.