I’m thinking about…people, I guess, a lot lately, which is not altogether surprising considering how social I’ve been lately and how many friends have been sleeping on my couches in the last couple of weeks. The other weekend I had to go to the emergency room with a girl I’d met over Christmas and known for about three weeks all told, along with another friend I’d met that same Christmas week and my cousin, who I guess I’ve sort of known all my life but have only started hanging out with recently. And then the weekend after that, I hung out some more with those same two people from Christmas and some people I know from my tenure at the Maple Lodge, and an old friend from college, and my stupendous housemate A. You know how sometimes you have that feeling that all your different friend worlds can’t really mix, that you are not only the thing that connects them but also the force that keeps them from exploding on contact? I kept having that feeling all through those weekends, wondering if everyone was going to like each other and play nice and also if everyone was going to keep whatever embarrassing knowledge they had about me on the down-low. I even wondered, a little, if maybe all my various friends from various worlds would like each other better than me, perish the thought, and if the worlds would somehow rearrange to exclude me.
My neuroses were unfounded, as they almost always are, and as far as I can tell we all have been enjoying each other very much. Rob and Anna arrive tomorrow morning and I’m looking forward to doing the things I always do with them (lay around on the floor watching terrible movies that are always their suggestions, eating cookies, napping, and gossiping) but also to going out dancing with one of my friends from work who’s leaving the country to go travelling again, and to a birthday party that will be attended mainly by extremely attractive Italian expatriates. I keep saying, politically speaking, that living in New Zealand has allowed me to see some things about the States more clearly, just because I’m at a distance. The same is true, I’m finding, about my personal life, back in Seattle, in California, in Miami and New York. I can see my friends and family from a distance, from the other side of leaving, and some new angles and shadows have started to emerge as I keep getting further away.
What this means practically speaking is that I’m a lot less willing to hang out with non-awesome people. I can still sort of pretend I’m listening to someone insufferable because yay for dissembling and hypocrisy, but on the whole I find myself disengaging much earlier from interactions with people with whom I don’t feel a fairly immediate connection. You know how sometimes, you meet a person and you chat for a couple of minutes and you think to yourself, “This person is going to be my friend. This person already is my friend. This person is my person.” I’ve had that happen many many times, platonically and otherwise, and I’ve come to depend on that feeling to tell me that I’ve found another kindred spirit, as Anne Shirley would say, which is good because I basically only want to hang out with kindred spirits lately anyway and it’s nice to be able to identify them within an hour or so.
Oddly, and I’m not quite sure how this is even the case, the other thing is that I also seem to be more open to different kinds of awesomeness. I’m starting to see that someone doesn’t have to like the same music or movies or books I like or whatever, which is just a shortcut for saying “doesn’t have to be exactly like me, externally or internally.” I am probably more emotionally stunted than all y’all reading this and so have come later than most to this realization, but it’s a good one and has contributed to my potential-friend pool being much larger. Even as I’m relying more and more on my internal kindred-spirit-ometer to tell me whether I want to pursue a friendship with a new person, I seem to be more willing to consider that I might really like hanging out with someone with whom I don’t seem to have anything immediate in common. Since being in New Zealand I’ve been hanging out with a much wider variety of people than I did in Seattle, both amongst the Kiwis and the International Friends, and it’s made me a little ashamed, in some ways, to think of how I’ve blown people off in the past because I didn’t think I’d get them or they’d get me. I wonder how many people there are in the world, total, that I could get along with and enjoy and care about? I wonder how many of those people I know, and how many more there are in the world for me to meet? I wonder how our recognition of each other will change over the years, and I also wonder if I will always feel, on some level, that my increasingly diverse friend worlds cannot mix without ambiguously dire consequences.
What hasn’t changed in all this is that I still like people who make art, who are witty and sarcastic, who read a lot and use big words, who are passionate, who like to hug and kiss and hold hands and link arms, who laugh loudly and inappropriately, who like to cook and eat, who are curious and interested in everything, who are deeply kind and generous, who are adventurous, who are beautiful, who like to play dress-up, who like to walk around looking at stuff, who love to dance, who think other people are inherently interesting, who like to sit up late into the night talking and drinking tea.
So I’m more closed and more open at the same time, lately, with people. You’d think that would make me feel just about the same, equilibrium-wise, but it’s not the case at all.