Friday, November 8, 2013
Alone In A Crowd
One of my favorite things about singleness is being available to people. Not to say I'm fancy-free with no responsibilities (I hate that assumption), but since I'm not focused on one main relationship, I can spend my relational energy pretty freely. I can rearrange my schedule if needed without consulting anyone. It's gratifying when I can drop everything to be there for a friend or family member - or just to hang out in a spontaneous, low-key way when no one is having a crisis. In those moments, I'm so thankful for my independence.
But freedom has a dark side. Those spontaneous moments are much rarer than sitcoms and movies would have you believe. I find I need a huge stable of casual local friends to increase my odds of finding one person to see a movie with, and that's a double-edged sword too. It means I have to spread myself thin, when I'd rather invest more fully in fewer, richer relationships. Meanwhile, it's becoming the norm to go weeks or even months at a time without seeing some of my closest friends. Not because they don't like me anymore, but because we're all too busy, and their significant others and/or children rightfully have first dibs on their relational time. Coupled people undeniably need friends and community, but in a less immediate way than singles do. Especially singles who live alone, with no built-in (human) companion, no go-to person. I remind myself constantly that this is the natural order of things. It's normal for dating or married people not to prioritize face time with friends. It's normal for mothers to be consumed with their kids and socialize primarily with other moms. It's practically the foundation of our society. But meanwhile, how do I remain positive with the message, You are the odd one, you are outside the natural order, so your needs don't matter ringing in my ears?
Even when I can find people to hang out with, I feel like most of my relationships are on an Eight or Higher policy. I can't regularly go to anyone with my twos and threes without fear of annoying or alienating them - I mean, who wants to be That Friend whose name on the phone display induces sighing? - and they don't need me for theirs. Am I supposed to give up on my long-term friendships and find new friends who are in the exact same phase of life... then rinse and repeat once they start families of their own and move on? I don't believe in that. But what am I supposed to do with my relational needs? How can I believe that singleness is an equally valid state of being if we're just out of luck in this important area? It's so tempting to shut my heart down and become an island. To say, Whatever, I don't need anyone.
I know I'm not the only one who struggles with this, and I know it's not necessarily a singles-only problem. I hear similar stories from long-distance friends, many of whom are married. Making and maintaining real friendships as an adult is often just plain hard.