I am a natural loner. For the first 8 years of my life, I was an only child (then my sister was born). For many of those years, I had a working, single mother, so I quickly learned how to be independent. My favorite two pastimes during childhood: Nintendo (yeah, the first one) and Lego. They were both easy to play without anyone else, perfect for an only child with a busy mom.
Over the years, however, my independence has created a chasm between my peers and myself. I shifted into nerdery by about the 3rd grade. As a side note: it’s interesting to look back and realize that my interest in girls (which started at about the age of 3) didn’t really shift much, but that’s not really relevant here – I don’t think, anyway; Freud may have said different.
I Was A Bit Awkward Growing Up
By the time I was in middle school, I had changed schools somewhere between 7 and 10 times. Mom and I moved several times in my early elementary school years, then we moved when she remarried, and then a few more times because Dad was an employee of the petroleum industry. That ability to be independent was paying dividends for my ability to cope with the moves.
In a middle school algebra class, or maybe it was pre-algebra, I sat across from the cutest girl in the school. Yes, I had a crush on her, no, it wasn’t the first time I’d had a crush on a girl. She was nice enough, or so I thought. As it happens, while we were in class one day, she asked me (I don’t remember why) whether I thought I was “cool” or not. My reply: “well it depends on what your definition of “cool” is. Yeah, nerd-status locked in. I might as well have been wearing taped-together, 3rd generation glasses, a pocket-protector, chalk residue on my pants, and a short-sleeve shirt with a tie. Wait; maybe that’s a geek… Umm…
Fast forward to about 5 years ago. I had already moved to Lubbock, was still going to school at Texas Tech, and was working as a door-guy/bouncer at Wild West. I was slowly allowing myself to tear apart my inner core by drinking, staying out until dawn, being promiscuous, and just downright bad. At the time, I had convinced myself that I was just having a little fun. I thought I deserved to act this way; that it was a human right; that it was expected of a guy my age and circumstance.
Then, one morning, I woke up, after the end of a long summer in which I had worked hard at two jobs, made a lot of money, and blown more cash than I knew I even had by going out, and realized that something was off. No, I didn’t have a life-threatening wake-up call like some people do, but it still woke me up. I didn’t know how to change, though, so I hit life’s snooze button. For many more months, I continued on like normal, but with the hanging thought in the back of my mind that I was being a complete idiot.
I eventually realized that there were two problems: 1) the people I was hanging out with didn’t have any positive influence on my decisions, they actually encouraged these activities by actively participating themselves; and 2) working at a night club/bar is definitely not the ideal way to live a meaningful and purposeful life. I’m not knockin’ on bartenders or servers; I actually have a lot of respect for these people, and I tip higher than anyone I know. I just know that for me to lead a fulfilling life, working in that environment was not going to be the way I accomplished it.
Waking Up In Life Can Be Harder Than Dealing With The Alarm Clock In The Morning
Not knowing exactly how to get out of my predicament, I opted to make some potentially regrettable decisions. Instead of talking with my friends about what was going on in my head, I started to ignore them. At first, they didn’t seem to notice, which just further solidified my thinking: they didn’t really care. I later determined that I was right, they didn’t. I assumed that they wouldn’t want to talk about my “feelings” or what I was thinking about how I believed they were a part of the reason I was screwing my life up.
So, in an act of immaturity, I found a way to get all of them fired from the club and still keep my job. This was accidental, of course, as the original intent was for me to get myself fired, keeping them working there, and giving me an easy excuse and way out. Funny how things just don’t always go as planned. Blaming me for getting them fired (rightfully so, since I was responsible), they decided never to speak to me again.
Looking back, that was the ultimate goal; but I didn’t want the friendships to end on such a negative and hostile note. That much negativity isn’t good for anyone to go through life with. That all said, however, I’ve learned to move past it, and understand that it is simply the way things occurred. As they are a part of my past, they are a part of me, but they do not command where I go in the future. It’s a challenge to move past the guilt and other negative issues surrounding this situation, but finding a way to move on has created greater happiness, and better relationships.
After I destroyed the friendships that I thought meant something, I realized a very humbling fact: I didn’t have any friends. Granted, I never was a social butterfly, and I had always been a bit awkward, but I also had at least a few friends that I could rely on. Lonely is an understatement.
Living alone in a crappy, run-down apartment, the reality of where I wanted to be in life began to finally sink in. I realized that I wanted relationships that had meaning. I wanted to be able to openly discuss these new things that I was discovering (like What the Bleep Do We Know and The Secret). I wanted to have a core group of people around me that supported my efforts to grow and expand my thoughts and abilities. I wanted to be in control of my own circumstance. So, I started a business.
I was in for quite a surprise. I didn’t realize that starting a business isn’t as amazingly awesome as it is made out to be. Sure, I got to work whenever I wanted, but, if I didn’t work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, I wasn’t going to eat. This didn’t exactly help in the social department. I gained a best friend out of the business partner I had, but neither one of us had much time to meet others outside of our business.
The Day My Life Changed Forever
With her (then) blonde hair, dazzling eyes, perfect rack (not that I noticed right at first), sexy confidence, and with a smile that could kill, my future wife walked into the office one day to sell me credit card processing. I was instantly smitten. Though we dated for quite some time, my relationship with the woman I now call my wife has changed every aspect of who I thought I was.
She has helped restore my self-confidence, while destroying my insecure arrogance. She has helped me see the beauty in relationships with other people and what other people have to offer. My wife is literally the best thing that has ever happened to me.
Okay, enough of the sap. She’s probably gagging as she reads this. It’s all true, but it’s not the point.
Intentionally and Consciously Growing Social Relationships
In 2010, Wifey and I decided that we were going to start intentionally making new friends. We realized that a lot of effort was going to have to come from us for it to actually happen though. As we reflected on the possible reasons why we didn’t have as many friends as we wanted, we came up with several conclusions and possible solutions.
Don’t Judge Others
We realized we have a tendency to judge others. As we realized this, it was really quite a scary understanding. We didn’t think we judged other people. But as we thought back to the people we had met and spent time with, we realized that a large part of the reason we didn’t hang out with them any more was because we didn’t like the way they chose to live their lives.
We see and know now that this is completely the wrong way to be. We discovered that because we had that judging attitude, people are able to sense it, and obviously, they are turned off by it. We are both consciously making an effort to see the good in all things and every one, and it has already started paying off in the form of new friendships and more opportunities to meet more people.
Go Out Regularly
We are saving as much money as we can. We are working on eliminating our debt. We have so many expenses to consider. Paying to go out and hang out with friends just wasn’t a smart way for us to spend out money. At least, that was the excuse we gave ourselves for why we didn’t get out.
We are now planning a minimum of one night per month where we get together with friends to hang out. Whether it is at a house, or at a restaurant, we are going to be around the people we like, and maybe even the people we think we don’t like, just to build the friendships. The expenses can be minimal, but the results are worth it.
We Changed Our Lifestyle
When we decided to start consciously growing as people, our diets changed, our habits changed, and our personalities changed. At first, we struggled with not being able to openly share with others the incredible life changing experience we were going through; people tended to dismiss it as mystical BS, and we didn’t really get taken seriously.
We learned to be genuine, but not overshare. Those that wanted to know more about our life changes, would ask. Proof of this was found at a Christmas party where we struck up a great conversation about veganism, vegetarianism, and nutrition in general. All we did was make one small comment with a light-hearted tone, and the conversation just took off from there. We welcomed it, and we made a new friend.
We Let Go of Quantity and Hold Tight to Quality
On a former Facebook account, I had over 300 “friends”. I only spent time communicating in some way (face-to-face, phone, text, email, chat) with probably about 15 of those. Only about 40-50 were people I actually cared about and wanted to make sure I could easily keep up with.
Realizing that I really didn’t have 300 friends, I actually had 250 names on a list, and 50 friends, I deleted that Facebook account, started a new one, and only added the people that I cared about. This was probably one of the most refreshing experiences I’ve gone through. Very invigorating.
The quality of the relationships we pursue is the most important thing to us. We are working to love and appreciate everyone, including the people we don’t like. But we are not going out of our way to include those that don’t have a positive influence on our lives. We are being open, but selective, and making sure that we build relationships that are two-sided, where we can give, and they can give.
We Thought of Simple Ways To Meet Other People With Similar Interests
We haven’t done all of these yet, but we intend to take part in all of the following ways to meet other people with similar interests and values.
Be open-minded. We discovered during our self-reflection that we tended to close ourselves off from things and ideas that other people subscribed to. This was rarely intentional, of course, but it happened all the same. By recognizing that we close ourselves off, we are able to intentionally open up to people and their ideas. Experiencing their philosophies by getting out of our own way has yielded numerous advantages and insights.
Join a book club. We knew that there are a lot of people that like to read. We both like to read, but have trouble prioritizing the time. By joining a book club, we’ll be able to meet new people, experience new ideas, and be forced to read (something we already enjoy).
Participate in fitness/workout classes. Finding people to workout with is a challenging task all its own. Perhaps that’s why there have been multiple companies that have built a “workout buddy” matching website. They don’t seem to help much, but people are obviously in need of finding people to workout with. In our experience, taking a class is actually the best way to find someone to workout with on a regular basis. As an added bonus, the self-confidence and improved health of working out will make us more appealing to other people, thereby making it even easier to meet and build relationships with other people.
Take a class. Learn something and meet new people all at once? Sign me up. I love learning new things. I really enjoy being around other people that like learning new things. Taking a class where there are other adults (i.e. not a college class with 300 18-year-olds) allows the ability to form friendships with people instead of just going to class and listening to someone “wot-wot” for an hour.
Volunteer. Growing up, I wasn’t taught the value of volunteering, and I never did any. I still don’t volunteer my time nearly as much as I’d like to, but the little bit I have done has been both rewarding and inspiring. Volunteering has also put me in places to meet other people that care about the world and about the people in it, values that I appreciate.
Spend more quality time with family. Instead of allowing society to manipulate us into thinking that families are annoying, we are making a pointed effort to spend more time with our families, close and distant. We’ll be going on a ski trip in February, a barbeque in July, and who knows what else. Being around family gives us the ability to practice opening up and conversing with people that we don’t see often, letting us get comfortable for situations where we don’t know people at all.
We let go of our fear of looking like an idiot. Meeting new people on purpose is awkward. It doesn’t really matter who it is, the initial connections of another person takes massaging to be a smooth process. We realized, though, that everyone deals with this same issue. Knowing that the other person is likely going through the same feelings and thoughts as we are puts our mind at ease.