Thursday, March 27, 2008

Even More Nothin'

I've very little to blog about lately (though I suspect there is a book review and a couple movie reviews percolating). So here's something horribly self-absorbed and non-topical.


Today as I was out for a walk in L.A. I thought about how small my social circle has become. As I passed thru the lobby of the hotel I saw a number of other pilots (some of whom I knew) chatting socially as a group before heading out to eat together. Seems innocent and normal enough. But though I'm on friendly terms with at least one of them (and he almost surely would have invited me along) I kind of instinctively slunk past without attracting notice and headed off for a walk and lunch on my own.

Part of this is pilots generally. I spend enough time around them to know that I'm almost certainly not going to find myself in agreement with any of them in regards to politics or religion or education or the media or the environment or marriage or movies or books or music or much of anything, really--except maybe some isolated topics of a flying nature (which I get quite enough of at work without spending my lunch talking about it). And I'm virtually guaranteed to take umbrage to the tenor of conversation among a group of them over a meal in a restaurant--in much the same way as I know in advance that I cannot bear to be in a room where Fox "News" is prattling on the TV. So I avoid most pilots actively except in specific circumstances.

(A standard disclaimer for my standard rant: I try not to apply an automatic value judgment to this situation [hey, how am I doing?]; I know that many of the guys I work with are smart, capable people who are living good lives by their own yardsticks. I certainly can't claim to have accomplished anything more than this myself. But I can count on the fingers of one hand or so the number of pilots I've met in 15 years in this industry that I call close friends. From the outset in this career I did not expect to find myself in philosophical agreement with my coworkers, and that has proven largely true. So be it.)

But there's something more than this at work here. It's not only because I don't care for the company that I spend so much time alone. Over time I find that my circle of friends has gradually diminished until I find myself now spending my non-working time about 49% with my wife and 49% alone. I've lived in Appleton now for eight years, but if my wife is working I basically hang out at the house by myself. I wouldn't even know who to call to do something socially. This is certainly odd.

Even in high school I was much more of a few-close-personal-friends kind of guy rather than a million-acquaintances one. And when I got to college I established a different, but similarly small, set of friends. But for whatever reason I find these isolationist tendencies increasing, and I seem to become more and more reclusive as the years go by, even to the point of actively avoiding circumstances where I might meet people I actually like. My schedule contributes something to this, I know, as I am quite unreliable for scheduling much of anything; but it's all fertilizing the same trend. I honestly think that if I worked for Pixar or as a staffer for Mythbusters or as an editor for the Minneapolis Star Tribune I would find my coworkers much more stimulating--or at least not so oppressive that I'd want to slash my wrists the way I would now if I payed attention to them. And I might even have a social life, perhaps even a vibrant one.

Is that something I want? I don't even know, really.

I don't mean to complain; life is really, really good and I'm very happy. I don't know that there's any problem here that needs solving.

But I couldn't help thinking that my reclusiveness has become a bit conspicuous.


Anonymous said...

You and my husband both Wunelle.

shrimplate said...

Same goes here. When I'm not at The Great Muffin Factory Institute I'm either with my immediate family or off doing something on my own.

It seems to me that over the past years nurses have become generally far less conservative. Many are downright (hehehe) lefties.

Dzesika said...

Heh. I think maybe you wrote that about MY life, TOO.

Seriously, if you figure out a solution ... let me know. And then go on the book tour!

truist said...

Same "problem" here. It's always been my tendency to keep a few close strong friends, but I haven't added anyone to that list in years, the the old list is dropping off. But I still find myself happy, although it seems like a strange situation.

Jon said...

I, too have done the same things over the years. But it is by choice that we do it, not by desine. there will always be someone to go out with and have dinner or whatever, but to be by yourself just means that you enjoy your own company. There are some who do not. They need the crowd to be themselves. I however do not. As a carpenter, I do my best work by myself. I don't need others to validate it. So my time is kind of like yours, 50% with my wife and daughter and 50% at work, either by myself on the job or outside by myself. And i'm fine with it. I see nothing worth fixing.

Karlo said...

I find the same thing happening although I don't feel that it's very healthy.

Flow Blue Bud's Blogspot said...

You commented once on my blog that you had been in Appleton for 8 years and really didn't have anyone to consider a friend, and my first thought was, "Aaaugh, I don't want THAT to happen to me!" But that was probably more a function of imagining me being stuck here for 8 years than from concern over my anti-social tendencies.

I always wondered when you found the time to write, and now I know. Writing is something that you can only do by yourself in your own space, and as you are a writer, it makes sense to me that the time you carve out from work and family endeavors is necessarily on your own.

I am a listener and writer, not much of a conversationalist, so I tend to seek the acquaintance of storytellers, people who tell me about interesting things they've seen and experienced. The kicker here is "interesting," and that's where I am a snob about who I choose to spend time with.

It is unlikely that anyone I meet today would become the friend I would turn to for emotional support or moment-of-weakness pep-talking when I have tried and trusted friendships sustained over decades. This is the thought that tends to keep me at a distance when I make new acquaintances.

Flow Blue Bud's Blogspot said...

However, I have known the stars to align by meeting new friends who inspire and astonish me by how rapidly they find their way into my heart. These are not people I search out. We just find each other at the right time and place.

And when I start to worry about residing too much in my own head, I go to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu class and get pounded on the mat. Nothing like few-holds-barred close physical contact as a way to get to know somebody excessively well, very rapidly.

wunelle said...

"It is unlikely that anyone I meet today would become the friend I would turn to for emotional support or moment-of-weakness pep-talking when I have tried and trusted friendships sustained over decades."

Boy, that one hits the mark. The handful of friends whom I have retained throughout this period have known me since childhood. Or for years in any case.

That shared history, the sense of having lived through things together and of getting to know someone's mind non-superficially, is something (of course) lacking in newer friendships. That's why as we grow older it becomes harder and harder for new friendships to stack up against the old ones.

It's not impossible, but there needs to be something around which the relationship can form. I've only known my wife for a decade--a third as long as my two or three closest friends--but obviously she and I have the greatest incentive to share everything, so she's naturally closest to me of anyone.

But those kinds of circumstances are rare, especially non-marital circumstances. Your martial arts experiences--or any contact sport, I think--might be a start!

Dzesika said...

In that respect, my pet obsession counts as a contact sport ("ballroom dancing is a contact sport - football is a hitting sport," says Vince Lombardi). Most of the close or close-ish friends I've made since I've moved back to the States have been from the ballroom community.

Of course, sharing a common vocabulary (where "vocabulary" means "words most other people don't care about") doesn't hurt ...

wunelle said...

It takes just such an activity to narrow the field, as it were, down to people with whom you KNOW you have some seminal thing in common. That's not a bad place for friendship to start. (Love the Lombardi quote--I hadn't heard it!)

I'm not quite sure what group I would join--and indeed it would seem slightly artificial to seek one out. I'd like to play my drums with a group (see schedule lament above) and I keep narrowly missing out on local group motorcycle rides.

Lately I'm wondering if I mightn't be able to assemble a twice-monthly film noir discussion group. That would seem like fun.

I'm mostly just thinking aloud. Life is good. :-D

Foilwoman said...

Wunelle: At my 25th high school (where one of the seven people I'm closest to emotionally came into my life*) reunion, one woman I never knew well in school stood up and told us all to appreciate what we had because "you can't make old friends, and you don't know if a friend is a true friend until that friend is an old friend." 'Nuff said.

*And five of those seven are family members.

wunelle said...

True enough. My two closest friends (after my fabulous wife) have been in that status for over three decades.

And I find that, although I live quite a ways away from my siblings, I value them more and more as I get older. They are people with whom I naturally share a bedrock sensibility.

Anonymous said...

"True enough. My two closest friends (after my fabulous wife) have been in that status for over three decades."

Same here, though I guess I'm down to one. Am I pathetic, or what?

-A. Random