It's been a few days now, and the requests for Ottawa blog posts stand at... zero. I'd rave about that result, but it's not like I was really expecting any different, and I don't think most of my regulars have realized I've returned to blogging after the break, so I can't really blame them. Thus, I will choose the topic I want to address first, and the one that is the most difficult: time with friends. I hasten to add that this difficulty doesn't stem from the people I was spending time with (who are awesome) nor the activities (which were awesome) nor the locale (Ottawa's... well, if not awesome then Pretty Okay). Rather, it stems from a realization I made a few months ago that I've stopped talking about some of the more personal stuff on the blog, and, without causing any ripples among the tranquil pond of my life, I'd like to start doing that again. Hence the potential difficult start. Bear with, brave readers, bear with.
I think of myself as a pretty shy person. When I do start talking, it's usually about something that I'm very interested in. The problem is, I don't do a very good job in differentiating between my work interests and my personal interests, or the difference between the listener's interest and my own. So as a result of the shyness and the personal interests, I think I often come off as aloof and an intellectual snob. And as a result of that, I have trouble making a good first impression. (Or, as Occam's Razor would have it, I'm an aloof intellectual snob, and thus have trouble making a good first impression. YMMV.) I'm personally grateful, then, to have had three different friends I could rely on for this trip: one for the ride there and back, one for a place to sleep, and one for a night out on the town last Saturday during the long weekend.
It was a particularly interesting experience because I have to admit, for all three, I don't really know them that well, and yet each has had a very marked effect on my life. To offer an example, it's through the effort of one of them in particular that I struck up a friendship with the guys that are currently my roommate. Now, don't get me wrong here--they are amazing people, and if I was closer friends with each of them, I'd consider myself richer for it. (And I think I have become a little closer with them, and the one I shared a car ride with in particular--you don't spend six hours in a car with someone without getting to know them a little better.) But in each case, we've drifted apart a bit, whether it's because they live in a different city, or because they're running in different social groups. In the case of the friends I reconnected with in Ottawa in particular, you combine that distance with the relative brevity of my stay, and it feels like that I what I got from both of them was a glimpse into their lives.
One of them has been--well, I don't want to say "domesticated" because that has negative connotations, and "settled down" has the same problem. And I want to avoid any negative connotations, because neither really conveys the reality of the situation, nor the experience of witnessing it. Rather, what she has is an apartment, a fiance, and a pair of cats, and honestly, I've never seen her happier. Her life is full and her future has, if I may borrow some nautical imagery, not so much a rigid destination as a clear course, and I kind of envy her that.
The other friend invited me to a BBQ her group of friends was hosting. I met a large group of people having a pretty damn good time. There was, quite literally and liberally, wine, women, and song. What I got to view in this case was a close-knit group of really good people who had fun together without alienating any newcomers (as I can personally attest to). It was a little strange, seeing her in an entirely new group than the one I had previously associated with her (with the both of us), but a good strange, like seeing a favorite actor appear in a well-received new show; there's a sense that things have worked out for the best.
In both cases, the experience was eye-opening, and a little humbling. It reminded me that I'm not the center of the universe. All right,I already knew that, not being entirely an idiot. But seeing them both in their respective elements carried a realization that the lives of people carry on whether I'm involved or not, and there are good people out there worth putting the effort into knowing. And that's what I'm taking from this: that it was because I got to know these friends that I got to experience this weekend in the first place, and if I put the effort into getting to know more people, I'll gain further perspective outside my own head.
(Granted, a lot of the momentum of that vow is negated by virtue of the fact that I stayed home from an invitation to spend some time with new people in order to type this blog post. Baby steps, people.)
Okay, now this is getting a little maudlin and melodramatic, so let's end on the essentials. From one friend, I got a place to stay, some cats to play with (awesome), and Monday morning pancakes (more awesome). From another, I got a ride ranging some 1000 km in total. And from another, I got a night out involving 3/4 a bottle of wine; two drinks, one of which I split on myself and blamed on clumsiness rather than inebriation (it was probably a 50-50 effort); rounds of Taboo, which is a great game for someone who can never spit out the proper name for something anyway; 3 rounds of Queen-based karaoke; a 4:00 am bedtime; and the full realization of why you should aim not to have five hours sleep and a hangover when presenting on a morning panel. All of which is also awesome.
Oh, and friendship is a rich mosaic, one that grows richer if one takes care to add a bit
of variety and depth.
(The title here is supposed to be referencing Friends, in case that's unclear. As in, the subject of today's post is "friends," without the capital. Some of the aesthetics of Taboo are still in my system.)