Exit 197. I went by myself.

I watched the movie Ready Player One yesterday.  Those of you who have been reading this site for a long time know that I have read this book multiple times, and that I was apprehensive to see what Hollywood would do with it.  But that isn’t what I’m going to write about this week.  (If you absolutely must know, I’ll briefly address that in a bit.)

What I want to write about is the fact that I went by myself.  I rarely go to movies by myself.  It’s not just because movies are expensive, and it’s not just because I necessarily want someone to discuss the movie with afterward.

I rarely go to movies by myself because going to a movie alone feels like failure.  It makes me feel like I wasn’t good enough to have a friend to go with.  And it isn’t just movies; there are many things I’ve never seen or done because of some self-imposed stigma about doing those things alone.  With my past of often feeling like an outcast, and not having grown up with a lot of friends, and living in a world where people like me are told that we need to get out more, it is understandable that I would have developed this reaction.  And sometimes I do want to be with friends.  Sometimes I wish making plans with friends came easier to me.  Sometimes I wish that the friends I do have weren’t always busy when I’m free and free when I’m busy.

But there is nothing wrong with going to a movie, or to a cultural attraction, or to a sporting event, or on a vacation, alone once in a while.  I’ve missed out on too much by assuming that I have to be with someone to go certain places or else it won’t feel right.  So I really need to get over this.  It’s okay to do something by myself if I want to.

(And as for the movie itself: Everything I’d heard about it made it look like they took the same characters, the same basic premise, and the same general outline of the story, but wrote an entirely new story with different details.  That worried me, because the specific details that were used in the book were exactly what I loved so much about it.  But I didn’t hate the movie.  To me, the new details still kept enough of the spirit of the book to make it enjoyable to watch.)

Exit 145. That’s ok.

I missed a post a couple weeks ago and didn’t write a second post to make up for it.  That’s ok.

I had a semi-blind date a couple weeks ago.  It didn’t go badly, but in conversations that happened afterward, it became pretty clear pretty quickly that we’re not right for each other in that sense.  That’s ok.

One day this week, we had to evacuate the school where I work, for over an hour.  It turned out to be a false alarm, but it was pretty inconvenient, and it messed up my schedule for the week.  One of the classes is now another day behind where I should be at this time of year.  That’s ok.

I had people over last night.  It had been four months since my friends had been to my house, and that was a last minute thing; it had been six months since I had planned to have people over.  I just haven’t been feeling very social the last few months.  That’s ok.

Although I have known for a long time that I am an introvert, I always enjoyed things like this where a ton of people show up at my house… once in a while, at least.  I would count how many people show up, hoping to set a new record.  But last night was a much smaller crowd.  That’s ok.

I don’t even remember what the record is now.  I remember having 30 people once, but I think that might have been surpassed once.  But I’m not sure.  That’s ok.

I stayed up really late last night, and I skipped church this morning.  That’s ok.

Around 11:00 this morning, I went back to bed, and I stayed in bed until mid-afternoon.  I didn’t go for a bike ride today, and I haven’t cleaned up anything from last night yet.  That’s ok.

It’s ok, because I have to take care of myself.  It’s ok, because I needed to be around a smaller crowd and feel closer to this group of people.  It’s ok, because my true friends will understand.

Exit 121. Staying home for no good reason.

It’s Sunday night.  I’m pretty sure that in approximately 121 weeks of doing this blog, I have never posted on a Sunday night before.  Sometimes I’m on the ball and I get my post done on Saturday; often I post Sunday afternoon or early evening; and occasionally I don’t get it done until Monday or Tuesday.  But I’m pretty sure that I have never posted later than 7:30 on a Sunday night.

There is a reason for this.  I have a weekly social dancing event that I have participated in every Sunday night since mid-2009, and since around 2011 I have volunteered there as well.  Honestly, though, I haven’t been there every Sunday night; once every couple months I ask to take the night off from volunteering because I’m out of town visiting family, or I’m at the Kings game, or I’m on my way back from a Giants game in San Francisco, or a friend who I really want to see planned a birthday party on Sunday night.  So I’m always doing something other than writing this late on a Sunday.

But tonight, I am staying home for no good reason.

I have nothing else going on tonight.  It feels like it would be a good week for me not to miss.  Last night, I was at a going away party for someone I know from this event; very few of her dancing friends showed up, so there was very little dancing at this party.  She is a wonderful dancer, and had I shown up tonight, I might have gotten one last dance with her before she moves back to her home, across a large ocean from here.  Also, someone I danced with there about a month ago and have stayed in touch with on Facebook is there right now.  It would be good to see her again, and I feel bad that I’m not there.

Nevertheless, I am staying home tonight, for no good reason.

No, that’s not true.

The reason I am staying home is because I have to take care of myself.  The last month has been an overwhelming whirlwind of stress and interaction.  I have an unusually high concentration of close friends, including myself, who have birthdays right at the same time I am starting the new school year at work.  I tend to spend most of the weekdays in August running around and trying to prepare for and adjust to a new school year, and I spend most of the time on weekends, and a few weeknights sometimes, at birthday parties with friends.  By the time the end of August comes along, my brain feels fried and my body feels exhausted.

I wrote a few weeks ago about how I need more alone time, and how I need to figure out if there is anything or anyone in my life that I need to cut out, because they do more harm than good.  Since then, I have done exactly the opposite.  It’s time to start.  And staying home from dancing tonight is step 1.  How long will this last?  I don’t know.  I might be back next week.  I might be back in a few weeks.  I might not be back for a long time.  I might be avoiding other kinds of socialization for a while as well.  I might have to say some painful goodbyes.  But I can’t live the way I have been anymore.

Hopefully I can also be responsible enough to go to bed within an hour or so.

Exit 117. But what will I fill the void with?

I’ve said before that my time off work this summer seemed way too short.  I feel like the last year has been emotionally draining, for a number of reasons, most of which are not related to work, and many of which I have not shared here.  I was hoping that having seven weeks off work would give me time to clear my head, so that life would feel normal again.  But this has not happened.

I’m starting to wonder if it might be time for a more drastic step, and the message I heard at church this morning tied in with this.  Maybe it’s time to become a bit more isolated.  I’m starting to wonder if some of the things I do and people I see might be causing more harm than good.  I feel conflicted about this for a number of reasons, though.  For one thing, most of these things aren’t harmful 100% of the time.  And, for the most part, no one is actively trying to hurt me.  This is not a situation where I’m being bullied, or threatened, or anything like that.  I’m just realizing that certain parts of my life that used to make me happy in the past aren’t making me feel that way so much anymore.

But what will I fill the void with?  Part of the reason I haven’t cut things out of my life is because I have nothing with which to replace them.  That means more time spent at home moping and being alone, and that seems just as unhealthy to me.  But maybe I should be filling that void with God, spending that extra time in prayer and Scripture and meditation, to get some real direction on life.  And this doesn’t have to be forever.  When I feel ready, I can gradually add things back into my life provisionally, so I can better discern who and what are and aren’t worth my time.

I haven’t decided for sure that I will be doing this, but it’s something I’m thinking about.  We’ll see.

Exit 24. You know, introvert things, to do alone.

I’ve written twice before (#2 and #16) about being what I call a social introvert.  I am definitely more on the introvert side of the scale, I need alone time and I get tired when I’m out and about with people too much, but I also have a lot of acquaintances and friends and a significant social life.  It’s a hard balance to strike sometimes.

When I wrote #2 in May, I was facing significant upcoming changes in my life of the scope that might make my social life different from the one I knew.  Looking back a few months later, there definitely have been some changes.  In May, relocating geographically was a possibility, but since this did not happen, the changes have not been as drastic as I thought they might be.  But there have been changes that have left me with less time to spend socializing.  By now, though, I am settled into enough of a routine that I have been able to start being a little more social again.

I recently had a significant amount of time off work; this was a result of working at a school with a nontraditional calendar, not from being sick or playing hooky.  In the days leading up to this, I kept thinking that my time off would be my time to be social again.  I could go hang out with people, I could have people over, I could do adventurous things that I am too stressed to do during school.  But that didn’t really happen.  It happened a little bit: I went dancing a few more times than usual, I went to a concert, I hung out with a few friends, and I attended an event for a new hobby that might become a bigger part of my life pretty soon.  But I expected I would be doing a lot more socially.  Instead, I spent a lot of time doing housework, reading, running, and riding my bike.  You know, introvert things, to do alone.

I’ve often felt like any opportunity to socialize is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and if I can’t or don’t participate for whatever reason, I feel like I’ve missed out on something I’ll never get back.  I think part of that mentality comes from my younger days when I had no social life, and such opportunities were so rare.  And to some extent, I still believe that… every day is full of opportunity, and life will never be the same once the day is gone.  However, it isn’t humanly possible for me to do everything.  There isn’t enough of me to go around.  And there is nothing wrong with choosing to spend my time off doing a lot of introverted alone things instead of social activities.  I enjoyed being alone, and I really shouldn’t feel that way.  There have been times before when I’ve felt a need to apologize to my friends for wanting and/or needing to be less social for a while, and for the most part my friends are completely understanding.  Don’t get me wrong, I still want to be invited and included; I just might not be able to accept all those invitations.  I appreciate all of you who accept this about me.  And I will see you soon.

Exit 2. I’m an introvert with 895 friends. COMBO BREAKER!

Every few months on Facebook, I see things going around that discuss specific traits and challenges of being an introvert or an extrovert. I definitely lean more toward being an introvert. When I’m stressed and overwhelmed with life, sometimes I need time to be alone. When I first enter an unfamiliar large group setting, I tend to sit quietly by myself for a while until I get a feel for what’s going on. And weekends where I’m busy running around from one social obligation to the next really wear me out.

But I’m not 100% on the introvert side of the spectrum. A few months ago, when someone observed on Facebook that you can tell the introverts from the extroverts by looking at how many Facebook friends they had. I replied, “I’m an introvert with 895 friends. COMBO BREAKER!” My life has taken a lot of crazy detours and scenic routes to get me to this point where I have so many great friends. I am no longer the quiet kid I was in high school, reading and doing homework in a corner by myself during lunch. My primary social life spans three counties and three decades of birth. I love having a house, and plenty of movies, board games, and retro video games, to share with my friends. I love having big groups of people over to hang out at my house. I just can’t host big social events all the time. Once every month or two at the most is just fine by me.

Lately, though, I haven’t been very social at all. My weekend plans have been lighter than usual, and I haven’t invited anyone over. And I haven’t really felt like changing that. I think part of the reason just has to do with being tired, being busy with work and other commitments, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But there’s something bigger at play here. Looming in the background is the possibility of big changes in my life, changes of the sort that may disrupt the current patterns of socializing. These are changes I am hoping for and changes I need to make, but they are changes of the sort that I cannot discuss publicly yet, so I apologize for being vague. (If you know me personally, and you don’t know what I am referring to, ask me privately.) The changes in my social life will be collateral damage of sorts, and believe me, I would like to avoid or at least minimize this, but at this point it is a possibility I have to consider. And because of this, I’m finding myself more reluctant to invest in a network of friends and places that may not remain intact in the same form for long.

However, this is not the healthiest way to approach this situation. One of my favorite passages from the Bible in this situation is Jeremiah’s letter to the exiles. It includes this very famous verse: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future'” (29:11). It seems like some of my Christian friends say that that is one of their favorite verses, and the rest say that it is one of their least favorite. It seems pretty obvious why it might be someone’s favorite: prosperity, not being harmed, and hope are all good things to look forward to. Those who do not like this verse usually object to it being quoted out of context. God is not saying these words to me or to you. This was written to a specific group of people at a specific point in history. They were in exile in a foreign land, and God was telling them that after a specific time period, he would bring them back to the homeland that he had promised them centuries earlier. It is not a universal promise that everyone will find prosperity and be delivered from harm.

I believe, however, that this passage says a lot about the character of God. His specific plans for specific individuals aren’t always the same, but he still loves his people and wants to bring them back to him, somehow, at the right time, whenever that is. And the paragraph before this verse (specifically, verses 4-9), when read in context, speaks a lot to a situation like mine. God tells his people how to live while they are in exile, while they are waiting for God to deliver them. He tells them basically to keep living life as if that place of exile were their home, because for now, it is. Settle down, work for a living, raise families, and pray for the prosperity of the land where they are living, and when the time is right, I’ll deliver you.

I am trying to make changes to my life, to be delivered from a situation that is not ideal, and it is the kind of change that is not entirely in my hands. Maybe something will happen tomorrow that will set something in motion, or maybe I’ll have to wait years. Until then, I shouldn’t put my life on hold. Until then, I’m still in the exact same position in life as I was a few months ago, and I should be living the same way. I still have my house, I still have great friends, so I should still be socializing the same way I used to. And that’s how I’m going to go about things. I’m not going to put everything on hold while I wait for this to sort itself out.  I might need more time to rest, or more time to do things related to making these changes, but until I know for sure that life is entering a new season, I have to keep living in the old season.  And I intend to.  I just need my friends to be a little patient with me sometimes.