I was never that kid who invited friends over.
I’d go over to their houses if I was asked; attend birthday parties; enjoy the occasional sleepover. But whenever my mother, even into my teenage years, said, “You should have some friends over! I love your friends!” I just… didn’t. I’d say it wasn’t for lack of interest, but it really was. I’d have a friend or two over for a movie night. That was usually as far as I went.
And this isn’t because I didn’t have friends, either. With the exception of grades 3-5 (during which I had like, literally one friend), I’ve always had lots of friends. I just would always rather do things with my family or – even better! – myself.
Even as I write this, I’m sitting in Chelsea Market, NYC, alone. I’m on a trip with almost thirty people from my university, some of which I know reasonably well and most of which are great people. I’ve spent the last few days with them and have really enjoyed getting to know them. But I’m so much happier now that I get to spend a day on my own.
I slept in, then stayed in my hotel room until after one today, trying to figure out what to do. I’m not a huge fan of New York, so I had a shortlist of the things I was interested in seeing. These included the Highline, Chelsea Market, Grand Central Terminal, and the NYC Public Library. I tried texting people to get a group together, but doing so took me (no lie) a full hour and a heaping side of discomfort. My thought process basically went:
“Aaaand… Sent. Oh no, oh no, I’m sorry for asking you if you want to do things with me, they’re not the things you want to do. You probably have plans, and I’m making you uncomfortable, you definitely have closer friends here than me, I’m just an annoyance you don’t want to think about. I’m sorry, I’m sorry, please don’t hate me.”
I can fully recognize that this is irrational, and I don’t mean to imply this is how I feel when I text my close friends. I’m sure no one actually feels that I’m super annoying or anything. But… Part of me isn’t sure. I do feel that way to a much lesser degree when I ask anyone to do anything. Like, actually anything.
Allow me to digress for a minute. I’m very very into the Myers-Briggs personality types. It’s a system that sorts people into sixteen types using combinations of four letters. It isn’t scientific, but it’s useful for analysis and helpful for someone who is very black-and-white, like me. It’s also a hell of a lot better than astrology. The types run on these things called functions. There’s eight of them, and each type has a different order to these eight. My type, INFJ, has a function called Extraverted Feeling as its second in command, so to speak. Extraverted Feeling, or Fe, is really really good at knowing how EVERYBODY ELSE feels. Unfortunately, it sucks at knowing how IT feels. Meaning? I rarely know how I’m feeling.
I have no choice but to base my enjoyment of a situation almost entirely on the people around me.
(Digression over.) Sure, I can say that a movie is good, but if I see it with friends or family, I’ll constantly be worried about whether they’re enjoying it too. I’ll glance over throughout it, trying to get an impression. I’ll laugh when they laugh, be anxious when they look bored. And if they walk out and start bashing a movie I thought was pretty good, I’ll immediately start to think of it differently. This isn’t something I can help. It just happens because of the stupid way my brain is wired.
The first time I felt really liberated from this was when I went to see Avengers: Age of Ultron alone. (*Yes. I’m a giant nerd.) I’d already seen it twice in its opening week, but I wanted to go again.* No one wanted to come along, so I drove myself to the theater and realized… no one was with me.
I can eat as much popcorn as I want.
No one was there for my brain to worry about. I could just enjoy the movie, fully, on my own. I could do what I wanted without the constant feeling of “oh no oh no what if I’m annoying them? Boring them? I invited them here, if they feel bad, it’s on me.” Needless to say, it was one of the best movie theater experiences ever for me.
Looking back, I can say that I’m usually happiest alone. I mean, I adore spending time with family and they’re often an exception from this. But not always. My hobbies? Reading, writing, composing, playing piano, Netflix. All things I can do alone. I’m not lonely when I do these things. Most days, I feel more alone in a crowd of friends than I do by myself. I will acknowledge that I’m a bit of a lonely person, but that’s not because of this “alone” thing. That’s because of my trust issues, which are a whole different beast. Nah, I love spending time with me.
Today, as I sat on my hotel bed trying to decide who I could call without annoying them, I realized, screw it. I’m going out myself. I might go eat some doughnuts, or spend an hour in a bookstore, or drink coffee in a corner. I can write this blog post without worrying about holding someone up or boring them.
And I’ve been having a whale of a time.