So, ironically I was “sheltered” in a way. Just not by wealth but by violence. I didn’t learn the things other kids did. I spent every extra second I could in my bedroom, and I kept my heart locked away because even my bedroom with a deadbolt on the door wasn’t safe. Important time frames to learn how to make and keep friends came and went. No one taught me that there are such things as skills to develop relationships and careers weren’t my priority, and these are some of many things kids don’t just notice unless they are pointed out to them.
This obviously caused major difficulties as I transitioned from childhood to adulthood. The friction in interacting with proper social communities and interactions due to my lack of social skills started surfacing in high school. It was full blown around 25 when (or because) I found myself in a serious relationship.
My realization about what was going on and where it was coming from would hit me a lot later. I was 28 when I realized I completely lacked something that other people seemed to know. I was 33 when I recognized that my childhood deprived me of proper mentorship and education about how to interact with other humans and be a member of a community as well as how to aim for and build a career.
It’s been 10 years now. I’ve intentionally and intensely focused my efforts at catching up. Some went well. Some were much harder and took tremendous pain and effort. Others were too late and had devastating and/or irreparable impacts on my life.
I am thankful for everything. Sure, many days I wish I had a much easier life and daydream about the life it could have been; When I started university, an elite career was planned out and laid out in front of me. And, at the same time, I really enjoy the fact I get to experience the things many others do as kids without even noticing. When you do it as an adult, especially a logical scientist, you’re really understanding and analyzing and choosing and observing all of my past mistakes and every bit of my future successes. I’m finding something new to work on every month. It’s exhilarating and fulfilling. So very satisfying since I’m the laughing at self type person.
(Oh, yes. That’s earned. The fact I don’t value myself based on the hierarchical view the society has of my job. The fact I don’t base my worth on my wealth. The ability to laugh at myself. They are learned values.)
What I discovered recently is that I need to intentionally construct my social circles. Hanging out with people who like the same activities and who are also interested in hanging out with you is the default in elementary school, and that’s how I’ve been operating. Then in my mid to late 20’s, everyone accused me of hitting on them, so I became jaded. Today I’m jaded and cautious but really unskilled at making and keeping friends. I have enough, and I have enough close friends, I would say.
I had already learned (albeit much later than others) that I can’t expect all of my friends to be there for me all of the time. I am now realizing that it’s wrong to expect all of my friends to be all of the things I need from my friends. It’s just not fair. They might want to, and they might be deeply insulted if I tell them that they can’t fulfill all of my needs. Don’t get me wrong. I know that “You pick which friend you go to based on what you need from your friends that day” thing. Some of them are really good at listening. Some of them are wonderfully non-judgmental. Some pamper you. I have my “tough-love” friends. On the other hand, my “sister-from-another-mother” can be counted on to be supportive 100 % of the time no matter how uncomfortable or disagreeable she may find my choices.
And, at the same time, it’s completely unfair for me to be upset when a “friend who likes the same activities” isn’t a good listener and makes me feel unimportant, for instance. Mainly, the mistake I’m clearly aware of now is that my expectation of that friend is often defined not by what kind of friend I see them to be to me but by what kind of friend they see themselves to be to me.
Yes, I’m thinking about this topic now because I felt hurt about friends who are not good listeners. I pleaded and prayed and sat them down and tolerated, and I’m now exhausted. I realized that the verb that’s missing there is “adjust.” What I need to work on is to not construct a social circle around me so that, as a hive, they meet my needs and I am also a contributing member of their social net, and do it so intentionally not just by chance. Remain mindful of where people fit and resist demanding more from them.
“He should do ___ for me because he is my boyfriend and that’s what a boyfriend does!!” my friend said a few weeks ago. I pointed out how unfair this statement is for her boyfriend. I realized now that I was doing that with some of my friends.