Familiar Stranger

Last week I was ruminating over how interesting it is that there are people in my life who I know by name and yet they are strangers to me.  The people at my favorite bar, Crush, all know me by name and I know them by name.  And yet, I know very little beyond that.

Similar with some of the people who make my coffee down at Floyds Coffee.  I talk with some of them and even have conversations about things going on with them, but even know I can know these details it never occurred to me that they just became acquaintances or even friends.

There are patrons at the bar that I know by name, but haven’t really spoken to them beyond daily pleasantries.  We recognize each other to the point that we wave when we see each other walking around the neighborhood!

But yet— I still think of some of them as strangers.  But familiar ones.

This even extends to one sided narratives to people I see from my car.  This is what made me start to think about this concept.  I drive across this bridge to go pick up Laryssa after work.  And since a lot of people get off work when I do, I inevitably begin to see the same people each day walking across the bridge.

There is this one woman who walks the bridge each day.  I noticed her because she was wearing full jeans and a jacket in the crippling heat of summer.  I saw her each time I drove across that bridge.  I thought it was strange that it could be so hot and she’s always wearing the same long, heavy clothing.

Then one day when the wind was blowing it pushed all of her clothes against her frame, and I saw that she was painfully thin.  I frowned to myself and gave a silent remark that I hoped she was alright.  But week by week, month by month I watched her become hunched and frail.

What specifically made me think to write this post is that last week I realized I hadn’t seen her in a couple weeks.

I’ve never met this woman.  I don’t know her name.  I don’t know whats wrong, but I know she doesn’t walk the bridge anymore.  And yet I urgently want to find her and make sure shes being taken care of and getting help.

I’ve never met this woman but I knew her narrative.  She walked the bridge everyday at 5:10, so I guessed she had a job.  Her clothes were clean and her hair styled, so she still cared about her appearance.  She carried a messenger bag so I guessed she might be a student.

Was she getting help?  Someone else must be noticing whats happening to you.

I hope that she is taking the bus or walking a new path or is getting help.  Should I have done something?  Should I have stopped one day and found her and asked if she needed help?  What can I do?  I’m merely a stranger.

I haven’t seen her in a while.  And I’ll always hope for the best, but it is weirdly distressing being in such a uniquely helpless scenario.  And then it made me think of all the familiar strangers that I suddenly just don’t see anymore.

I used to buy crickets for my lizard Kyuzo every other day.  The lady who worked at Petsmart used to talk to me about The Walking Dead.  And then one day I adopted Kyuzo away to someone else, and I just simply never returned to Petsmart.  Did she wonder about me?

There were numerous kids who came to Big Al’s arcade whom knew me as Dan the Man, Bringer of the Eternal Party, and then one day I just wasn’t there anymore.  Those kids came back and probably asked for me, and one day they were told I no longer worked there.

One of the old bartenders that used to serve me food at Crush five days a week quit abruptly over one weekend, and I haven’t seen him since.  I talked to that dude for years, and then one day he’s just gone.

It makes me wonder how many familiar strangers I’ve forgotten over the years.  How many people did I used to see everyday and then one day we just never saw each other again.  Makes me think and get all super pensive.  Its weird to try and express my thoughts on the matter.

Do you have familiar strangers?

-DTM

Advertisements

Who I Want to Be When I Grow Up

I’m not sure if you’ve ever seen Parks and Rec, Daniel. If you haven’t, I highly recommend it. The characters are genuine, the humor is funny without being offensive, and somehow the story is both hilarious and deeply moving. I am not exaggerating when I say that watching this show has changed my life. This show taught me how to love myself and how to love the people around me.

It also gave me a new role model. When I grow up, I want to be just like Leslie Knope.

giphy

Leslie Knope is a wonderful woman who spends her energy trying to make the world a better place for the people around her. She’s kind, she’s supportive, she’s ambitious, and she’s always excited about her next adventure.

I know I’ll never be exactly like Leslie because I don’t have an endless reservoir of bubbliness inside me and I’m definitely not assertive enough to be a leader. But I can be generous and ambitious in my own way.

Recently, I’ve been planning out elaborate parties and making things for the people around me just because. I’ve been crocheting afghans, planning surprise parties, and buying tiny gifts for my friends because I want to see them smile. While I’m still nowhere near Leslie’s level of generosity in the show, I feel like she would be proud of me because instead of focusing on myself, I’m thinking of the people in my life. I’m showing them that I care about them without being ashamed of my love.

I’m also continuing to push myself to try new things every day. I know that I can sometimes get complacent, especially now that I have my degree and a comfortable job. It’s so easy to lose focus sometimes or forget that there are still things to work for. So everyday I remind myself that Leslie never lost focus. Everything she did, she did to reach a goal and that’s how I want to live my life.

As you know, I’m training for a half marathon right now. Lots of people have wished me luck. Others have asked me why I would do this to myself. I’m doing this because I want to be able to say I ran a half marathon. That’s it, that’s the reason I’m working so hard. Sometimes people won’t understand why you’re working for something and Leslie Knope taught me that, despite what they say, you keep going. Don’t give up.

tenorOf course, Leslie does have her faults. Except, instead of being ashamed of her faults she embraces them. Instead of stubbornly ignoring her flaws, she understands that sometimes she needs help and she reaches out to her loved ones for it rather than pretending she’s perfect. Leslie can be controlling, anxious, obsessive, and self-centered, but none of these things make her an unlovable person because she works every day to make sure they don’t define her.

Damn. Talk about #goals, am I right?

I’ve spent a lot of my life trying to be perfect. I rarely challenge myself because I’m afraid of failing and I never talk about my fears with the people around me because that would mean I’m flawed. For a majority of my life, I’ve equated being flawed with being unlovable.

giphy1Watching Parks and Rec helped me realize that wasn’t the case. Seeing Leslie Knope struggle with her own flaws and still succeed helped me realize that I can still be a good person without being perfect 100 percent of the time.

Basically, what I learned from Leslie Knope is that sometimes it’s better to be remembered as a fun, generous person rather than a perfect human being who can do no wrong. I want my friends and family to think of me and smile or be inspired or just feel warm and fuzzy rather than remember how skilled or smart I am.

When I grow up, I want to be Leslie Knope.

-EMS

 

Making Friends as an Introvert

Shall I jump from one semi-angsty topic to another? I think I should so for this post I want to talk about how difficult it is to make friends when you’re an adult.

This week one of my friends and coworkers left Pullman to work in Eugene, Oregon. Of course I’m thrilled for her and wish her all the best in her new adventure, but I’ll miss her. Over the last year we’d become very close and I could count on her for spontaneous coffee runs at work and after work happy hour parties. Now she’s gone. What do I do now?

I, of course, have other friends here in Pullman, but her leaving has made me think about how hard it is to make friends as an adult. A majority of my friends are through work because I am pretty much forced to spend forty hours a week in the same hallway they’re in. So what about outside of work? Can I just go up to someone and decide “you’re my friend now”?

I wish. There are so many societal rules about what’s okay and what’s not okay and what friendships should look like, and they drive me nuts. I can’t do this because it’s creepy and you have to keep work and personal life separate. Blah, blah, blah…

As an adult I also feel like I’m saddled with a lot more self-doubt. Every time I meet a new person, especially at work, I’m worried about making a good impression. Basically, my entire life is spent wondering when I can let the crazy out. Will they find my tabletop gaming hobby cute or weird? Should I tell them my reading consists of Stephen King novels and slasher fiction? I want them to like me, dammit! How do I make them like me?

Friendship shouldn’t be this hard!

Also, as an introvert, meeting new people is impossible. A majority of my close friends I’ve either met through work or through my husband because he’s an extrovert. If I want to make friends on my own I have to go out and meet people and that just sounds unpleasant. I want all the benefits of friendship like trust and companionship without the awkward getting-to-know-each-other phase.

My introverted-ness also means maintaining friendships is really hard. I’m just not a very social person so maintaining the friendships I have in Pullman is already hard enough. Maintaining the friendships back in Vancouver or from college is pretty much impossible!

I’ve only ever actively ended a few friendships. Most of the other ones fizzled out because we physically moved away from each other. I’m not trying to ignore them, but unless I see them on a day-to-day basis, they’re just not on my mind. I know that sounds horrible and I don’t know how to stop myself. When did being a low-maintenance person become a burden? Oh, that’s right, when adulthood struck.

I feel like as an adult there’s a certain idea of what being friends means. It no longer means people that you get along with and talk with. It means people you go out for coffee with and text on a regular basis and actively go out of your way to make plans with. Honestly, that’s not who I am. I’m an introvert, a home body by default, and I would rather spend an evening reading or watching Netflix than going out for coffee, so where do I find the motivation to plan these outings? Oh, that’s right. My friends do it for me.

What I really enjoy is friendship that doesn’t have specific expectations. A friend in my mind is someone I get along with and have fun with and if I don’t see them for a few weeks, that’s fine. We’ll pick up where we left off when we reconnect. I also like friends who are as introverted and laid back as I am. One of my best friends will just show up at my apartment and let himself in so we can watch TV. I only see another one of my best friends every other week and we can hang like nothing happened. My third best friend also likes Netflixs and we’ll share what we’re watching via Snapchat. It’s no big deal. No activity needed.

Sorry if this post is a little jumbled. This has been on my mind for a while and it’s something that I struggle with. Thankfully, as an adult, I also realize that having a handful of really close friends is way better than having a wide net of casual acquaintances. I also realize that making friends through work and through my husband are nothing to be ashamed of, as long as those people make me happy. Yeah, it sucks when I meet cool people and have no idea how to turn out casual meetings into a full-blown friendship, but that’s okay. I still have a lot of love in my life.

-EMS