Adequately Present

Figuring out who you are is supposed to get easier as you get older, isn’t it?

For a couple of days each November, my body, heart, and mind go into this quiet state of anxiety and fear. I’ve written about it for the last two years (2014’s “Six Squared” and 2015’s “37”) as a way to more publicly reflect upon and share what I’ve been processing internally. This year is no different.

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Being a Good Single Friend

Post header image added mostly because 30 Rock.

I’ve been spending a fair amount of time recently thinking about the dynamics of relationships, specifically between those who are single and those who are married (or dating for a long time) and the stuff that arises in that space. The obviousness of give and take and compromising is a given, but to stop the conversation there is too simplistic. Perhaps I first need to take a closer look at myself and ask, “How am I or how can I be a good single friend? How can I best be there from where I am?”

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Single Connectivity

Featured photo: Single malt Scotch for a post from a single guy’s perspective.

The older you get, the more complicated and nuanced life becomes. Now that I’m in my prime, there are types of relationships with one another that I find become more difficult to start, build, maintain, or even understand. Many of us know or learn through experience that friendships are easier to make (and walk away from) in our younger years. Often little thought or premeditated plans are put into them. It can start with the most basic of event based coincidences like being at the same playground or being put on the same dodgeball team during gym class. From there, the smallest of sparks ignites a new friendship just like that! And for the most part, these sorts of situational-based sparked friendships are still made throughout college. As an adult, you wonder why we make it harder on ourselves. We know friendships will change. But oh how we nostalgically look back at the simpler days!

Many of our friendships are forged in the midst of being in the same place at the same time, frequently revolving around our age or place in life especially during the high school through our mid-20s. We do life together as we figure it all out in a collective confusion. These shared times and spaces create experiences that come to shape and define who we are and memories we hold onto and remember quite vividly.

Major life events are called that for a reason.  They ripple through and touch every element of yourself,  your family, and social circles. They look safe enough on the surface. Right after graduation, Will gets a job offer on the other side of the country which means you only see him during holidays. Jimmy got into that masters program which means evening classes and less time to hangout. Bobby joins a sports league which infuses your core social group with new and fun faces. Jenny starts dating Brad and as they get more serious you start calling them “Benny” or “Jed”. These choices and life moments change you, even when you’re not the one going through them. It’s always interesting to think about the impact the decisions others make affect us.

Of those events, one of the biggest is when you or your friends find significant others. Hanging out starts to feel… different. What you talk about when you’re all together starts to change. You hear the occasional “we” instead of the “I” when one of them speaks. Depending on the couple, the conversations turn to “let me see if he/she is free too” even though you were only inviting one of them. Oops.

Then dating turns to marriage. The wedding and reception day come and it’s a wonderful celebration for all. A new union is very much worth having a big party for! No matter what anyone may try to do to avoid the inevitable, those relationships take a drastic shift and will look and feel very different. There is no avoiding the winds of change.

So what do you do when life trajectories aren’t on the same path anymore and you stop sharing some common goals, interests, and perhaps most importantly, free time?

There’s a number of challenges along the way for which I have found no straightforward answer yet. How do you deal with not being as close to your best friend as you once may have been? What’s an appropriate friendship level with your friend’s spouse who you didn’t know as well before they were married? How do you handle the logistics and nuances of married friends with kids?

More questions and thoughts coming soon! Feedback and response again is welcome, whether in the comments section or privately.

Current Status: Single and Present

Roads near Vik Iceland

The beginnings of a more public exploration into searching for and understanding connectivity

I’m not sure I’ve had any preconceived notions about what life would be like in my 30s. Well, that’s not entirely true. A long long time ago (back in my 20s), I would have told you that I would probably be married, probably have a kid or two bearing my last name and hopefully some of my better genetic and personality traits, and have a job I enjoy. If you’re keeping score, I got 1 out of 3. A .333 batting average in baseball is pretty good actually so by those standards I’m doing pretty well. For those interested, my bubble gum trading cards will be available for purchase online soon with collector’s editions available in the fall.

I am thankful that I have friends and family who don’t nag me about certain things like relationship status, to which I leave that categorized as “single and complicated.” I attribute the nag-free zone I’m in to distracting them with checking off a number of items on the “Life Stages to Hit to be Considered a Fully Grown Adult” list and with pretty photos in large canvas print format. I became a master of deflection and distraction from myself, even if some friends are finally catching on to and at identifying my schemes. These milestones, or Life Events as Facebook would have us label them, haven’t been done in any significant or specific order. But that’s OK as long as they’re done at some point, right? I got some good ones done:

  • College degree? Check.
  • Good job? Check.
  • Bought a house? Check.
  • Personal blog read by tens of people? Check!

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Being Single When Most of Your Friends Aren’t

It’s a common scenario that many of us encounter, usually starting sometime in our mid-20’s. You have a decent size group of friends who are mostly single and unattached to anybody. Maybe you also have that token dating couple to keep thing diverse. Then that couple gets married. Everyone celebrates that first marriage in your social circle. At some point, one of the guys who you never expected to find a girl crazy enough to talk to him is the next one in line to get married. Over time, those couples start having kids. Everyone continues to share the joy of these experiences. However, time and changes in life stage begin to change all that.

As the single person, you still have  your own sense of schedule and freedom that doesn’t work with your married friends, especially those with kids. Life is more scheduled now, or at least not as much driven by your own needs and wants. We adapt to make everythin work. And what I was thinking about most recently is that the single friend who wants to keep friendships with his married/with kids friends, he also adapts to their lifestyles like hanging out at their homes since their kids need to sleep early. Mostly gone are the days of impromptu going out for a drink or the random 2AM run to Meijer (unless it’s to grab diapers for your newborn, like I and a friend just did this past weekend.)

Don’t misunderstand me here in my thought dump. I love all my friends who are married and may also have kids. They are a dear part of my life and I wouldn’t be the same without them. But as someone who is still very much single in his early 30’s, I still have sparks of spontaneity and want to do stuff on the fly. Those days are falling farther and farther into my past, not because I’m turning into someone who stays home all the time, but because my social circle have new roles in life that don’t always perfectly align with mine anymore. And that’s OK. We work through that and continue to have community. I’m open to hearing thoughts and feedback as I continue to work through this and understand my role as the single person in a roomful of people paired off with each other.