I live in a big city full of people that seem to mostly keep to themselves. It can be kind of lonely sometimes. Particularly in the middle of winter when it gets dark early.
I have my family, of course, and my downstairs neighbors are close friends, but sometimes I just wish that we had a community gathering place of some kind. A place where we could go hang out with other people in our community on those evenings when things just seem a little dull and boring. Obviously, many people go to bars for this sort of thing, but if I’m not drinking, I’m not sure I want to hang out in a bar. Also, if you’re shy like me, it takes becoming a “regular” before you really get to know anyone. And, as a mom – even if I did drink – becoming a regular at a bar doesn’t really work for me. It has to be a place where the whole family can go, but that isn’t just oriented towards kids alone.
During nice weather, cafes can sometimes be a social gathering place, and for a while, I was a “regular” at my local cafe. I met some lovely people who often gathered there, but cafes are not generally open and bustling in the evening here. The ones that are are likely to be populated with speed freaks. Not exactly what I’m looking for.
When I was drinking wine every night, the fact that we spent most evenings at home doing the same thing just with each other didn’t really matter much because the wine amused me enough (except, of course, when it made me feel even more lonely!). Now that I don’t fill up my evenings with wine, I’m realizing that I sometimes feel isolated in our little nuclear family in the middle of this big city. Where people often don’t know their neighbors and generally don’t make eye contact on the street for fear the other person may be unpredictable. Even with acquaintances, it is totally normal to say “hi, how are you?” as you keep walking past them on the sidewalk and don’t wait for an answer. Seems shallow and rude, but that’s what we do. The other day, I actually stopped and had a brief conversation with someone I used to be roommates with in college (but who was never more than just an acquaintance). He has lived in my neighborhood for the last 20 years, and once in a while, we run into each other. He seemed genuinely surprised and pleased that I stopped. Our conversation was light, but it left me with a warm happiness at the connection.
Then there’s the fact that, at my life stage, people tend to stay in their nuclear families and not just drop-in on each other like we did when we were single and in our 20s. I really miss the way that, in my late teens and 20s, people would tend to gather together in predictable places. Meet up at a certain friend’s house or a particular cafe or bar and make plans to do something as a group. I wonder sometimes if it would be different if we lived in a smaller town rather than a big city. I have my close friends, and they are always happy to make plans when I reach out to them. It just takes more effort. And it seems really difficult to make new friends at my age. We have our friends and tend not to put a lot of effort into making a new friendship with someone we meet and like now. Since I’m an overly sensitive person that has to really work on not feeling insecure about whether people like me (even though most people seem to), I can go down a dark hole sometimes if I think too much about this.
I think when I was drinking alcohol, I could just ignore this sad state of affairs, but now I can’t! I need more social activity in my life! More time with existing friends, more new friendships, just more. I’m glad I’m waking up to this, and I don’t expect to solve it overnight. But I want to put it out there into the universe that this is something I intend to work on.