Fridays are becoming depressing. Oh, not for most of the workday, but right at the end, when most of the students seem to have disappeared from campus. My co-workers are all thrilled to be free for the weekend, and I’m looking for cleaning tasks to keep me occupied. No one minds a slow day, but the departure of the students just makes the day drearier. Even going to Fike is nigh unto impossible, on a Friday afternoon, because it’s empty and dull.
What’s the problem? As much as I enjoy having the weekend off, part of me doesn’t want it to be the weekend. Because when the conversations you participate in, on the job, start to become your entire social life, the weekend starts to look empty. And when I say “conversations”, I’m not referring to my chats with my co-workers.
I’ve always pride myself on maintaining long-distance friendships, and having many friends from all over the country. I’m a letter writer, so that has become easier and easier to do, over the years, with the advent of the internet. And every 3-6 months, there was a conference to attend, where most of my friends would show up. The weekend would be amazing, and after going home, you’d become to count down to the next conference, keeping in touch with your friends online.
Then I became spoiled. I went to work at a Bible camp in Pennsylvania, where all of my friends would come to me. Or, at least, I was within a few hours of them, if I wanted to visit them on my days off. Summers were crazily busy, but I could count on having a friend or two counseling at every kids’ camp, and whole families that I knew would attend the Family Camps. And that’s aside from the crazy phenomenon of having actual friends living on your street, and spending time with them every day.
Before you think that I’m not on friendly terms with my own family, let me reassure you. I adore my family, and don’t enjoy long periods of time being away from them. But we all have our own groups of friends, and we know that our lives are enriched by these friendships. And speaking of families, though it’s very small, I love my church family, and I’m thankful for their presence in my life.
While in PA, one of my best friends lived right across the street, and our small staff of camp workers were my dearest friends, also. During the summer, my camp family would be expanded by the presence of the summer staffers, though admittedly, they were closer to my age when I first started there in ’06. But if I hadn’t lived there, I don’t know if I would have found my other best friend, and made so many other wonderful friendships. What would life be like without them, now?
The spoiling got worse, when I went to Australia. Of course, this put me on the opposite side of the world from both family and friends, which is not really a position that I like being in. But I had prepared myself to work hard to make friends locally, as well as to keep in touch with my loved ones at home. The internet is truly a blessing, when it comes to remaining in contact with those at home.
But the Lord was so good to me, and from the first Sunday that I was there, I fell into a group of friends that I’d never been part of before. A group of friends that lived right in my own town, and we saw each other every week! Who has ever heard of such a thing? Don’t answer that.
Actually, I had two chapel groups that intermingled, and attended two different Bible studies with them, as well as officially attending one church, and visiting the other, now and then. At other times, I was working at Kids’ Club, joining them for coffee at Bogey’s or the Irish Pub, and going to the movies with an actual GROUP of people.
It was so fantastic to know you could drive for five minutes or less, and reach a friend’s house. Or that they could come and pick you up, if you didn’t have a car available. Or you could carpool to Yeppoon together, to spend the weekend at the beach. This was close-at-hand friendship and get-togethering like I’ve never EVER known.
And then I came home to my family and one friend in town, and I love them dearly. But my years away had changed me, and the chinks in my pride (over my long-distance friendships) had widened. You may remember my post, back in January, about “how do you make a friend?“, where I was trying to figure this out. How do you step out of your comfort zone and make friendships that will last, in a completely different type of place than normal?
Yes, I mean at Clemson. I’ve lived here my entire life, but I’ve never made myself a part of the university life, because I’m quite shy of large groups of strangers. I won’t go into a bar, not only because I don’t drink, but because the sheer mass of humanity is overwhelming.
On the other hand, I’m not a complete introvert. I’m a social creature, whom my closest friends would probably term something approaching a “social butterfly”, but that’s because they’ve never seen me in a crowd of strangers. If I know a handful (or more) of people in the room, I will start with them, develop my level of comfort, and go from there. If I know everyone in the room, I will go try and make the newcomers comfortable, because I’m reaching out from where I’m already standing on firm ground.
My last 8-9 months of working at Clemson has given me some comfortable ground to stand on, though if I’m nervous, I will still run back to my register and “hide” behind it (though few students will realize that’s what I’m doing). I think I’ve started to make friends with some of the grad students, learning their names, finding out a bit about them, little by little, and keeping the conversations going. That’s a bit tricky, too, because not only do I dislike small talk, but that’s all you get when you’re there! Three minutes or less to converse with a customer, and then they’re gone!
But now, I really look forward to my work day, because that’s where I see those that might be becoming my friends. I know when they’ll come by, who they’ll be with, and can even talk to and tease the regulars. And when they leave, I wish they’d come back, because I miss having intelligent conversations with people in my own age group. I may not have a college degree, but I read extensively, keep up with current affairs, and was raised in a family of engineers. Even when you don’t understand a person’s favorite subject (or hobby horse), that doesn’t mean you can’t listen and learn about it, and enjoy the talks amongst intelligent people.
On Fridays, I know that students are running away to have time with family and friends, as well as doing plenty of irresponsible things. I don’t envy them their drinking parties, but I do envy their ability to be with friends. Going to Fike, on Friday, is depressing, because I know others have plans and are doing things that are fun, with those that they care about. And watching a group of friends sit in the sunshine, enjoying their cups of coffee, every single day… it makes me wish I could change into my normal clothes, and go listen in. Even if they’re speaking a different language.
The round of Fridays may be ending soon, unless I get asked to be the summer cashier. That has yet to be seen. If asked, I might do it, because starting all over at a new job will leave me starting over completely, on the friendship search, and missing the friends that I’ve already started to make.
Maybe that sounds silly to you, missing friendships that you haven’t quite started, but I haven’t yet figured out how to cross over from talking to acquaintances at work, to making them friends you could chat with over coffee, toss a frisbee with, or take hiking.
If you remember my friendship post, though, or have just now read it, I think you might agree that I’ve made some progress. I’m not sure how much, exactly, but every little bit counts, right? Here’s to continuing to get out of your comfort zone, and expanding the circles of friendship!