Since moving over to QA, I’ve gone from having a bunch of coworkers to having a single partner: Simon Reed. Simon helped train me when I first got hired on and we’ve been on pretty good terms since. He reminds me a lot of my friends in high school, but I like him anyway. Especially since he’s been keeping an eye out for me as I hunt for a new job. He’s already hooked me up with an interview and gave me a lead to another position.
But since working together in QA, he’s been even nicer to me. A lot nicer. A little too nice, in fact. Knowing that I’m an anime fan, he’s offered me access to his collection. He’s also offered to loan me CDs and MP3s and DVDs. He’s bought me slushies and gives me free donuts (he charges everyone else 50 cents. Notoriously quiet, he’s opened up and talked about what’s going on in his life. He’s acted less the coworker or partner and more the friend.
But I have declined his offers, paid for the donuts, not been as open with him, and avoided friendship at all costs. I hate doing it, but I don’t want to be his friend. In fact, I actively want to not be his friend. And I feel terrible for it because it has nothing to do with him and everything to do with Paige, his fiance. Paige used to work at FalStaff and she quickly counted me among her closest friends without really asking my permission. It’s not that Paige is a bad person, but for a variety of reasons she speaks straight to the chill in my bones. I can’t go on about her without getting completely sidetracked. One of the best days at work I ever had was when she gave her two weeks notice.
Of course I can’t tell Simon that. Nor can I really see him without seeing her. She’d insist upon it. So I’m nice and I’m polite, but I keep a wall up that I wouldn’t otherwise. It pains me to do it because he is, in many ways, exactly the sort of friend I need up here but do not have.
I’m not a particularly outgoing person. Neither is Clancy. We’re both kinda loners. When you keep to yourself for long enough, it starts to become every bit the habit that smoking is. Or looking down when you walk. After a while, you forget how to actually make friends. With the exception of Rick and Pen Harley, every friend I’ve made since college has been through someone that I’ve dated (I always had more motivation for that kind of socialization). When I was taking calls for a satellite company I made a friend during training. Got his number but never called. Met another guy at a coffee shop, followed up on that one a couple of times, but eventually decided that it would be best to let that one slide. On Clancy’s end, there’ve been a couple of coworkers that we’ve gotten along with, but one has already left the area and the other has two (or three?) kids to contend with.
A lot of this is circumstancial. We’re not a member of the in-group here. We’re approaching thirty and don’t have kids. She works insane hours. These are things that we cannot help. But even so, we live next to what may be the only non-LDS majority place outside of certain neighborhoods in the state’s capital. A university town, to boot. But she’s been so focused on her career and I’d gotten soft by living around my friends from high school and college.
And, as cliche and high school as it sounds, we lack a “group.” Our politics are out of sync with our temperaments. Our interests are out of sync with our values. Basically, the people who think like us intellectually do not behave like us recreationally. I’m a professional IT person that has come to hate computers. I’m an artist-sort that has donated his talents to corporate America, alienating myself from both groups. I’m not LDS, but I’m also not someone that seems to have dedicated their identity in opposition to The Church. I thought this stuff would stop mattering after high school, but while it does matter less it hasn’t stopped mattering. At some point, my interests became a mile wide and an inch deep. There’s no ready group or club that I can go to, and I’m not good at mustering up the energy to seek people out. I’m trying to figure out at what point I stopped liking people.
Some days Clancy and I are of the mind that we just bide our time here (we’re leaving in July of next year for parts unknown) and try again somewhere else where the deck is not quite stacked so highly against us. But we both have a pretty high locus of control and we hate the prospect of giving up like that.
And throughout all of this, I’m avoiding the one person at work that has gone out of his way to be my friend.