‘Cause I was staying home
When they was having fun
So please don’t be surprised when they announce that I won
Thanksgiving Eve, oh the biggest going out night of the year. Except I didn’t. I stayed in. Well technically, okay, I went out. And technically I guess you might even say I went out downtown. The only difference between me and the holiday revelers was that I was in jeans and my LLBean (hunting?) boots, with my dog’s leash in one hand and poop bag in the other. Just kidding, I didn’t actually have a poop bag… but I couldn’t stand to waste the imagery. It could have happened like that, okay? He just didn’t have to go…
But I digress.
The events of that evening consisted of watching an indie rom-dram film that has been on my Netflix queue for far too long (like, last relationship long, as in I’m pretty sure he tried getting me to watch it with him like two years back. And yes, it did remind me of us, pretty much all the way through– the biggest differences being that I’m not British and we didn’t have to deal with any deportation issues which kept us apart and convinced us to get married, but other than that, it was a dead-ringer).
And I should note that is one of the first films I have actually sat down and watched in one night (not one sitting, let’s not get ahead of ourselves here) in a very long, far longer than my college film-minor self cares to admit. But it was a treat, I do have to say. I can’t remember if I had a drink, so perhaps that means I did. Oh no… now I remember, I ate chocolate instead.
Then I worked on a piece (it may or may not have been this one) and then when I’d had enough of that I took Blue out for a walk around town at midnight. It was kind of drizzly and it was a warm night, so it was absolutely perfect for walking around when you don’t care how your hair looks. In fact, it was kind of slippery. (And I realized at one point while walking down a slightly icy hill that if I died, Blue would be more concerned about finding a pile of poop or another dog to pal around with, than my recent demise. But, well, you take what you can get.)
Truth be told, walks around town late night in Saratoga are one of the most, perhaps only, redeeming qualities of this town (obviously, an inflammatory statement, and I’m mostly just kidding…mostly). I’m just naive enough to still feel safe alone at night and I really love it best then, when you hardly see another soul. It’s when you feel like the whole world is yours. That’s why North Broadway in particular is my favorite place to walk…I’ve got my eye on this white house with the best lawn you’ve ever seen, on which I intend to play croquet during the long summer afternoons.
In fact if I’m really honest with myself, part of the reason I think I had to get a dog was to continue my late-night walks with a friend, a tradition Leo and I started that I swear added a few more good miles to our relationship. Walking by yourself just isn’t the same. A lot of best times in my life have been on walks (granted, many of those walks were also on vacation or music festivals).
Then Blue and I, well, we picked up this chair on the side of the road for me to take pictures of Blue in it, obviously– the red one, perhaps you’ve seen the successful photography borne from that particular acquisition? Now I just have to figure out what to do with it because it really has no place with my current decor.
Basically, I watched a great movie (which coincidentally had one of my favorite songs as the closing credits, which just really sealed the deal– it’s the little things), I got to write, took a nice long walk with my dog, found a stupid chair, took some pictures, and went to bed.
We both slept soundly (well at least I did– I wore ear plugs so I didn’t have to listen to his intermittent snoring). No hangover the next day. I got something done and I also wasted some time in a pleasurable manner. The truth is, I generally am in love with my life and I don’t need a lot of outside stimulation to be happy.
That’s not to say I’m always la-de-da rainbows and butterflies, but I know what’s good, what I like, and I infuse as much of that as possible into my life. That’s the short of it. But because I’m obnoxiously long-winded and I’ve already written all this other junk, here’s the behind-the-scenes gory details of why I don’t absolutely love going out all the time.
So, there are a lot of reasons I didn’t go out that night.
One of the being that I don’t go out most nights. But the biggest overall reason is that I’m pretty hard to please. I don’t mean that pretentiously, and I wouldn’t normally think that of myself, but upon further inspection, I have found that when it comes to who I spend my hours with, this is more or less true.
Off the top of my head, I can’t recall any time I’ve gone out to the bars and 1) met anyone I wanted to best-friend, date, start a business, or otherwise create ties with or 2) woke up the next morning and felt really grateful I had done it. Like wow, I’m so glad I made that investment in my happiness and personal development.
I have, however, woken up refreshed from a good sober night’s sleep, and thanked god I somehow go out of going out the night before, and ready to start my day of doing things that are actually important to me and help me be a better person. So that’s one thing.
Here’s the other thing. I don’t believe in doing something you don’t actually have any interest in doing just because something else might occur as a desired effect. Like, going out to bars just because you MIGHT meet your soul mate or you might have fun (even though you kind of never, ever have before). I’ve heard too many stories of people meeting their spouses in the grocery store or in line at Black Friday sales (okay, that one is a joke), or otherwise living their lives, to believe that actively searching someone, or something, besides what you are actually doing at that moment, is the way to go.
I’m a seeker, too, but more of the inward kind.
Now, if going out is one of your favorite things to do and that’s part of living your life, that’s great. Go out ’till your liver bleeds red, white, and blue. (Or just red.) But it really isn’t that much a part of mine, with thought and reason. And for me, adjusting my life so that it is, would be more like doing it just because everyone expects me to.
The truth is, I’ve spent a good portion of my life doing things in that backwards way: you do something you aren’t really into and hope for the best, or let your friends talk you into going out because you’re afraid to admit you have more fun at home with an indie foreign film (admittedly, I did not know these existed back in high school… or this story may have ended differently). And I think the logic is flawed. Or maybe the logic is sound, but either way, it just never seems to work out in my favor when I do something just to get something else accomplished.
Kind of like how we all know you shouldn’t do something nice for someone else with the expectation that they return the favor, you shouldn’t go out of your way doing things that aren’t in your interest just… because. From all that I’ve observed in the last quarter century, you’re more likely to meet the people you want to make connections with, by going out and doing what it is you actually have interest in doing. For example, I have met a few of my best friends at yoga. (Ironically, what keeps us together is that we like to drink now and again. I’m sort of joking… It’s really the great conversation about reaching enlightenment, which we are all primed to do in 2015.)
I met my last boyfriend in college– very pragmatic. (He was leaning against a brick building, long hair in his face, smoking a cigarette and wearing what I remember to be a flannel shirt when I heard him called my name from across campus. Who am I to resist such poetic overture? Anything which could have been in a movie or a Nirvana Documentary, kind of takes the backdoor in the house of logic and goes straight to my heart. What can I say? I’m a sucker for Cobain.)
I meet cool people at concerts and music festivals. I meet people by default at the dog park (now they are a real mixed bag of greatness).
And as far as meeting people, the more you do things that you actually like, the more likely you are to meet cool, like-minded people. And when I say cool, I mean that entirely relatively. Because I am not cool. But I could consider someone who liked having great, intelligent conversation while drinking whiskey on a Friday night with me, really cool. And it would not involve dub step or a spandex/lycra dress. Although since I’m hung over today, even drinking whiskey doesn’t sound cool. It sounds nauseating… Maybe next Friday.
Out of all the times people have talked me into going out and drinking, there have been very few (in fact none that I can recall, specifically) where I woke up the next morning and said, “Oh yeah. That was a great time.” For me, it’s usually like wow… did I really say that? I don’t have much of a filter sober, let alone with a few drinks in me. John Mayer wrote a song about it, and I’m pretty sure he had me in mind when he did. Oh, I guess he may have a slight filter problem, too. We’re kindred spirits in that way. We also like Montana, and imagining like we’re from the wild backwoods country.
And yes, I know going out to the bars is not just about finding love or getting into a relationship. It’s about connecting with friends, especially old friends, this time of year. And just getting out of the house and being social, having a reason to change out of sweatpants and have adult conversation. I get it. Its position of honor within American youth culture is not entirely lost on me. It even has a place within my own sphere of pragmatism to put myself together (aka put on some pants with an actual zipper) and go out and play nice.
And just to be clear, I don’t think there is anything wrong with going out. If that’s what you like doing, then by all means, do it! You must be in your glory this time of year. But I felt compelled to write this because we live in a time and place where and when extroversion is much exalted over introversion. (For more on this, check out Susan Cain’s TED talk on the power of introverts. http://www.ted.com/talks/susan_cain_the_power_of_introverts.html She also writote a book about it, which I haven’t read yet but probably will. Yes, I’m great at endorsements.)
And believe it or not, I’m not like, some grump who hates people. I actually really like people. I make friends pretty easily and I value that ability because I always like challenging myself to see the good in what’s around. I generally appreciate the human race and I think people are good at heart– just confused when they misbehave. And I find it increasingly easier (especially now that I’ve learned the golden rule that what you don’t like about others is usually just something you resent about yourself) to love the differences and idiosyncrasies of the human race in all its various forms.
But that admiration of the human spirit is juxtaposed in equal measure by the fact that I get easily burnt out by too much socialization. I need a good amount of down time. In fact, I’ve noticed a strange positive correllation: the more space people give me, the greater my affection for them. It’s like clockwork.
This inherent need to limit my time spent “putting myself out there”– which I have grown to understand and finally accept as just part of being me– necessitates that I don’t accept every social invitation that comes my way. In fact, it means I turn quite a few of them down. That doesn’t mean that I don’t like someone if I don’t hang out with them a lot; it just means that I’ve learned to put my own needs first. There are only so many times you can feel panic rising because you suddenly come to realize you’ve become tangled in a social web of your own creation, before you get smart and start making changes that suit your needs. It’s a feeling like you’ve built a brick house around yourself… and you forgot to add a door.
In fact, learning what you need and making sure you get it, are the two halves of the foundation of a good life. If you don’t know yourself enough to know what makes you tick, it’s a lot more difficult to be happy. So you must figure out what you like, what you don’t like, what type of people you want to surround yourself with, what types of things you want to read, eat, listen to, watch, etc. All of life is a choice, and we carve our marble statues just like Michelangelo, bit by bit, with each aspect we choose to keep or discard.
And of course the follow-through is the other, equally as important half in which you must take action. This is where you prioritize your own needs above what other people expect of you, in order to be the best person you can be. You can then give back to the world in your own best way, versus what people demand of you. For instance, when the mood strikes, I’ll sit down for a few hours and write, often instead of hanging out with someone. Then a thousand people can gain access to my golden, usually faulty wisdom, versus just one who I’m sitting talking with. (Yes, it is my true gift to the world.) I know, I know. Really, you don’t have to thank me. It’s what I do.
Know yourself. Follow through. The first requires you to pull yourself out of your pattern and become self-aware, and the latter requires you to take action. Neither of those things are easy to do. This is why many people spend their lives being swayed around (I could have used a more colorful word, but chose to use a little restraint, just this once) and never truly know themselves. They are like a compost pile of everything the people around them think of them, want them to be, and expect of them. They become a collage instead of a sculpture.
I’ve lived this way before, and personally, I believe it’s impossible to be happy in this particular state of limbo. That’s because you are continually denying your true self and putting the needs of others over your own. It’s instant-gratification if you’re a people-pleaser (like I have the tendency to be) but over time it erodes your soul, as you begin to realize that no amount of outer praise can take the place of living free to be you, in complete peace and accord with your inner value system. And ironically, that’s how you become a good person to yourself, as well as others– versus picking their side and letting yourself simmer in quiet misery until you burst.
I think we live in a time where people often wonder if they’re crazy or not, because their idea of a good time is more like watching a movie or reading or writing or having a one-to-one conversation with someone close to them. There isn’t a right or a wrong way to have fun, as long as you’re not hurting anyone, and there are many ways of doing it. I tend to keep close counsel. The people in my life tend to fall into two categories: I’ve seen you naked, or I don’t really know you. Maybe I should add a third category, but I just think it’s hilarious seeing people naked.
I write this not to explain myself, because as you may have realized, I’m fine with being strange (in relation to what is considered normal, I’m totally good with that). But I just remember how many years it took for me to finally own up to this side of myself. I remember many nights (mostly during my younger, single years) where I forced myself to make plans and go out, just because the alternative of people knowing I was that lame. And yes, sometimes you should push yourself to go out. If you’re wallowing or depressed, or even if you have the tendency towards introversion or creativity– you can’t always let your hermit side rule.
Also, I’ve learned that I prefer to invest my time and attention into a few intimate relationships (while maintaining general friendly ones with everyone I meet, of course), than spreading myself thin and creating a ton of superficial ones on drinking, shopping, and other things that kind of let you be with someone without having to really be with them. I don’t like to use people as distractions from my own neuroses; I like to work on my own neuroses so that I can be a better friend to the few that I have.
And just from a practical perspective, if I accepted every invite, without meaning to sound ungracious because I realize I am extremely lucky that people even imagine my presence would add anything beyond inappropriate asides to their gathering (or maybe that is what they’re betting on), I would never get anything done. I literally don’t even have a choice at this point, that sometimes I just have to say no. There is a limited amount of time, and no matter who you are, there are only so many hours in the day.
And I never feel as if I’m not working, or don’t need to be– there’s always something I can, or should be, reading or writing or thinking– or not thinking–about. When I’m not at my computer, I’m always taking notes and thinking of the next thing I want to do. It never turns off, because it’s what I love. So for me to actively shut down from whatever I’m doing on my own, and go out and do something frivolous, you better be like, really fucking awesome*. The few people I drop everything for, know who they are. And it’s very few. But I’m good at it when they need me. I’d rather be a great friend to a few people than an okay friend to many.
*By my standards, which are exclusively intuitive and entirely illogical
It’s kind of like the super model Linda Evangelista said she wouldn’t get out of bed for less than $10,000. And people were appalled. Why? Would you get out of bed for 3 cents? It’s all relative. She’s used to getting paid a lot of money, I tend to like my life the way I have it set up on my own. When you’re used to something good, your standards rise. That’s human nature.
As for how unfailingly boring I am? Guilty as charged. I do some of my best work (thinking, writing notes) on walks at night with my dog. I also like to do weird things like kayaking, walking in the woods, maybe having a drink or three… just not getting shit-faced every single weekend. I did enough of that in high school, plus hangovers are now taking considerably more of the next day to work through.
I’m not anti-social; just selectively so. You may be surprised to know that I actually consider myself a people-person (I think everyone is, if they’re well-adjusted to life) and that there are few things I find more thrilling than excellent conversation with someone else.
(It’s like sex– just not as good with just one person).
And maybe my statistics are skewed precisely because I don’t go out very often, but I can’t remember the last time I had a really great conversation in a bar. Except perhaps with the person I went there with. And then, it was kind of loud…
But maybe all of these things are only because I’m truly ignorant about the real depth and beauty of bars. Because I haven’t been frequenting those Western waterholes where the cowboys saunter through in a cloud of dust and their spurs clank against the wood floor, while the saloon doors sway behind them. And in the background, a tumbleweed blows in the breeze…
Yeah, that’s probably all it is.