I remarked the other day to KLR how, as an adult at camp, I had very little patience or sympathy for kids with homesickness. This can be attributed to my general lack of empathy skills as well as the fact that I’ve never actually experienced homesickness. When my parents dropped me off at 4-H camp, I could hardly get unloaded and up the hill fast enough. At the end of the week, I lingered to say my goodbyes. I reluctantly climbed in the car (and promptly fell asleep in the back seat).
I did wrestle with a bout of adjustment when I went away to college; not so much sick for home, but struggling with the feeling of lack of identity. I’d lost my high school, small town identity and my place of connection with others; I had become one of 20,000 18-22-year-olds in a blue hoodie. Thankfully, over time – and participation with campus ministry – I found my tribe and the very women who would challenge me to never settle with surface friendships again.
And now on my daily trek home from the sitter’s, it’s as if I’m trudging up the Richland Avenue bridge (behind smokers walking side-by-side, nonetheless. Because for some reason I always got stuck behind smokers in a no-pass situation). I’m lost in a land without a tribe.
Building new friendships as an adult offers a new level of adversity, especially in an established community where bonds are already formed upon your arrival (as opposed to the mass attention-seeking circus that is Freshman Orientation). By the time we were seniors, my friends and I joked that we were “at capacity” for deep friendships; I have no doubt that the people around me have or do share similar sentiment. Especially when you add kids to the equation – sometimes taking on the work involved for meeting someone new and getting through the trivial “get to know you” conversations looses its appeal.
It’s also hard to see who else is in the same boat. You could tell a lost freshman by the way they looked both ways on Union. But by adulthood, we all know where to find the produce aisle in Kroger, which is the only social outing I seem to find myself these days. And those centerpoint areas of meeting – work, school and church – haven’t been effective for a work-from-home, parent of younger than pre-K kids. The church we’ve been attending, while offering very enjoyable 1.25 hours each Sunday morning, is too big for us. Husband has always hated how, no matter what church I’m in – visiting or part of the establishment – I’m the last one out the door. But I’ve not been last out a single time in the past 6 months. I see that as a clue that it’s not for us.*
Add to the list of complications the personality of yours truly. I’m simply complicated. Okay, okay. Weird. I’ve become a bit more non-traditional in my views about everything. And not in the cool hipster way that’s underground and slick, but in that weird, eyebrow furrowing way** that at the end of the conversation you wonder to yourself, “Does she still believe in soap?”*** And thus – much like in seminary – people don’t realize I’m hilarious. Even my Friends in Another Town have asked me to rethink my desire to join a group of friends who didn’t like my unlabeled canned goods White Elephant gift. Seriously, folks. You can’t contain the comedy in this average-sized, post-partum frame.
And so we arrive at Destination Bored. Life isn’t bad, things aren’t tumultuous. But I’m a social creature and when when deprived of my drug I tend to lash out, leaving my poor husband (and the only adult I speak with in a given week) without defense. And I simply am unsure of the steps I need to take in order to bring change to the situation. And, (though I do thank you for the suggestions) most of my options include taking my kids somewhere during nap/bedtime, which would further complicate my life in the form of tantrums and tears. Kind of a non-option for me. I need some sort of Friend Delivery service that arrives at my door during naps, so that we can sit and enjoy a cup of coffee (or if the mood is right, Kahlua) and complain about health care, talk about nothingness that matters and solve the problems of the world. Perhaps I need to work on such an organization. I could make millions from the Naptime Captives hidden in towns across the country.
So, to you out there that live in an established community, with real friends that come to your real house, I challenge you to a duel. Find a way to include the new people that move in the area. A neighbor, perhaps. And not just in the traditional ways – perhaps those fit like a size 4 jean on a size 10 frame. It can be done, but it’s uncomfortable, if not ugly. We can’t wait to get home and out of that situation.
I’m not looking for you to solve my problems, but it couldn’t hurt of people out there came up with new options for solutions for those around you, of whom you might not be aware.
(*I’m a firm believer in the responsibility of the church-goer to try to find ways to connect within church, AKA The Small Group. We’d like that. However, we haven’t figured out a way to manage the traditional “connection” activities into the current schedule with the current age/status of the wee ones. It’s a stage, hopefully a quick one.)
**You totally made that face, didn’t you?
***The jury is out on that one.