Last night I spent a thoroughly pleasant evening in the company of the few “real-life” friends I see on a regular basis. We played Descent, I made some poor tactical decisions and lost yet another quest (seriously, I am the most incompetent evil overlord of all time) and we had fun.
As always, though the experience was, for me, tinged with a certain hint of bittersweetness. Said friends, you see, all live back in the Southampton/Winchester area, which is where I used to live before the rather inconvenient and upsetting collapse of almost my entire existence over two years ago. I, however, am not located there; instead, I am nearly two hours’ drive away in Chippenham, Wiltshire. It’s not a difficult drive, to be sure, but it isn’t something I can particularly do on a sudden whim. Well, I can, but I do need to have plenty of time on my hands before I do it, and there are other considerations as well.
It’s frustrating, though. Regular readers will know that I am not an especially “social” person a lot of the time, but I do appreciate and enjoy the time I get to spend with these friends. We’ve built a strong Social Link as a group together in recent years, and most of us have had to take on some difficult challenges in that time. Although in a lot of cases, said group of friends didn’t necessarily help and support directly, the fact that they were simply there was often enough. I know I certainly felt that way, though naturally I can’t speak for the others.
It’s hard to feel that way when you’re two hours away, though; when you have to make full on capital-P Plans to see them rather than just sending a text and asking if people are up for something. I miss being able to do that, and not just with the particular group of friends I saw last night, either; there are ex-colleagues still in the area whom I used to love being able to just call up (well, text up) and hang out with.
I feel more than a tad isolated, in short.
And in more ways than one, if I’m honest. Leaving aside the geographical issue that gets in the way of seeing “real life” friends for a moment, there’s also the whole issue of having like-minded friends who are into similar things that you are. I have a number of interests that I am perfectly willing to describe as “niche”, and at times it can be difficult and frustrating to be a fan of these things when there’s no-one nearby to share the experience and enjoyment of them with. It’s not as if I have absolutely no-one, obviously — Andie is good at taking an interest in the things I like (for the most part, anyway!) and aforementioned friends share at least some of my interests.
The “simple” solution seems obvious — take an interest in more “mainstream” things so you can more easily share the enjoyment of things that everyone enjoys. But it’s not that simple. I have tried on a number of occasions to engage with things I know various friends and acquaintances are interested in — everything from football to The X-Factor – and every time I have come away feeling like I’m forcing myself to try and enjoy something I dislike immensely, and it just doesn’t seem worth it. Apparently your tastes are hard-wired into your head somewhere, and it is very difficult to change them. I am predisposed to like the things I like (board games, video games, anime, soundtracks, music, writing, The Internet, My Little Pony) and similarly to dislike the things I despise (too many to list).
Knowing that doesn’t help with those feelings of isolation, though. Knowing that the things I enjoy are only appreciated by certain specific subcultures can be a difficult pill to swallow at times, but it’s the situation that my own tastes have gotten me into. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t regret or feel embarrassed about anything that I enjoy; it’d just be nice to be able to enthuse about it with people who are a bit closer sometimes.
But at least I can enthuse about it with people thanks to the trappings of modern society. I can chat with my friend in Canada about anime; I can discuss strategies for failing to beat the hideously difficult secret boss in Persona 3 with another friend in the States. I can rant and rave in private about the things that are getting my goat to someone in yet another disparate geographical location; I can share my pride in something I have achieved with yet someone else entirely.
Things could be worse, in short — but it doesn’t stop those occasional feelings of loneliness and isolation. I’ve been having more than a few of them recently, and it’s getting me down a bit, so apologies if the tone of these posts may be a bit on the melancholy side at times.
Oh well. I’ll deal. I always do.