While 2011 had its low points, the year was a significant improvement from 2010. In addition to exiting a relationship that was running on fumes, I accomplished most of the goals I set for myself, including:
1. Building up a solid archive of published feature stories to advance my freelance writing career (I published one or more story every month, and talked to some incredible talent in the process).
2. Finally began healing after four years of pain and suffering; while I am not exactly where I'd hoped (and probably never will be), I'm at peace with my state of being and am embracing what I can do instead of lamenting what I can't. I'm also back to the weight I was when I first went under the knife in 2008.
3. Most importantly, I made some new friends.
While numbers 1 and 2 undoubtedly signify major life moments, the third easily took the most conscious courage and determination. If you think dating is warfare, try making new friends in your late 30s. At times it felt apocalyptic. At this point in life, the majority of people I'd be friends with are hunkered down in their bomb shelters: husband, kids, mortgages, in-laws. I can't even imagine how they juggle it all. I have two jobs, two pets and rental unit and I feel constantly overwhelmed.
After I'd moved into my new place and got past the euphoria of shedding the weight of a dead relationship, it became immediately clear that I had no friends. Wait, a clarification. I had no friends, other than Wine Guy, to casually hang out with. When it came to emotional meltdowns or family emergencies, I was blessed. I even had one or two women not saddled with husband/children in my social rotation but, being active women, they had full schedules. One date every couple of weeks does not a social calendar make.
I'm not opposed to alone time. In fact, I cherish it. But when it becomes the everyday routine, it doesn't feel like something worth cherishing. It's kind of like smoking pot. If you toke up every once in awhile, it's a kick. But once you start wake-and-baking, you're just living in a foggy brain. Nothing special about that. Trust me, I know.
A friend (one of my NEW ones, thank you very much) recently shared with me something she'd heard about introverts versus extroverts. We'd started to fill in our backstories and it soon became clear that she was, in fact, quite an introvert. Being that I have a blog where I spill my deepest, darkest, I think you can guess which one I am. She told me that introverts are energized by time spent alone, and being social -as fun as it can be-ultimately drains that energy. Whereas extroverts are energized by socializing with others and, while they might enjoy their alone time, it ultimately saps them. Having been in serious relationships with two introverts, I can testify that this is the most accurate description of the two types I've ever heard.
Desperate for a social charge, I decided to make my move. I have no problem suggesting a date with a potential romantic interest. But when it comes to establishing a female friendship, I feel like a 14-year-old boy at a middle school dance. I started with acquaintances who always seemed like they could be friends if one of us ever made the gesture. And that seemed to pay off, as it did with Introvert (whose boyfriend I also now count among my friends).
As with dating, I soon discovered there are only so many friends you can meet "in the wild," so I took my hunt to the online friend corral, Meetup.com. It's something of an overwhelming experience at first, trying to pick the activities you're interested in that might cough up some like minded friends. I settled on craft beer, something I'd become a little too knowledgeable about over the last two years, and also a really big thing here in San Diego.
The first beer meetup I went to was last summer at a local microbrewery where we had a tour of the facilities, followed by a ridiculous amount of tasters. I arrived a little early and found myself talking to a seemingly nice, normal man about my age who'd just moved here from Tennessee. Understand, I was not here to find a date and, as cute (and single) as he was, I was mostly excited by the fact that he had only lived here a few weeks, knew no one and, more importantly, had yet to discover the many terrific brewpubs tucked in all corners of the city. He clearly knew his beer and had a lot of free time so I was excited by the idea of having a companion to hit up the pubs I would visit more often if I had someone to go with.
I was careful not to monopolize his time throughout the event and made an effort to talk to other people. I didn't want him to think I was only there to snatch a guy - because I wasn't. But he was by far the most friendly person there so we ended up talking quite a bit. I had a great time and he seemed to as well. Eventually someone else started talking to him and then he left rather abruptly, which bummed me out a little.
But my spirits were lifted the very next day when he sent me an email through the Meetup site saying how nice it was to meet me. I wrote back saying the same and suggested we get together for some beer tourism the following weekend, to which he replied he was unavailable. I gave him my regular contact info and said to let me know when he was free.
When he didn't get in touch after a week or two, I grew irritated. There was no doubt that we hit it off as friends. I had something to offer him - local knowledge about an interest of his, as well as companionship (he made it clear he knew nobody in town). The only reason I could think that he wouldn't follow up was because he thought I wanted something romantic when he didn't. Exactly how the fuck are you supposed to make friends with someone who happens to be a man if you are going to be judged as some man-hunting cougar? So I went back to the Meetup site and joined an all-girl craft beer group, where I've made a few potential friend connections and, most importantly, avoided feeling like I'm on the prowl for something I'm not (unless an obvious opportunity presents itself, of course).
So you can imagine my surprise when I got an email from him earlier this week, almost six months since we'd last communicated. He commented that the beer Meetup seemed to have disbanded, implying he was hoping to run into me at the next event. But since there were no more events, he'd made up his mind to get in touch after the holidays. Apparently, someone gave him a Beer of the Month subscription for Christmas and, well, he needed help plowing through his supply. Might I want to get together? He even proposed a few possible dates and times which, I've learned, indicates purposeful intent in guy speak. Impressive.
So this Saturday afternoon I'll be on Beer Guy's deck toasting in the New Year. Hopefully he'll be yet another new friend (and one that I wouldn't mind kissing). I like beer better than wine anyway.