Wednesday, February 28, 2007

On the Outside

One of the blogs I really enjoy reading is Waiter Rant not only for the interesting insight into the restaurant business, but also for the interesting insight into everyday human nature and emotion. In one of the latest posts, our anonymous waiter hits on a feeling that I sometimes find hitting a little close to home--the existential wanderlust to belong, yet always remaining just on the outside.

I'm the type of person that hates to be alone. I don't handle it well. I get stir crazy, I lose focus on what I'm doing, and I end up spending my time alone craving for human contact. I know one of the predominant reasons I'm like this is the type of job I have. I work with an international organization and even though I'm in an office of about 200 people, I don't work with any of them. I spend my day emailing people around the world, analyzing files, writing proposals, and doing a lot of isolationist tasks. When work is over, I want nothing more than to relax with some close company, be it my roommates, a girlfriend, a sports team, or friends.

So many people form relationships with the ones they work with and do things with their co-workers outside of the confines of the workplace. I don't really have that luxury. I see the gatherings of people around a cubicle as they discuss the latest episode of Grey's Anatomy or Lost and I notice jealousy creeping up inside me.

And it's not just work. As time has passed since college, my peer group has been continually shrinking as friends get married, never to be heard from again, or they move away (or I move away), or circumstances make it hard for us to spend time together. There were so many times while I was living in Rochester I caught myself going to a coffee shop with my laptop to do work after the work day was over just so that I could be in the presence of other people.

I had friends, yes, but I didn't get to do things with them as much as I'd have liked. Truly, I've never completely adjusted to the social structures outside of college. It was so ideal having your entire peer group within 10 minutes of yourself at all times.

Once I moved to Minneapolis, I didn't have that "outsider craving to be on the inside" feeling quite as much, but I do notice that it is still there at times. I doubt it'll ever go away. That's pretty much a fact of life. Learning to deal with it and address it is always harder. Sitting in Caribou Coffee hoping that friends would magically manifest themselves wasn't the answer, it was a perpetuating of the problem. Finally finding things to get involved with and to actually meet people in mitigated that longing. There's always that temptation to withdrawal from everything, though, and go back to just staying on the outside. Resisting it is key.

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