The latest Weekend Assignment poses an interesting question:
Some people are happiest when they’re part of a group. They may be leader of the pack, or actively contribute to the group’s efforts, or simply hang out with the others for companionship, and any scraps they may get. Other people are more the lone wolf type: the explorers, the loners, given to solitary effort and independent thought. Where do you prefer to function in human society: as part of a group, or your own, or in some combination of the two?
Extra Credit: Is there a group with which you’re currently affiliated that is especially important to you? What is your relationship with that group?
Growing up, I was often the odd man out. I had few close friends. I was always the last picked for any sports team. I was relatively unpopular, because the things I was good at – studying and doing well in school and trying to expand my knowledge of the world – were not things that made the list on “how to win friends and influence people“. Add to that a relatively uneven self-image (I was a scrawny kid, lacking in physical prowess, and I wasn’t what I would consider photogenic; albeit, I didn’t really care about those things, either). Consequently, I was frequently a loner. I’d spend time in books, or making up my own stories, or drawing, or otherwise engaging my imagination.
But secretly, through it all, I always craved the attention and friendship of my peers. I just didn’t have, or didn’t believe I had, the skills and gifts necessary to do so.
Personality tests were an inconstant source of insight on the issue as well. They often indicated that I was an Introvert – but not always. There were times when the results were a little more inconclusive. I accepted that I was, but at times I didn’t really feel like I was. I wanted to be a part of the pack. It was when I took the Birkman test at the start of my Master’s degree that I came to better understand my relationship with the group.
That said, there have been times in my adult life when I really have been a part of the group. There were days when I was a regular participant in an on-going game of D&D. Man… good times, good times. Likewise, there was a time when I was in charge of my church’s Young Single Adult program, helping to plan and execute activities and social events for other young people to come to. In those days, I often felt like I had a good, solid group of friends – people I would hang out with on a regular basis. It felt good to be in the center of it all, to be where things were happening and where the people were.
But good times like that don’t last forever – you move on with life. I haven’t had time to participate in a solid D&D game in years, and if I did have time, I’d rather spend it writing. And I’m not single anymore. With marriage comes an end to the lifestyle of a single: hanging out with friends whenever you want, parties, road trips, and so on. I still have a few good friends, but the number of people that I could honestly say I’d be comfortable just hanging out with I can now count on one hand. My only real, close, constant friend and companion is Dear Wife (and, of course, B.T. and Shasta). I still like all my old friends from the old days. But, if I’m honest with myself, things are different now. You can’t go back, you can only go forward.
At times, yes, I still think fondly back to those days when I was one of the guys, when I was part of the pack, when I was surrounded by friends – whether we were playing some games, going to a dance, out on a road trip, or just relaxing together and shooting the breeze. But now there are responsibilities. There’s school, there’s a baby, there’s a need to justify my existence to the universe. Someday, maybe there will be a chance to sit back and relax with friends. I sincerely hope so.
As for the extra credit: well, I’m religious. So, my relationship with my church, on a general scale, is important to me. Even so, I have relatively few real friends in my current congregation – and because this congregation serves a region that covers several large schools, it’s a congregation that’s often in transition as new people move in and old people move out. So some of those friends have already or soon will be moving away. For myself, I often feel like an itinerant there, like an interloper. It’s an oddly uncomfortable feeling.