I Really Don’t Need Anymore Friends

I’m out of my head
And it’s not the way that I wanted to feel
This loneliness and dread
gets your attention, makes us real
I’m going nowhere and it’s slowly sinking in

I don’t stand a chance
Until you get me out of here
I just don’t have the will to pretend
I’m running for the door
Can you get me out of here?
I really don’t need anymore friends

Well turning it on
It’s getting harder and harder to do
Well don’t get me wrong
That’s dedication, good for you
It’s just your atmosphere that brings me to my knees

I don’t stand a chance
Until you get me out of here
I just don’t have the will to pretend
I’m running for the door
Can you get me out of here?
I really don’t need anymore friends

Not anymore
No not anymore

Don’t take it bad
Don’t look so sad
If I turn around and walk away
Don’t take it hard
I’ll try to play that part
But I’m having such a bad day

And I’m not that much fun anyway

I don’t stand a chance
Until you get me out of here
I just don’t have the will to pretend
I’m running for the door
Can you get me out of here?
I really don’t need anymore friends

Not anymore
No not anymore

–Joel Kosche

Introversion.

Being an introvert.

What does that mean to you? Do you know anyone who you might describe as an “introvert”? Are you an introvert, perhaps?

It’s taken me years, but I have finally realized that I’m an introvert, and that I’m okay with that. I think I have been one all my life. It’s just that I didn’t want to be; that I believed I was weird or different for wanting it.

Today, I’m more than an introvert; I’m practically a misanthrope. I do not care for most people. Which is not to say all people, it’s just that if I find myself in conversation with someone I know only casually, if at all, I tend to be looking for ways out of the conversation rather quickly. If I am forced to be around a large crowd of people, I find that I’m not even breathing normally until I am away from them.

I look back on my earliest memories and I wonder if I wasn’t always somewhat this way. Even as early as three or four years old, I remember preferring activities that one usually did alone. I would read, play with my toys, make up stories in my head. I loved being able to play with my brother, once he got old enough to play with, and I usually had one very close friend, maybe two, but usually not much more than that.

Two factors influenced my view of friends very early; one is that my family moved around a lot in my formative years. The longest I spent in one spot before High School was four years. Before I was a teenager, I had lived in three different states and one Canadian province, and within them lived in eight different towns or cities. During the first year of my teens, we moved again. Before moving out of my parents’ house I lived in three different Canadian provinces, four different cities, and eight different houses. That’s seven states/continents, twelve cities and sixteen houses, all before age 21. I know very, very few people who have moved so often throughout their life.

The second factor was having a brother who was my opposite in almost every meaningful way. I’ve already referred to how he was underweight and super-short throughout most of our childhood, causing my mother to believe that I had a serious weight problem and probably contributing to, or even creating, the real weight problem I have today.

But another way he was very much my opposite is how we approached social situations. My brother loved meeting new people, would seemingly instantly become friends with other kids, and was generally well-liked by everyone.

I didn’t approach social situations that way. In fact, I didn’t particularly like getting into social situations at all and tended to be happy if I just made one friend. Some of this was due to crippling shyness and some of it was an inability to relate to anyone who didn’t share my (admittedly rather narrow) interests. Other kids wanted to do things like play ball. I have had an intense dislike of sports from a young age, and even a bit of suspicion towards people who really, really liked them. Which is most people who aren’t me, so you can understand a bit of my misanthropy now.

My parents didn’t really understand me. I always felt a little bit like I was the odd one of the family, the black sheep, if you will. As I got older, I developed a love of reading, and the more imaginative the books, the better. My father did not understand this; the part about loving imaginative books, not the part about reading. My father loves reading, too, but he appreciates far more the idea of reading in order to further your knowledge or edification. He was greatly perturbed by the fact that most of what I wanted to read was so fanciful, and, in his view, inconsequential. “Mental candy”, he called it.

But it wasn’t just the reading. I would often obsess about various movies and cartoons I watched. My parents, I think, believed it was because all I did was dream about toys I wanted. Actually, even though I couldn’t put this into words at the time, it was because I enjoyed the world-building aspect of it. The characters, the stories, learning how the worlds they inhabited worked. That was what I loved. My parents could not see this and just saw a kid that would prefer to remain indoors with a book or TV and thought “we need to get this kid out in the world where he can learn how the real world works and get socialized.”

Aside from attending public school, my parents tried two obvious methods of socializing me; putting me on a T-ball team when I was six years old, and enrolling me in the Boy Scouts when I was 11. Both ended badly, but it wasn’t because I didn’t want to do them and therefore sulked or sat everything out.

You see, I wanted friends. Wanted lots of them. Or at least, I thought I did. I knew that it was abnormal to spend so much time alone with my thoughts and dreams. I wanted to be normal, and normal meant getting out into the world and having lots of friends.

T-ball ended badly because my head was never in the game. It wasn’t that I hated being on the team, but I was forever having to be re-coached on what I should be doing because I just wasn’t good at it, nor did I particularly think it was important that I should be. I was there to have fun, and possibly make friends. Scouts was a different story, and I’ll come to it later.

During grade school, I developed an intense need to be liked, but I felt like I had to be someone I wasn’t in order for that to happen. I knew other kids weren’t as withdrawn as I was. Other kids had interests that couldn’t have been further removed from mine. In the fourth grade, my first year in a Canadian school, I learned just how into hockey kids were. I decided that in order to be accepted, I had to pretend to love hockey.

Oh, don’t misunderstand me. I heard the phrase “be yourself” all my life. I just repeatedly felt like that phrase didn’t apply to me, because there was nothing worthwhile about who I really was.

Other things I pretended to love in order for other kids to like me included: various forms of music I was rarely exposed to and didn’t listen to, like rap and heavy metal, wrestling, the Olympics (it was 1987 in Canada), using profanity, getting into fights (yes, some kids do like this) and various and sundry other things. I would alternate between pretending to love things I knew little about and cared less about, and trying to get people to pay attention to what I liked to do.

In addition to reading, I also enjoyed bike rides, walks and recording myself on tape. I would do phony radio broadcasts, or record myself singing, or just being silly. Technically these activities could be done with a friend, and often I would bike ride with others, but the recording thing? I had a pretty hard time getting anyone to “enjoy” that activity with me. Other than sometimes my brother.

I had one friend, who, while far more social, was also a nerd like me (he even recorded with me!), and even though he was three years older and we went to separate schools and churches, I still thought of him as my best friend.

Another fact concerning my attempts to make friends over the years was that I had a tendency to get very jealous of other people spending time with my friend. I was possessive, and felt suspicious of anyone who tried to become friends with someone I was already friends with, especially if they tried to befriend him without also befriending me. Of course, I also didn’t want to be their friend. I already had my friend, and in many cases they probably did attempt to befriend me and it was me who pushed them away.

That was pretty much me

How does that fall in line with a need to be liked and have lots of friends? Simple. I didn’t even realize it at the time, but I didn’t want to be liked by all. I just felt like I had to be in order to be normal. I saw how easily my brother made friends. I heard my parents fret over how withdrawn I was, and I felt pressured to have friends. I did this by trying to be the center of attention. I don’t know how this is possible, but when I was a kid I was both arrogant, assuming people would be interested in talking about and/or doing the things that interested me, and shy, believing that I was a freak. Half the time I talked non-stop, tried to hard, was boorish, overbearing and obnoxious. Other times I would be so quiet people would assume I didn’t like them. Half the time I talked obsessively over topics I thought interested them. Other times I couldn’t shut up about my own interests that they could care less about.

I had two outlets to make friends in; school and church youth group. School was a bust after around grade six. That’s when I really started to get bullied. Some of what I was bullied for wasn’t my fault. Some of it was. Some of the bullies hated me for things I did or said. Some hated me because they were jerks. I had usually had at least one good friend per grade up until then. In grade six, I had one friend, and he rode the bus with me, but was a grade ahead of me, so we didn’t see each other during the day.

Actually, it was in the sixth grade that I began to really understand how two-faced and cruel some kids can be. There was one kid in particular who was in my grade, in several of my classes, and lived near me. We hung out in each others’ back yards, took bike rides together, etc. We even hung out during lunch on occasion. But once, when a more popular guy asked him if he was my friend, he said “No.” I was crushed. I felt betrayed. We weren’t close friends, this guy and I, but I at least thought he considered us casual friends.

Another kid who was nice to me for a while similarly started avoiding me and being quite rude once he realized that hanging out with me wasn’t good for his reputation. Truly, the sixth grade was one of the worst years of my school career. One of, but grades eight and nine are comparable.

Sixth grade, by the way, was the year of Scouts. I joined a local troupe because a kid I’d met at school who was nice to me for a bit was a part of that troupe. But Scouts turned out to be just another area where the younger kids got picked on by the older ones. I left many meets in tears. Even the guy I thought of as a friend would take part sometimes. I was starting to feel like there was no group I belonged to.

By the time I was midway through High School, my distrust of people who tried to “horn in on my friendships” had morphed into a general distrust of anyone. And it seemed like any time I let my guard down, something would happen to remind me why it went up in the first place. When I was in the tenth grade, I joined the drama club. I ate lunch in the drama room, with the other drama kids of all grades. I was cast in both plays put on that year. I had little reason to believe that I had not found my niche. I assumed that the drama club kids were my friends.

Until one day when I wasn’t there, and one friend I had, just one, told me about the things that were being said about me when I wasn’t there to listen. See, my tendency to try and be the center of attention hadn’t really been tamped down, but hey, this was the drama club. Everybody in it was an attention hog! That’s why we were in drama to begin with! I still wonder what behavior of mine, specifically, caused people in drama club to dislike me, but I’m sure that, just like with grade school and junior high, some of it was my fault and some of it wasn’t.

I knew that I wasn’t liked by everybody in the club, and that didn’t bother me because I knew even then that there would always be someone I wouldn’t get along with (two guys in particular were pretty openly my enemies), but what stung was that many of those who had joined in saying horrible things about me were people I considered real friends. Not once had any of them said anything to my face about what they didn’t like about me. They were content to be friendly to me when I was there and make fun of me when I wasn’t.

I joined choir instead of drama for eleventh grade, but ultimately my experience there was more positive. Probably because by then I had learned to assume any new person I met did not want to be my friend. I might even have come off as unfriendly precisely because I assumed no one there was my friend. I did end up having one friend, just like always, and he and I had a very odd friendship where we spent a lot of time insulting each other.

I had spent most of my life at that point being a study in contrast. I thought I wanted friends, but my motivation for having them wasn’t an interest in being around others. In fact, I didn’t particularly like being around a large crowd of other people. Generally, the one friend I would attach myself to would be just as much an outcast as myself and/or would have similar interests, so I had that much, and when I was hanging out with my friend, I would feel pretty good about my social interaction. That was all the social interaction I needed. It was only later, after I went back home and saw my brother hanging with all his friends and my parents again encouraging me to get out and be more friendly that I started to feel like I was a lonely loser with no friends.

In my final year of high school, I managed to find a small group of people (around six or seven of us) who were interested in the arts and creativity. I usually had a pretty good time hanging out with them. I never felt like they weren’t my friends. But my brother hung out with them, too, and he also had a set of his own friends. Both groups began to kind of blur together after a time, and if there was still a division it was that my group was mostly older and his group was mostly younger. Some hung out almost exclusively in one group or the other. Some, like my brother and myself, divided our time between both.

Then one day I happened to read an email my brother had sent to who I had thought was a mutual friend. At this point we had moved. I was a high school graduate and we didn’t live anywhere near the place I had graduated from. In this email, my brother was saying that he had been listening to me talk about moving back to our old town as soon as I could, that I wanted to live closer to my friends and people I knew, but he was concerned because “Josh wasn’t really part of the group, and I’m not sure if he ever understood that. I just feel like it might be a shocker for him if he goes back.” I’m still not sure if he was talking about the intermixed group as a whole or just the group of kids from his grade that were more his friends than mine. After all, the guy he was emailing was technically part of both groups. In fact, I think I spent as much time hanging out with that guy in my group of friends as my brother did in his group.

Nonetheless, it was a huge blow. It was happening again. No one was really my friend.

To be honest, I started wondering, what good were friends anyway? I had always been happiest spending time by myself, and literally every activity I loved; reading, writing, singing, listening to music, even biking, could be done alone. I realized I never felt lonelier than when I was with a large group of people trying to force some social interaction.

Even today, I have a tendency to believe that people who are nice to me are just being polite, and have no interest in being my friend. I tend to make excuses not to go to social functions, to interact with people if I don’t have to. I tend to want to stay home and just hang out with my family. In my first marriage, my wife used to tell me I needed to make more friends, and my reaction was “Why? I have you.”

I said at the beginning that I don’t care for most people. I’m not sure that’s true, really, I just feel better when I have one or two close friends and get uncomfortable the more people I have to interact with at once, plus my default mode is assuming they don’t have any interest in being friends with me.

But I don’t want you to come away thinking that I’m an introvert because I’m afraid of rejection. I think it was spending all this time as an adult just working through what I really want out of friendship. Today, I’m married and I love my wife, and spending time with her, but I don’t tend to reach out and make a ton of friends beyond her. In fact, I mostly prefer to hang out with family. I’ve realized that I prefer to be an introvert and not try so hard to make friends. It’s made me less obnoxious and oddly happier. I’m more secure in who I am as a person. I am friendly. I have people I relate well with and can talk to, but I don’t have a ton of friends and I don’t really need or want a ton of friends.