January 24, 2008

Who Do You Miss Most In Your Life?

Answering today’s question from Quofda:

This is a good question, and one that I have a long and weird answer to. To understand the answer, you have to know that I’m an only child who grew up in an apartment in Manhattan. Because of this, I didn’t have a lot of friends that I could play with growing up. Sure there were friends at school, and I would see a few of them outside of school, but growing up in the city means that you can’t just go next door to see “Billy” whenever you want. The “pop-in” is generally discouraged, despite what you see on Seinfeld. Getting together with friends required multiple phone calls, consulting both parents, consulting parents date books, and sometimes consulting a shrink. Sometimes it just wasn’t worth all the hassle.

Because of the above, I spent a lot of time by myself, and I became very good at entertaining myself. I still am. I value my alone time more than just about anything. I socialize as much as I can these days, but every once in a while, I’ll tell a friend that I’m just not in the mood to go out and would rather go home and be with myself (mind out of gutter, please).

Growing up semi-isolated also left me somewhat socially awkward. Because I wasn’t around a lot of other people, I tend to not be very comfortable around people, and am very shy around strangers, but it really isn’t that noticeable at first. I tend to only speak when spoken to or when necessary, and I tend not to expand on what I’m saying more than necessary. I would not be described as shy by someone who is meeting me for the first time, but after they get to know me, and I get more comfortable with them, they would eventually notice that I’m more comfortable and gregarious than the day they met me, and might describe me as being shy in hindsight. To this day, I have trouble responding to what I perceive as a very personal comment by someone, regardless of how they perceive it.

And forget about me sharing very personal details. The best way I can describe myself is that I have put up a wall to all but my closest friends, and it takes a very, very long time for me to let that wall down to someone new. It is this wall that is almost definitely responsible for my failed relationships, and it is this wall that came tumbling down in a relationship with someone whom I will refer to as Karen, and I was able to be the real Josh around her without the wall protecting, or more accurately, hiding me.

Even though the relationship with Karen was over more than 10 years ago, I can still remember the exact moment, and the exact feeling that I had when I realized that I was completely comfortable around her and had no reason to keep the wall up. Once the wall came down, I was a different person…not just around her, but in general. At the time, I was having some problems with my boss at work, but I never really brought it home with me. After the relationship with Karen sputtered out, I remember talking to her one day, and just going off on my boss. She mentioned that she never heard me talk about him that way, and I realized that while nothing with him had changed, I was a calmer and more tolerant person when the wall was down, and now that it was back up, I had to release the stress he caused.

So, to finally answer the original question of who do I miss most in my life…it is not Karen. I would have to say that I miss the person that I was when I was in the relationship with Karen, and that Josh is the person that I miss most in my life. I’m not sure how to get him back without some help from someone else.