No man is an island
I'm starting to wonder just how much human contact I actually need to be happy. It's something that's been in the back of my mind for a few months, ever since I discovered that all of my fall classes will be online courses. (The courses are designed for students enrolled in the distance learning program.) There will be some definite advantages to this, such as not having to brave the elements to walk to class in the winter, but I’m concerned about the lack of real life interaction, because I've often had an easier time making friends in classes than in other, more purely social situations. (We automatically have something immediate in common, because we’re all enrolled in the same class, and my inherent, inescapable nerdiness is much more acceptable in an academic setting than in a social one.)
My recent trip home has only exacerbated the problem, because I’ve had a chance to spend time with many old friends, and to be reminded of how much fun we used to have (and could, presumably, still be having if I hadn’t moved away). I’m sure that I’ve got rose-colored hindsight (to mix metaphors), but such institutions as Poker Night, Katya Day and every Board party in between aren’t to be replicated anywhere else.
Heaven knows I’ve tried to make friends in Illinois, but it’s been rough going. For a variety of reasons, it's easier to socialize with Mormons than with non-Mormons, but I have yet to make a good friend in the ward, and I'm increasingly pessimistic that I ever will. They are too orthodox, too serious and too, um, unimpressed by my vast mental store of random information. (Or, conversely, I am too heterodox, too inclined to laugh at the world, and too nerdy to fit in. It's fair to place the blame on either side, but it doesn't change the situation.) Worse yet, it seems that every time I make an effort to attend a ward activity or social, I come back feeling more depressed and lonely than if I hadn’t gone at all. (A classic sign of introversion, I believe.) We'll get some new faces in the ward this fall, but I'm not counting on finding a kindred spirit.
Which brings me back to my stock of slowly dispersing friends. I would prefer to interact with them in real life, but I’m fortunate enough to live in an era of email, instant messaging, blogs and other online forums, not to mention the old standbys of postcards and letters. Not that I’m going to cut myself of from human contact completely, but I would probably be less annoyed with the members of the ward if I wasn’t counting on them to replace my friends from back home.
If it’s a choice between trying to force close friendships where none are likely to develop, and putting in a little more effort to maintain the long-distance ones I already have, I would be wise to do the latter, I think.