I'm happy to report that, for a second month in a row, I met my oh-so-modest New Year's goal of having a social life. Indeed, I have once again doubled what I aimed to achieve, going out not once but twice. Go me! And there's still a week left in February, and I have actually been invited out for another social outing this week, but since that would involve switching duties with another teacher in order to be free on the appropriate night, I may decide it's not worth the personal energy cost.
The interesting thing about both February outings is that they were incredibly spontaneous, arranged only hours before they happened. Perhaps I'm sending out a different vibe, one that signals to friends that I'm interested in going out?
The first outing happened in the first couple days of the month (nothing like meeting the month's goal in the first week!) when a colleague asked me at lunchtime if I'd like to go to a play that night; at the last minute, his wife couldn't accompany him, and so he had an extra ticket. He asked a couple of other folks as well, and I was the first person to say "yes." (And it had been a comp ticket, so it cost me nothing, which certainly factored into my saying "sure!") I'll confess that I was regretting that decision by the time we left for the theater, realizing how late I was going to be out on a school night. Or, rather, NOT realizing how late I'd be; when the ticket-taker told us that the play was 3 1/2 hours long, my heart quailed within me. And the play was sort of interesting -- indeed, it was An Experience of the Adventure City Literati type -- but I couldn't really enjoy the experience because I was so exhausted for the entire second half and was fretting about how tired I would be at school the next day. I got home at midnight, and I was pretty much a wreck for the rest of the week.
Socializing Lesson #1: I just can't stay out late at night, especially on a school night but really any time. I'm simply not a late-night person, and I need to take that into account when making social plans.
Socializing Lesson #2: Honestly, I'm not a sophisticated culture sort of person, and I should keep that in mind when planning outings.
This relative lack of sophistication is something that used to cause me some distress as a grad student, worrying that I wasn't as cultured as I should be or as my colleagues were, but I've now mostly made my peace with my tastes. (I was about to refer to my tastes as middlebrow, since I don't listen to opera or classical music but also can't stand "reality" television and so am presumably in that middle region between high- and lowbrow, but on second thought I think I'm not really middlebrow either since my point here is that I don't actually keep up with what is considered "culture." I guess I'm no-brow.) I had read about this play when the new theatre season's offerings were announced, and I'd thought "eh -- sounds a little pretentious; it would be clever enough for half an hour or so, but tedious for more than that"; and in fact, that's exactly what my assessment was after the evening, so why didn't I say "Oh, no thanks" when my colleague invited me? Partly it was the exciting last-minute-ness of it all, so that it felt like an adventure. But in the future I think I need to feel okay with not being as up-to-date on a certain segment of contemporary culture as my colleagues are. The only time this really bothers me is when my fellow English teachers talk about readings and plays they're going to in town (and really, it's only a few of my colleagues), but the last time this happened, I just thought to myself, "Well, I probably know a lot more than they do about the development of the novel tradition in America, so don't sweat it." Yes, there are better ways of dealing with perceived inadequacy than silently putting down my colleagues' academic backgrounds, but hey, I go with what works.
Then, my second outing came about even more spontaneously. Yesterday I was playing music with some colleagues (and this will get a post of its own this week!), and a friend and colleague was showing off her very cool sneakers that she'd gotten at a local store, one that combines the eclectic nature and reduced prices of Overstock.com with a slight Goodwill grunge factor and a hefty dose of camp. I'd heard about but have never gone to this store (it's where my next-door neighbor buys many of the solar-powered ornaments that she displays in her backyard, which tells you something about the store), and right then and there this friend and I decided that she had to take me on an introductory shopping trip. And since she's a seize-the-moment kind of person, she said, "Okay, let's make a plan. What are you doing tonight? This weekend?" Having learned Socializing Lesson #1 and realizing just how tired I was at the end of the week, I declined to go out right then but suggested Saturday. She had another obligation in the afternoon, so we agreed to get together for breakfast at 8:00 in the morning and then head out to the store.
And what fun we had! We were going to eat breakfast and grade for a little before going to the store, but we ended up just talking the whole time (having clarified that both of us were fine with its not being a productive morning) and then spending a couple hours strolling around, first in the funky store that was our destination and then in an office supply store and a used instrument store, both perfect for browsing. (I've now decided that it would be fun to take up the xylophone at some point.) It was totally casual and relaxing, we both were clearly enjoying ourselves, the entire outing cost me very little (because I didn't actually find anything I wanted at the funky store, other than some fancy tea bags for the low, low price of $.99), and I was home shortly after noon and had the rest of the day to myself. (In part because -- let me toot my own horn -- I got up and went for a brisk walk/jog before we got together for breakfast so had already earned my exercise sticker. Yay me!)
Socializing Lesson #3: Socializing during daylight hours works really well for me! I have a lot more energy earlier in the day and apparently can relax if I'm not fretting about being out too late. So maybe Saturday brunch rather than Friday or Saturday dinner needs to become my standard social outing meal? Sure, most people won't be up for get-togethers quite as early as we had today, but I'd still rather do 9:00 a.m. than 9:00 p.m.
So, although February is very much the month of doldrums for me (as for many people, of course), I am pleased at the direction things seem to be heading. None of my social experiences this year have been about the kind of deeply committed friendships in which one can reveal one's innermost self -- and that's really the long-term goal here -- but they are about my stepping out of my shell, and that's all to the good.