Through a couple of events, including a few intense discussions, Benjamin and I came to the conclusion that we need to take the Hermit Prevention Program to a new level.
We determined that due to me working from home and my very small social circle I’m becoming more and more dependent upon Benjamin for human interaction. This isn’t fair to Benjamin: he’s continuing to make friends and be highly involved in school functions, both academic and social in nature, placing him away from the house more and more. The collision of me being more socially clingy to him and he being less accessible to be clung upon has reached critical mass in our household. Things are only going to get worse over the next 12ish months as Benjamin is taking 5 classes for all future trimesters instead of just 4 and stepping up to be president of JHOP (a student organization) instead of just a board member — I’ll be lucky to see him an hour or two a day at best.
I’ve decided to take a two-prong approach to solve the issue. The two may seem to be contradictory at first but I think they both have their place:
Strategic long-term solution
The strategic solution is to build up my social network here in Denver, something I’ve been trying to work on the past 1.5 years with little success.
In Austin I had tons of friends, almost all of them I met either at work or through people I worked with. I’ve already become quite close with the dust bunnies living under my desk but haven’t formed a good social bond — I’m going to need to venture further abroad than my immediate work environment.
IBM has started groups called Other Than Traditional Office (OTTO) to encourage folks who don’t work in a normal IBM office but that live in the same neighbourhood to get together. Despite acting as the OTTO group coordinator and scheduling lunch meetings every other week, few of the local OTTOers who have expressed interest have ever showed up for a lunch function. I’m going to need to look way outside IBM then for some social connections.
I’ve tried to use social network sites like Connexion and Facebook to meet new people, but I’m at a loss for how to best use those tools for this purposes. The former is more of a hookup site than anything else (not interested, thankyouverymuch) and the latter is geared towards connecting people who already know each other — not meeting new people.
Meeting people at church is challenging and hanging out with people you do meet is almost impossible. The challenging part is that the church is huge — they have 2 services on Saturday nights and 3 services on Sunday mornings, services that are held in a warehouse-sized building. There’s a lot of people there. If you do meet someone they could live virtually anywhere as it draws people in from wherever. Just getting to the church is challenging given that it’s in Lafayette (30 minute drive away without traffic) and we only have one car. I’ve been able to make some great acquaintances via the Deaf ministry but while the ladies are wonderful we’re at very different places in our lives. The church does have a craigslist-like website to encourage people to build community by letting people with common interest or in the same location to get together. I started a Stapleton church community and we’ve been holding them once a month but folks never rarely come back after the first time — we’re obviously either scaring them away or we’re just not meeting whatever need they’re wanting to get out of it.
Between the church Stapleton group and the IBM OTTO group, I’m getting rather depressed that maybe I’m just a scary and/or boring person!
The strategic approach is the right one but it doesn’t seem to be getting any better despite trying and “giving it time”.
Tactical short-term solution
The tactical approach is to say “screw you people in Denver, I’m going to hang out with my existing friends”. This solution involves me taking advantage of my work-from-home status and change “home” to be wherever my friends are — friends I can mooch off of for a week or two. Benjamin is ok with the idea as he has plenty of school work to keep him busy and we’re only a phone call apart. The past 7 days I’ve been staying with Meg in San Jose, CA working during the day and hanging out at night and over the weekend. It’s been great!
My goal is to take one or two weeks once a month and stay with friends along the way. Next month we’re already travelling the first two weekends of the month to go back to Texas, so April is out — we can only afford so much plane travel. In May I’m going to be staying with my good friend John M. in Raleigh. This trip is going to be extra special as the bulk of my team is in the IBM lab in Research Triangle Park (RTP). While I’m staying with John I’ll drive into RTP every day and sit in an office near my coworkers — most of whom I’ve never met in person despite working with them for 2 or more years. I’ll be able to attend team meetings with my team (what a novel thought!) instead of via conference call.
That gets us through Benjamin’s Spring trimester and into the summer. He’ll be taking a couple of summer classes at a local community college but via the internet (we think). Pending schedules we might take this opportunity to travel together to some place for a week or so at a time, he working on school work and me working on IBM work. If that isn’t possible my stay-with-friends may be placed on hold over the summer and pick back up in September.
Either way, I’m hoping to mooch off of Jeff and Jonobie in Seattle, Renee and Robert in the DC area, and maybe back out to San Jose to visit Meg later in the year. There’s also Jenny and John in NJ, Jodi in Germany, Jim in London, and even my family in Austin. [Don’t be surprised if you get an email or phone call in the next few weeks gang :) ]
The tactical solution is very much short-term and gets me no closer to the strategic solution of having friends in Denver — but it may retain my sanity.