Chapter 2: The Way Less Traveled By

When It’s Time, Please Put Me in an Old Folks’ Home

Today is one of those luxurious days where I finished my last class at 5 and have no commitments or pressing matters to take care of for the rest of the evening.  I’ve been looking forward to putting on my flannel pajama pants and curling up with Tolkien’s biography.  But the problem is, I don’t want a book; I want people, and I want them NOW.

–As a side note, at this point my post writing was delayed a bit as I almost burned the apartment down.  Apparently you have to open the magical chimney trapdoor to let the smoke escape.  I don’t know if I’m ten kinds of hapless or helpless, but things like this happen a lot.–

Anyway, as I was saying, my initial misfortune of this evening was that I was in a social mood without anyone to be social with.  When I lived in a residence hall, this was no problem, as I could head downstairs to the lobby or spontaneously mosey on over to a friend’s room at virtually any hour, day or night.  There was always something going on, and I could choose whether to be around people or not at my leisure.

Now, however, I generally have to make plans ahead of time, and that’s a lot of work, especially if I don’t know if I’ll be in a social mood or not.  So, since I opted out of dorm life this year, I was thinking of the next time I would live in a community like that.  Now, barring any cult or commune that I may join between now and then, the next time I will live like that is in a nursing home.

I’ve sort of grown up with the idea that one should try to stay out of the nursing home since both of my grandfathers were/are quite independent.  My mother’s father is in his nineties and living alone in his own house.  Although my mom visits him at least twice a week and he often goes out to play bridge at a senior center, he is often alone.  Independence is essential to him, and I respect that a lot.

However, when I’m at that point, I think I’m going to need my people more than my independence.  Actually I can’t wait.  I think I’m going to have a blast.  Just think, I’ll have my old codger friends and we’ll play chess and debate the finer points of Tolkien and hip replacements.  We’ll compare grandchildren and maybe I’ll find some old hottie to teach me how to play piano*.  Please, put me in the old folks’ home.

*Assuming I’m an old maid or widowed at this point.  Future husband, I would never cheat on you, dear.  Even for a hunky musician.

You see, it’s this extroverted thing that I’ve recently recovered.  When I returned from Costa Rica, two major things had changed in my social life: I was mildly anti-male and I only really wanted to be around the people I was close to.  As far as I can tell, they both basically stemmed from the same problem–I had trouble making deep friends in Costa Rica.  My first semester, I was pretty close with the other exchange students, but had trouble connecting with the locals, and the second semester I purposefully isolated myself from the gringo group to force myself to make Tico friends.

I eventually made good friends, but I still missed my best amiga, my sister, and my cousins with a deep ache that never went away.  Added to that, I never managed to spend a whole lot of time with a true soul-sister in Costa Rica.  I was always just the stand-out macha, object of catcalls, and interesting because of my foreign-ness.  I knew a lot of people, but I was lonely.

Therefore, it’s not surprising that I placed such a high value and priority on my close friends and family when I got home.  Distance makes the heart grow fonder I suppose.  People I would meet with whom I didn’t connect very well became mildly irritating as I focused on strengthening my important relationships.

I was actually surprised how long that mindset lasted.  I had just come to the conclusion that I had found my true self, or rather what I need to support my center and core of who I am, when, to my surprise, I started craving people interaction again.

To me, there’s no high like meeting a bunch of strangers.  It’s why I chose to attend a university where I knew no one.  It’s why I am naturally drawn to jobs and volunteer positions where I meet a lot of new people.

I guess this means time has cured the aftereffects of my social deprivation.  Just in time for me to go to Germany.  Fantastic.  Maybe I’ll be better at integration this time around.

But hey, no matter how many awkward social environments life throws me into, at least I have my retirement home to look forward to at the end of the line.


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