I woke up this morning feeling extremely sad and lonely. In other news, water is wet.
I’m starting to wonder if I feel lonely all the time because I just have a higher baseline requirement for intimacy than others. This is neither a positive nor a negative thing. It’s just a statement of fact, like my blood type or my hair color. I remember reading a research paper saying that the difference between introverts and extroverts is that introverts just have a higher baseline level of stimulation, so they don’t feel as much of a need to spend time with others to achieve an optimal level of stimulation. Similarly, do I just need to maintain more friendships than most people to feel not lonely?
The problem is that my capabilities of feeling intimate with others come and go like the waves. Last month, when I was still in Philly, I went to an event with some friends. It was only three weeks ago, but it seems so long ago. Moving to somewhere new tends to have that effect on my time perception. At the time, I hadn’t told my friends that I would be moving to New York shortly, but I had an apprehension that that night might be the last time I was happy for a while. It was the last time I was happy for a while, but the transition occurred long before that night. I’m running towards the end of my intimacy cycle, and I expect that it’s going to be a while before I could feel intimate with others again.
I tend to think of intimacy as a depreciating asset. Like depreciating assets, I have to mark intimacy to market every quarter to make an accurate assessment of how close I feel to the people around me. It is quite unfair to assume that our present feelings of intimacy seamlessly transition from one time period to the next without loss. When I was in high school, I no longer felt close to the same people from elementary school. When I graduated college, everything that happened before college seems like another life I never lived.
Most assets use straight-line depreciation over a set useful life. The rate of straight-line depreciation is dependent solely on the useful life of an asset.
Some assets have long useful lives. Some assets do not have long useful lives. Friendships also have a useful life measured by a specific period in which the majority of memories are formed. I made a lot of memories with some high school friends, but they are no longer a significant presence in my life. Some of my college friends are still in my life, but in a few years I suspect I won’t be talking to my college friends either. It’s the natural progression of things. Friendships do not last forever, and it’s unfair to expect that they do. Friendships run through a predictable course of getting to know each other, spending a little time together, spending significant amounts of time together, and then moving on to other friends.
Some assets have salvage values. Some assets do not have salvage values. Friendships have salvage values. Relationships do not have salvage values. If I reach the end of the line with a friendship, I could pick things back up later, granted at a lesser intensity. The promise of Saturday brunch at 1 PM, once a year or two, is still there, and this ending equilibrium is hard to break. Relationships, on the other hand, cannot be picked back up once broken. There is no such thing as keeping in contact with your exes. There is no room in the present for doing so. Keeping in contact with an ex is just keeping something alive that doesn’t have any future. Doing so would be living in the past.
The metric I’ve been thinking about a lot lately is the average useful life of a friendship. Unlike friendship itself, this is largely dependent person to person. People who are good at keeping in contact with their friends tend to have longer average useful lives. People who are not too attached to their friends tend to have shorter average useful lives. People who prefer quality over quantity have longer average useful lives. People who prefer quantity over quality have shorter average useful lives. I’m not sure where I end up on this spectrum. I tend to think that my friendships have shorter average useful lives, but that could just be because my standards for what I consider to be an ideal average useful life is longer than what I currently perceive having.
How do you make friends in a new city? Who knows. I didn’t really make friends in college, so the bar for comparison is quite low. I think I big problem I have is that I like getting close to people quickly. I think I expect too much from meeting people. I just want to reach the point in a friendship where memories start to get formed, but it’s hard to truly understand that this process takes a very long time. I understand that the average useful life of my friendships is not long, so I want to cram as many memories into my friendships as possible before I would have to salvage it and move onto another friendship.
To be honest, if I saw someone else with my obsessive desire to be close to others, I would consider it to be a red flag. From my observations (and experience), the desire for accelerated closeness is usually the product of emotional trauma, and it often results in some pretty horrible friendships. It’s weird to know I am the red flag in this case.