Saturday, August 20, 2005

Alas, poor Yorik...

I recently went on vacation with my wife and four of our friends. These are people that I've known for a long time, some more than a decade. Since I'm only thirty myself, that's a hefty chunk of my life. I went to college with these people, participated in their weddings, am currently watching two of them raise their first child and watching the other two try to decide if they want children. Funny, though, they think they've decided that issue decisively, but I don't think they have.

And that's the point du jour. I'm pretty sure that these two friends of mine aren't as decided as they think they are about something that life-altering (but not, I'd like to point out, life-ending...that's another rant for another time). I think I know my friends well enough to judge their motivations so well that sometimes I can see things about them that they can't see about themselves. And I'm not alone in this. Everyone does it. EVERYONE. Some are better at it than others. Some are bloody awful at it. But the human mind in its infinite self-trickery takes every positive hit and ignores every wildly wrong negative. That's good old
confirmation bias.

But putting a name on it doesn't really show the depth to which we can fool ourselves about these kinds of things. A (trivial) example: I'm a loner by nature, except when I'm not. I spent a lot of time with my friends on this vacation, and I loved every minute of it, even when the rugrat (mentioned above) banged himself up pretty bad while running to me (because I called to him, of course....ah, the guilt never ends). I was having a blast and, I believe, so was everyone else. But that old loner instinct kicked in pretty hard, and I was jonesing for some alone time. But I didn't want my friends to think I didn't want to spend time with them. I didn't want them to think I was mad or anything. I just get antisocial occasionally, or frequently, depending on how you measure time. But I was freaking out because I didn't think one or two of my friends would understand this. Remember, they've known me for a decade, but I didn't think they knew me well enough to know I'm a jerk from time to time, but I wouldn't dismiss them on our shared vacation. I was pretty sure about their reactions, so I resigned myself to an evening of minigolf with the gang, until my Swiss Army Wife stepped up and helped me out. She went and talked to them for me, because I was too much a coward to do it myself, and told them I wanted a couple of hours to myself. And guess what, boys and girls! They didn't mind. Nary a hurt feeling in sight. I felt awkard as hell, though, because the cognitive dissonance was setting in, and my entire view of my friends was changing.

Think about it. How many times have you had a conversation like this with your own conscience?

Damn, they don't mind if I take a couple of hours to be by myself.

Well, of course they don't mind. They're your friends.

Yeah, but...

Shut your cakehole, dumbass.

That's about what it was like. And this just kept amazing me over and over again. And then I started feeling bad, because I had seriously short-changed my friends. The ones who have stuck by me through horrendous girlfriends, mental illness, living together, living apart, and pretty much my entire adult life's hardships and happiness.

And then K., bless her heart, made me feel a little better about my dumbassedness. She went upstairs to read for a couple of hours, and then commented that she had been wanting to, but didn't want people to think she didn't want to spend time with them. I almost laughed out loud, I was so relieved.

So, you see, none of us really know each other as well as we think we do. That's something to keep in mind when making predictions about people, friend or foe. Be skeptical of all your musings. Be wary of all your conclusions. And give your friends a little more credit than you are willing to give them. It's probably still not enough, but it's most likely better than what you're doing now.


Anonymous Ranson said...

Schmuck :P

While we are all friends, we do understand the need for "me time". Hell, of the seven people there, only two or three were really social animals at heart, and one of those was the munchkin. Vacation isn't all about socialization. Quiet time is good too.

Of course, I have problems interrupting people because I don't know if what I have to say is more important than what they're doing.

Such is life.

10:37 AM  

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Nor the wind for the moon, to be cool.

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