I am not strictly ordinary as far as middle aged men go. Having relocated twice internationally, I have found myself not once, but twice, in a new country with no friends locally, nor even any acquaintances with shared values and shared histories. Its not like I relocated when I was younger either; my first relocation was at age 39 and my second at age 42.
The closest I ever came to a close recent friendship was with an old work colleague – the one who hired me in the Middle East, whom I have known for 19 years now. But we each moved on geographically and now live very far apart. Even at the height of our friendship, we lived in different cities and we have never shared a common faith.
Now I am older, and I am struggling to form friendships with other men. If I am honest, there is a measure of busyness and complexity of life getting in the way, and to some extent there is also a lack of reciprocation. But mostly it is fear. I am afraid.
I fear that I will be rejected, that what I have to offer in a friendship is too narrow and too limited to be of interest long term. I am in a comfort zone; (which by the way is not very comfortable, but it is more comfortable than the unknown) a comfort zone of mediocrity. I am comfortable with an “initial fly-by” and the establishment of a basic acquaintance. I can crack open beers and throw a few pieces of cow on the BBQ, and we can chat forever.
But beyond the first impression I am fearful. What do I have to offer? My conversation is limited in terms of areas of local interest. I am widely read and aware internationally. But most people are not interested in Middle Eastern trends, or American politics, or Greek economics, or Vatican reforms, or whatever. The topics of conversation locally are sports, DIY, and such. I do not have expertise in these things.
I am also hesitant because my marriage and family demand so much of my time that I wonder if I can even sustain a friendship. They take time, and effort, and so much energy is spent working through my marriage and family responsibilities that I wonder what would be left. Would I be the guy that always says “Thanks for the invite, maybe next time?” I don’t want to be that guy.
The bottom line is a continuing feeling of not being able to sustain a friendship. That is not to say I cannot sustain friendships. I have friendships that are 40 years old; I have been best man at 7 of my friends weddings. For all my tumultuous relationship past, there have been deep and core relationships that have been awesome. Relationships I can do. But new relationships, across culture differences and at this stage of my life, seem to be harder than they ever were. I don’t fully understand this, if I am honest.
Even as I write, I can see how I am making excuses here. It’s the product of fear. Probably irrational, probably unnecessary, but fear nonetheless.
I need friends. I need interests outside my marriage and family. They are key to me being whole and wholesome. Key to being interesting to my wife and children!
So here’s to overcoming that fear and working this one out!