The Friends Carousel

The Friends Carousel

The list of things they never prepare you for in adulthood grows like mold spores in a flooded basement.

If we are the sum of our decisions, then the equations our lives generate infinitely varies, however, the patterns carry recognizable similarities.

For instance, all my friends who did the settle down then have kids early on have large chunks of their equation that borrow from one another. Nothing is pre-solved, but that path is one that I feel comes more standard.

Perhaps it’s my myopic, narcissistic worldview; I’m living an admittedly seflish life right now afterall, but I sense that the course I’ve decided to travel comes with shakier theory backing it.

For instance, love. I’ve chosen to be single for 4 years now. I’ve preferred it. I’ve probably turned away opportunities for companionship that I wouldn’t have had I not made the choice to be single. Even when not trying to settle down, it seems that the norm is still to be pro dating someone. (I personally see little point in being in a relationship if I’m not looking to settle down; that’s what casual dating is for).

That said, how do we find this mythological love and companionship thing that all of our other friends seem to have settled for as we traverse through our 20’s and beyond? Early on, we have high school, college, and large, natural friend circles to pull from.

When you get older, you lose that. The alternatives people in my position have are endlessly intriguing, and I can write pages on them, but I want to keep it as a mere example now.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the friends carousel lately.

From what I can tell, the friends carousel is pretty universal, but the reality of the ride is vastly different from person to person.

For the settled down folk, I see it as a standard sort of carousel, with a heavy carnie twist. Amid the usual vibrantly colored plastic horses and unicorns sloping up and down their poles, you have a hodge podge of out of place, bizarre pieces. Maybe a yellow toad with a cigarette holder and eyepatch, a gnome on all fours, and a minotaur all forced in there with the normalcy of the carousel.

They represent the outlier pieces of the friend circle that wouldn’t be there without the circumstance. Your in-laws, your husband’s wayward high school friend who got into the diamond class hard drugs in his early 20’s, or some of the parents you know from your first-born’s daycare.

After time, the carousel becomes normal to those riding it, and those of us on the outside see this bizarre, kind of uncomfortable looking ride that our settled down friends are contently riding.

As the far-from-settled-down friend, my place on this ride is that worn, plain brown horse on the inside track that is permanently saved. From time to time, I hop back on and have a good ride or two, before I have to scamper back to my own carousel.

Not to dichotomize my metaphor, but, for those of us who’s place in life is on the other side of the continent, our friends carousel is a ride made of nightmares and the terrors that resided under your childhood bed.

In my own experience, it’s something of a Gravitron meets a Swing Ride all set in a House of Mirrors. And for the hell of it, we’ll put some clowns, the scary ones standing around it with pitchforks, making sure you don’t try to get off. Because why not?

A natural detriment to taking a swing carousel and giving it Gravitron speeds are that these already hazardous carnival swings fly off rapidly and randomly.

Another friend engaged? That’s two gone.

He knocked who up? Another one bites the dust.

Then there’s all the ones you tell off because they were probably rushed replacements. Gone, gone, and gone.

All those girls you loved as friends, but didn’t like back? They’ve got voodoo dolls of you now.

And the girls you liked too much? They hit the eject button.

On and on and on it goes. It isn’t that you lose friends, but your situation — or ride, per se — dictates who you’re surrounded by the most. It makes sense. We’re just riding different rides, and maybe a couple years from now, I’ll join them on that raggedy typical carousel that you find in the mall. Of course, who knows how many of them will still be on that one.

The friends carousel is one of the most exhausting things I’ve discovered about adulthood.

Again, pleading ignorance to the settled-down carousel, but I don’t know if there has been a more difficult part of adulthood for me.

It’s forced me to have a social addiction of sorts. I’m a social introvert, but I am not the warmest personality to strangers, effort be damned. My sister is probably the closest thing to that in my entire family, but my dad, mom, and I all have varying struggles.

I’ll never walk into a room and walk out with bunches of friends. Half the time when I meet someone out, become ‘friends, and promise to each other to connect, I never personally follow through unless they persist, because in my mind I’m thinking that they’re just saying this whereas the social butterfly thinks that everyone in that room loves them and just hasn’t been exposed to how much they do; and they love those people back.

For that matter, I’ll rarely hangout with mutual friends over months, even a year or two and end up with them embedded into my running crew. I was out the other night with a big group, a rare thing today, and had a talk with a friend of mine — the mutual friend that is a friend when you’re all together, but still an acquaintance in that you’d never see them if the friend in the middle didn’t bring either of you along. We talked about crying. It was far from the most depth I’ve presented in a conversation, yet I think she was genuinely surprised the hear this stuff from me.

We’ve just never connected on anything more than the surface stuff and my heavily dumbed down public persona.

Thing is, I only really connect on a measure of depth, and I’ve found that I just do the watered-down thing out of necessity so that people like me.

Tracking back, the problem is that the churn of friends on this carousel is greater than I can reload. I’m a hell of a lone wolf, but sometimes you just want to have plenty of options to surround yourself with a big group, live fast, stay up too late, spend too much money, share some laughs, and wake up way too late wondering what you were thinking.

I’m a single lad in his physical prime. I like perusing. I love women, and the freedom my decision to remain a bachelor as long as it makes more sense than the alternative affords me to flirt with and look at them. I like to dance like a fool, or start a random “U-S-A!” chant in the middle of 308 (probably my greatest accomplishment in life).

Most of my friends who I’ve ‘lost’ to churn do, too, but their place in life doesn’t put them in those positions much, if ever.

Presently, I feel like I’m socially at my weakest, simply because the ease of assembling or being included into a social event that I have a burning interest in simply isn’t there. To take things one step further, the dwindling friends who remain on this Gravitron Carousel from Hell are experiencing the same decay loop (inverted feedback loop).

Their rosters shrink as mine does. We rely on each other to try to help find more people who share our carousel, but as the numbers shrink, the most socially magnetic friends also change rides, slowing down the ability for us to rebuild.

It’s an interesting cycle.

I think a lot about this part of my life equation a lot. I try to put myself into others’ shoes just to imagine the crappy parts of their friends carousel.

Most often, I sit there when I’m by myself and try to imagine how I can get one, two steps ahead of this blasted friends carousel. If I can come up with some crazy idea to infuse a surge of new social dynamism; the same social dynamism I’m hopelessly addicted to, because, at some point, I’ll prefer to try to settle down than I will to hang glide, and when that time comes, it’ll be a lot easier if my social circle is thriving.

I’m not entirely sure if these would merely be hacks, because in the end it seems that none of us can replace time or that beaten up, ragged brown plastic mare that is permanently fitted to many of my other friends’ seemingly tame carousels.

We’ll all be exhausted in our own ways. The carousel is mine.

Ride on, sailors.

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