I went to a party on Wednesday night, a going-away party for an old friend of mine who is moving a few states away. It was an odd experience. I didn't know most of the people there, just my little brother's band, who played for about half an hour, and a few people from my old youth group.
Church used to be the source of community in my life, and for the rest of my family it still is. I never liked it that life worked that way. The constant watchfulness and self-editing to ensure that no unacceptable ideas are even implied by what I say stresses me out even now, and it was much worse when I was struggling to find what I believed without causing a major shitstorm that would have cut off my carefully planned avenue of escape from this town. As beseiged as I felt, and as different from the church norm as I was, I never made many friends at church, but there was a group of people who tolerated me, and several of these people were at this party.
It was surreal, seeing these people again. I was afraid that it might give me flashbacks to the way my life was when I was a kid, but instead it just reinforced how much I've changed, and how impossible it would be to try to fit into that world again. I can't keep my mouth shut like I used to do. I can be civil and refrain from giving my opinions on the church when the conversation is about something else, but I can't listen to treacly comments about how valuable small group prayer sessions are without making snide comments. Well, technically I'm able to just shut up. But the knowledge that somewhere listening might be another kid like me keeps me from staying silent. I managed to escape this particular party with only one outburst at someone who told me I was going to hell, but there's no way I could do that on a regular basis.
Which has led me to ask myself where exactly I think I'm going to find a community. I'm not good at making friends at the best of times, being sick and tired all the time certainly doesn't help, and I don't really know where to start. I've got a book group and a knitting group that I go to once a month each, but they both tend toward late middle aged women who are almost as socially conservative as the members of my parents' church. I've enrolled for one class at the local community college, and will probably go on to finish my BA at the University of Washington, if I can scrape up the money, energy, and sheer physical courage for it, so I guess I could join some kind of club or something at school.
Its just... I'm really bad at connecting with people. I always have been. Even online, where people pour their hearts out to random strangers all the time, there are people who I find fascinating, but I'm never quite sure if we're friends or not. Maybe I'm just too picky, or too weird, or too awkward. I wish there were classes on how to meet people you like and become friends with them. People like me could really benefit.