There has been a lot of trial and error when it comes to relating with others. When I was eleven, I comforted a crying friend over the phone while I should have been celebrating my brother’s birthday. As an adult I’ve stumbled into boundaries without thinking and I’ve broken social norms and moral codes without knowing they even existed. I’ve given into peer pressure and gotten caught up in other people’s drama at the expense of much more important things. I lost my virginity to someone who manipulated me emotionally and abused me psychologically. I’ve missed opportunities and allowed personal fear to get in the way of progress. I’ve royally screwed myself over in ways too numerous to count.
The mark of any great human being is to own the mistakes we have made. It would be so easy to blame others, because lets face it, when someone pushes you to do something, sometimes it can be hard to say no. Sometimes it’s easier to fall for the beautiful words and the pretty pictures in the resort brochure than to do your own research and find out that the bowling alley has been closed for years, the rooms have an infestation that they can’t afford to get rid of and the pool has been filled with one part chlorine and nine parts urine.
I began taking responsibility for my own actions when some bad advice from a certain relative led to me paying out the ass in court costs over a small claims case against one of my former roommates in Burlington, Vermont. Since then I have made more mistakes, allowing other people to sweet talk me into things that were too good to be true and letting people burn me because I was too short sighted to think the action through before making the decision. So even when you’ve learned the lesson, it doesn’t mean you’ve mastered it.
Moving to Salem away from everyone’s influence was probably the best move of my life. I had to find my own footing and work my way into relationships that weren’t already built in as a result of growing up in a place, or knowing somebody from a previous arrangement. I still made mistakes that screwed me over, but there was no one to break my fall and I learned from those more quickly. It also gave me time to finally compartmentalize everyone in my life.
Landlords and employers are one category. I make pleasant conversation but otherwise our relationship is purely a business transaction. I do something for them in exchange for something else.
Coworkers are people that I work with. I show up to work and deal with them because I am required to. Everything I do with or for them is a result of the job. Like employers, there’s nothing special about our relationship, but unlike the people who are responsible for hiring me, I don’t have any obligation to them.
Friends are people that I might get along with. They’re generally people I know and care about and we have a few mutual interests, but they’d be easy to make a break with if the relationship became inconvenient in anyway. Friends do not come before family but they can be upgraded to family in the right circumstances.
Family are the people I love. They’re not necessarily people I’m related to by blood or by marriage. They’re the people who tolerate me unconditionally, whereas friends have a tenancy to turn their backs on me when things get rough. They’re the people who invite me to dinner and generally know my point of view on things, but are willing to have me in their company whether or not I necessarily agree with them. They’re the people who do things for me because they want to do them and care about me enough to do those things without thought of reciprocation and they’re the people for whom I will do the same.
My relationships are not as black and white as that, but it’s the simplest way of explaining how I deal with people now. Because I can’t afford to get caught up in anyone’s shit anymore. There’s too much going on in my life that I can only blame myself for if I fuck up. I’ve come too close to royally screwing myself over in recent months that I’ve had to remind myself constantly who the people at work are, who my family is, who my friends are and who my fucking land lady is.
Even when coworkers offer me a ride home, these are not necessarily my friends. We don’t hang out off the clock and we might chat on the way from work, but I have it in the back of my mind that these people could still rat me out over some of the things I’ve said. I’m also very wary of who I ask for a ride and under what circumstances. Will I be forced to tolerate this person later in the week, for example, or will I feel obligated to this person in someway that will compromise me because this person has taken time out of their day to get me home safely? Also, am I being a burden to this person? I try to remember the things they’ve told me on previous occasions and to show some interest so that I don’t seem self absorbed. I still make those mistakes that I haven’t grown out of, like rambling incoherently for an hour.
So far I’ve been very fortunate. There are about six go-to people I can ask for a ride and I don’t feel like I’ve been that horrible burden to them. They’re still not friends but they’re at least people I would not worry about if I met them in public.
Recently, I’ve added a new category to my list. Not friends, coworkers, family, or my fucking land lady, but people I would invite to a venue where I’m doing comedy.
This is a special category because when I put up a flyer, I have no way of knowing who is going to show up. Especially since I can’t drive and can only really perform in the places that are accessible by foot, bus, or train. If I put up a flyer in Salem, there’s no telling who of my coworkers will see it and think, “Oh, I have that day off. I should see that.”
And however flattering my commentary about work might seem, that’s not going to stop the right person from blowing it out of proportion and ratting me out for their own ends. This is why I’m not mentioning where I work in this blog, because I don’t need that kind of drama just yet. However, I don’t feel so shy about telling people at a comedy venue where I work because living locally, they’re going to see me anyway. And I’d rather have twenty or so people come up to me at work and tell me, “You were funny last night,” than have one person approach me and ask me, “Is this item in your flyer so that I can show it to your competitor and get it price matched?”
So now there’s this list. It evolved from a certain series of jokes I was telling wherein I used clever wordplay based on the company I work for. I didn’t really insult the place as such, but again, people can take things out of proportion. So while I can’t stop them from showing up at the venue, I don’t have to explicitly invite them or make them aware of the event. This list is for the people who I do actively invite to the venue, even going so far as to cover their minimum purchase if it’s required.
Recently my coworker gave me a ride. Since he doesn’t own his own car, his parents are usually the ones driving him to his place in Salem. They’re nice people and they’re always happy to see me. They’re easy to get along with but I don’t think my coworker and I will ever be friends in any real sense. But his parents have repeatedly turned down my offer to pay for gas and they don’t make me feel like I’ve taken them out of their way when they drop me off at my place.
His mother gave me two twenty-five dollar gift cards to the 99 restaurant. Wow, was all I could think. Thank you very much was I could say. Friend or not, my coworker and his family are definitely on the list of people I would invite to a comedy show.