I finally learned to accept introversion as one of my personality traits a couple of years after taking a part-time job in Norfolk, Nebraska. I had not yet moved from Wayne, where I was last employed. Also, I was in-between radio stations and needed to eat and pay rent. Commuting between the two towns each day was the best solution.
I was part of a temporary construction crew engaged to remodel the “Gamble’s” hardware/department store in downtown Norfolk. Five of us became quick friends and started hanging out together. We were a typical group of guys unwinding after a long, tiring day of physical labor. We usually ended up at a cafe or one of the local truck stops for a meal and some laughs.
Although we greatly enjoyed each others’ company, we also understood we were friends due to circumstances. When the remodeling gig was finished, the friends clique dissolved. A year later, there were only two of us–Chris and me. This happened because we were both hired by the “Gamble’s” store as full-time deliverymen. We trucked and installed bulky merchandise such as sofas and large kitchen appliances to customers’ homes.
Even after our “Gamble’s” jobs were left behind, Chris and I often hung out as besties. Chris was hired by the Post Office and I began work at WJAG Radio. I moved to Norfolk and rented half of an old duplex less than a block away from Chris’ home, where he still lived with his mother.
There was one area of our lives that did not jibe well. Chris enjoyed hanging out with a few of his old high school buddies at one of the local bars, “The Oasis” aka “The O”. I’m not a “bar person”. I do not enjoy drinking alcoholic beverages. I accompanied Chris a few times anyway. Hanging out with Chris and his old friends felt very awkward. I felt completely out of my element.
To see if the bar should be part of my Norfolk lifestyle, I decided to give “The O” the benefit of a doubt one Saturday night without Chris. After about an hour, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I hated “The O”. I didn’t like the noise of the crowd, the thick cloud of cigarette smoke, the din of the music. Mostly it was the cliquish patrons. “The O” was unbearable without Chris.
After finishing one beer, I walked out the door and continued walking home. During the stroll, I admitted to myself that the bar lifestyle was a terrible fit. There was no way I could shoehorn myself into it. After arriving home, I had a heart to heart conversation with the reflection in the bathroom mirror. I promised to be more true to myself. If that meant hanging out alone on my day off, then I would do so. I accepted the fact that I felt more energetic when spending down time alone than trying to enjoy down time with a crowd.
Chris and I continued to spend an hour or two together off and on by tinkering around with our cars. However, we had grown in different directions. He had met a girl and had become engaged to marry her. The two planned to buy a house in another area of town. Meantime, I had become engrossed in broadcasting again. Tom, an old boyfriend, moved to Norfolk for work. We dated just over two years. Having one special person to hang out with felt right.
Mark was a friend/coworker who worked with me at the Wayne radio station. We reestablished our friendship after we were both hired in Norfolk. When his wife was working, we hung out together as pals do. We were besties until he moved to Missouri. From that point on, I’ve had a series of best friends come into my life and eventually move away. Although they live in different parts of the country, I enjoy fond memories of the times we used to hang out together.
The “social distancing” that is happening now, reminds me of how valuable just hanging out with a friend is. It triggered these memories of my first several years of living in Norfolk, Nebraska and hanging out with pals.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes Mark Twain. “Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that but the really great make you feel that you too can become great. When you are seeking to bring big plans to fruition it is important with whom you regularly associate. Hang out with friends who are like-minded and who are also designing purpose-filled lives. Similarly be that kind of a friend for your friends.”