The NYT has a piece reporting that only about 50% of the people one thinks of as friends see one as a friend. Friendship is not reciprocated nearly as much as people thing. This is perhaps one of the cruelest pieces of social science to float its way onto the internet and the NYT because it gets at a basic insecurity: do they really like me? Not all of us get a Sally Fields moment.
Ok, maybe it just seems cruel to me as this has long been one of my most basic insecurities. I spent my childhood/teenage years/way beyond wondering if people liked me or just put up with me. I never felt like I was a member of a group in high school as my group seemed to be the group-less--not the brains, not the athletes, not the stoners, not drama folks, just the residuals. Perhaps were were Hufflepuffs before they were a thing? My imagination of college (thanks, Hollywood) and my reality were two separate things--as I did not have a solid group of the same friends from freshman year to graduation. Yes, I played on the frisbee team for almost four years, but I never felt like I fit in there--I didn't eat at the co-ops nor hung out with them very much. Grad school? Jeez, everyone around me was so smart and worked so hard and also lived so close together (my girlfriend/wife and I kept moving to find cheaper places and eventually one that would accept dogs) and they were so cool, I just felt like an outlier.
The funny thing is that I really felt like one of the group, rather than an outside, perhaps first in my life (except for summer camp) at my first tenure track job. Perhaps the junior/senior split created an us-ness that I felt apart of. Or perhaps because most of us didn't fit into the town very well, but we did fit with each other. Anyhow, I felt part of the group for the first time. Surprisingly, my time on the Joint Staff made me feel included, rather than Rudolph. Despite being one of a handful of civilians with no military experience, I felt like I fit in. Mainly because the folks there accepted one if one dealt as much friendly abuse as one received. Perhaps because the Joint Staff itself is a group of group-less folks--everyone is out of their comfort zone of their own service. That the folks at the old job still hang out with me now that I have left is another bit of evidence that I should feel good about my 50%.
Professionally, when I started out, my time at the conferences was mostly empty, and I would spend time walking around, hoping to find a few people that I might recognize. These days? I spend most of my time in the bar, meeting with folks who I have met over the years. Conferences are much more fun these days, and I don't see them as reminders of being an outsider anymore.
Tis a good thing I read this article the morning after I had my big birthday bbq. Being surrounded by friends last night makes me a bit less vulnerable to this piece although it reminds me of how I felt for so many years.
As it happens, someone on twitter posted something that reminded me of this video, and watching it also compensates as my closest friends do resemble the core essence of the song.