I leave for Istanbul in a week, and I just can’t get over my surprisingly positive mindset heading into it. I think it has a lot to do with the way my trip to Chicago kicked off.
Upon boarding the Megabus to Chicago, I was dismayed to see that this was gonna be a pretty packed coach. What’s more, I actually had luggage, so I had to board after all those who didn’t (since I had to check my bag first). I finally walked up the stairs to the upper deck, and I realized it was going to be one of those weird situations where I have to ask a stranger if I can sit with them and hope that they don’t look at me as though I just asked them if I can have a kidney. So, I chose someone at random – a petite, blonde, fair-skinned girl who looked relatively harmless.
“Can I…sit here?”
“Yeah! No problem.”
Score. She moved her vintage suitcase, and let me have a seat. After getting situated, she kindly informed that the Wifi was unfortunately not working. I’m no stranger to faulty Megabus Wifi, so I wasn’t surprised. Still, I appreciated the FYI. After a few more minutes, my seatmate struck up a conversation with me. She simply asked “So, do you live in Iowa City?” Well, you all know that the answer to this question is far from simple, so I tried to give her the condensed version. She was happy to listen, and I then inquired as to her story. She’s a student from Omaha, visiting her boyfriend in Chicago. She’s studying Health & Human Services, which is really a fancy term for Social Work. Over the next half hour or so, our conversation started to get less & less generic, until I realized we were talking like old friends. I felt like I was on AIM late at night in high school again, meeting other kindred spirits from across the country.
She told me her name is Courtney, and while she is a student by day, she is also an entrepreneur who sells homemade accessories at her very own website, inezgill.com (check it out). Her other daily pursuits include working with homeless youth and being a vegetarian. Naturally, Courtney is much more interesting than me, so I had a fabulous time getting to know her. We spent the better part of the next 4 hours talking about our relationships, jobs and favorite TV shows, and by the time we arrived in Chicago, I had made a real friend. We even hugged goodbye! It was definitely one of the most enjoyable bus rides in not-so-recent memory, and I could not have asked for a better way to start off this new chapter of my life. It was like a warm welcome from the world. This interaction may as well have played out like this.
Josh: “Hmm…I don’t know what I’m doing, but here I go…”
World: “Don’t worry, you won’t always have to do this alone. There are plenty of people who will make this easier on you, like this one…”
Not to write another 15,000 word post, but the nature of relationship and my role within it has always perplexed me. Over the last few years, I have bounced back and forth from one extreme to the other in trying to be the best friend I can be, while also trying to be true to myself. I have gone from light to dark, social butterfly to recluse, Slytherin to Hufflepuff, and everywhere in between. Overall, I have very high expectations for those in my life. Those who can’t cut it, I usually kick to the curb. I like to think that this is the best way to approach friendship (high risk, high reward), but I can’t help but wonder, if I had a more accepting attitude, maybe I would have had more people to spend my last night in town with.
This problem is compounded by the fact that I also have trouble relating with people on a daily basis, and I often find myself obsessing over interactions that come quite easily to most others. I repeatedly ask myself “Why can’t I react like others in this situation?” I struggle with small talk and PC-ness and positivity, all because I’m obsessing over authenticity. These instances usually launch into an I Heart Huckabees-esque inner monologue, in which I pose the question “How am I not myself?” over and over again, until my head spins (by the way, I included this movie among the 48 discs in my DVD binder that I am taking on this 5 week trip, so I anticipate that this isn’t the last time you’ll see this film mentioned).
This might seem like a spazzy post, but what I’m getting at is that I think I’m at a very auspicious point in my life to evaluate things. I didn’t embark on my last trip searching for anything in particular. I simply wanted to see the world. However, I returned to Iowa more independent, worldly & patient than ever before. This time around, my efforts are going to be a bit more concerted, because both this 5 week Euro-trip with Jess and my upcoming move to Boston (with no one) will provide a wonderful opportunity to take a good hard look at what I really want out of my (current and future) friendships, and why. I have wondered for years now if I have the right ideas about loyalty, respect, & love, and I am ready to finally figure it all out.
Anyway, I’m feeling great about this, because I’m off to a good start. When Courtney and I got off the bus, I told her that if she’s ever in Boston, to let me know. She looked at me and said “I will. I really will.” And I knew she meant it. More importantly, it made me feel…connected. This might be a common occurrence to many of you, but it’s far from common for me. I have many, many friends, but establishing and maintaining a meaningful connection with them proves to be a perpetual obstacle in my life. This bus ride was reassuring, and Courtney, if you’re reading this, thank you.