Finding Family: The Uncertain Quest For Comradery

I've been finding myself particularly drawn to stories of adventure, where a group of 3-5 people come together in common cause, and through their journey, form unbreakable bonds of friendship. It's a common occurrence in a lot of media and is part of the broader concept of "found family"—that is, the family you find journeying through life, rather than the family you were born into. As the old (oft-misunderstood due to being abridged) saying goes, "The blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb."

The reason I've been drawn to such stories is because I have a common human desire for comradery: I want companions, a group that lives life together. My problem is that I'm a somewhat introverted homebody who also works from home. While I do thankfully live with my biological family (which spares me some amount of loneliness, especially as I get along well with my sister), and I have a number of social activities that help, none of these things are really addressing my core craving.

The thing is, I don't even know what I'm looking for, not exactly. Like, I know I have a desire for "comradery," but what does it actually, practically look like?

There are several core components of this craving that I'm currently able to identify. Specifically, I want to live life with my people, but what is it going to cost me to do that? There are three parts to this: What does it mean to live life together? Who are my people? And what is the cost?

Living Life Together

By far the most significant part of living life together is spending time together. It seems to me that this is very difficult to do these days. I often find myself longing for college, when I was around friends often, and it was easy to visit each other. We could hang out and play Magic: The Gathering or a video game. We could just chat. Frankly, "just hanging out" is what I miss most in a specific sense, but in a general sense, it was being able to have friends around to hang out with with minimal scheduling—I knew I could go to my college's cafeteria and typically find someone to play Magic with, for example.

In some regards, what I want is a third place (the first place is home, the second is work/school, and the third is somewhere you can hang out and meet people and develop relationships), though I think that's only partially correct.

A big challenge I have here is that I feel like the problem is systemic to America (not entirely, obviously—I went to college in America), and I have a hard time finding an individual solution. If one does exist, it feels like it requires resources beyond what I currently have available to me. Also, as I'm a systemic thinker, I have a really hard time finding individual solutions.

What I've often thought and said is that what sounds most appealing to me is to live in a big mansion filled with friends, where we have some common spaces where people hang out, but individuals also have their own spaces they can be in if they want some privacy (though how beautiful it would be to have people from whom one feels no need for privacy). I don't actually know if I would like this, mind you; I just know it sounds good.

Realistically, as a people-oriented, introverted individual, I often like being able to interact one-on-one. I also enjoy just having people around, in the same space as me. I know I want to spend more time with My People than I do, but there's other factors here that make this hard to evaluate. What do I actually desire? What does it really look like when you strip away the fantasy of it and get into the actual daily experience?

As I've thought about this, I'm considering a few things. First, it's become very clear that shared experiences are really important for building up a relationship, and it takes time to create enough of those. And that brings me to an important point: I need more casual interactions with people than I'm currently getting, and I mean that in both a frequency sense and an over-time sense. Put another way, I'm too isolated. It's also important to me that these are physical interactions, not digital. I've enjoyed many digital interactions over the years, but they just aren't the same.

It's being saturated in the presence of other people that I'm looking for, but not just any other people. No, this is where the idea of who My People are becomes very important.

Who Are My People (And How Do I Find Them)?

This has proven to not be as straightforward as I would like. Part of the challenge here is that I need to identify the core traits of My People. You see, there are a lot of traits I know I'd like to have among my friends, but not everyone who's part of my friend group needs to have every trait; however, I also know that there are core traits that are important for overall relational chemistry, and I need to figure out which traits specifically compose this core. As I think about it, it seems to me that these core traits will be a mix of both deep acceptance and the ability to get along (this is hard to word, but basically, our personalities need to not lead to constant conflict). Shared interests are, of course, also important, but I don't have to share all of my interests with each friend.

I think the most important trait to me in a potential friend is the ability to engage well over matters of taste. This critically includes being able to recognize that their tastes are not universal, and to accept that others' tastes may differ from theirs. Being able to engage well here also includes, at least to some extent, making a good-faith effort to understand why someone likes something you don't. A phrase that comes to mind here is not "yucking their yum." Mocking people for enjoying something, especially something the mocker dislikes, is going to make me not want to be the mocker's friend, as is an inability to see beyond one's own opinion.

I think related to the matter of tastes is the matter of morality. Morality is complicated (I've been thinking a lot about it lately), so I won't go into too much detail here, but being able to respect others' individual convictions without trying to force others to live by your personal convictions is important to me, too.

Something I'm realizing both of these have in common is not judging. That makes me realize that I have a hard time wanting to form close relationships with people that come off as judgmental to me because I don't feel safe entrusting myself to them.

While a lack of judgment is important, there are also other traits that I want in potential friends. Being sex-positive and nudity-positive are both quite desirable traits to me. So is honesty and authenticity. Some overlap in our senses of humor is also good—I myself tend to be fond of wordplay and silly juxtapositions. Shared interests that are important to me are video games and nude art, but, as always, I like it when people can introduce me to things I might enjoy, or at least enjoy with them.

Another important thing about me is that I show love and affection through physical contact, primarily hugs (though I acknowledge there's a lot of social conditioning when it comes to this, as I've been taught that hugs are the most generally acceptable expression of physical affection). I love seeing others being physically affectionate towards each other as well. Therefore, I want friends that also enjoy physical affection.

I've found it extremely difficult to find My People in person (though it's superficially easier online, forming relationships there can be quite difficult). This is likely in part because I don't know where to find them, but it's also because some important interests of mine are socially frowned upon, which makes it hard to identify others who share them. At least, that's how it seems?

The simple fact of the matter is that most of my social interactions are at church. At the same time, church culture makes it exceedingly difficult to identify others who are like me, as I've laid out above. I'll add that you'll notice being Christian (as I am) isn't something I've listed as a desired trait. I'm quite happy to be friends with non-Christians! I just wouldn't marry one. (From a theological standpoint, Christians need to form friendships with non-Christians as part of their witness, but these should be genuine, authentic friendships characterized by love. I never want to make someone feel like a project, nor do I want to think of them as one.)

I have a general sense of the sort of people I want to get to know, which I'd characterize as nerdy artists and sex workers, but finding those people out in the real world is difficult, and connecting online is challenged for many reasons, especially when it comes to finding people who actually live near me. As such, I feel extremely frustrated on this point. I'm doing my best to trust God, but handling the frustration nevertheless requires diligent work.

What Is the Cost?

There are costs to spending time with others, especially in person. I have to leave my room and the things I'd do there. Granted, many of them are things I'm conceptually fine with leaving behind, while others are things I'd like to share. Regardless, if I want to increase the time I spend with people, that will necessarily decrease the time I spend doing things by myself. That is a cost, even if I think the gain is worth it, so I think it's important to acknowledge.

There is another big cost, though, if (and more likely when) moving is required. I've almost always lived at home with my parents and sister, save for a few of our college years. I'm used to this, and there are things I value about it, such as being able to help my parents with small tasks or interacting with my sister. Indeed, my sister is currently my closest friend, and I'm one of her main friends (she's more introverted than I am, and she's task oriented—she has indicated she really doesn't feel a need for many people in her life). Therefore, there are two layers to moving: moving out of house, and moving away from the area where I currently live.

I do want to eventually move out of my parents' house, but I don't currently see a reason to do so until getting married (though some unforeseen reason could arise—and at time of writing, marriage is but a dream). Not being able to so easily help my parents with the occasional task will be a loss, though there are things I appreciate about not being around them (whenever they come back from a vacation, I always feel diminished somehow). The bigger loss and concern to me is my ability to interact with my sister, and I'd be concerned with how she's doing if I'm not around. I mean, she'd probably be fine, but nevertheless, I do love and care about her.

Moving out of the region where I currently live would be a much, much bigger cost. My family is here, and the connections I currently have are here. Also, I greatly value my church (it's dedicated to being multiethnic and the pastor is a humble man who does a great job of listening to understand), and I wouldn't want to have to leave it. It's always the relationships, isn't it?

This isn't to say there wouldn't be positives to moving. I do long for more space (like having my own office and a separate bedroom instead of the two being combined), and I really don't like suburbia (my dad does, so that's where I've been all my life).

Conclusion (This Is Actually Ongoing)

At the start of this, I talked about the appeal of found family, the people you do life with. I have a deep hunger for connection with My People, and I want to spend time with them, but I can't do that until I've been able to find them and form relationships, and I haven't a clue how to do that. I mean, the relationship part I understand, it's the finding them part that I feel utterly clueless on.

I'm not even sure where to start. Well, I've been praying about it; that's a starting place, but at some point, something needs to actually change. Of course, I'm trusting and hoping in God that He's doing something I can't see, like some kind of hallway being assembled around a corner I've not arrived at, and at the proper time, God will point it out, and I'll be able to make the turn. Even so, growing up in American culture has left my brain screaming, "Do Something!" But I have no idea what to do. I wish I was better at just letting go and entrusting this to God.

It's hard to feel stuck, to look around and feel like other people are finding the things you long for (in kind if not in specific). Of course, that perception may be flawed. It's hard to see how you're blessed when core needs feel unmet. And I know I am very blessed, but my pain is also very real. At least I have this consolation: that these present trials will grow fruit.

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