The Gray Zone Between Good Friends and Lovers

All right, so since I don’t really see this talked about a lot, I figured I’d try writing something about it. I want to talk about this “gray zone” that exists somewhere between friendship and romantic interests. And for the record, I don’t mean a “friends with benefits” kind of relationship. I mean a… hmm. Maybe I don’t exactly know what I mean yet. Know what I mean?

So I watched a lot of TV shows and movies as a kid where dating seemed really obvious. Boyfriends, girlfriends, first dates- they all fell into this category of “romantic interest.” There was usually a lot of pursuit, with the pursuer being nervous or shy, easily embarrassed, in that stage of “puppy love,” where the pursued was absolutely flawless. And these people usually knew when they were on dates. They got dressed up, there was a lot of obvious flirting, and usually ended with a kiss. They knew when they were officially going out. And when they broke up, there was usually a lot of crying, moping around, and then they magically found someone else to replace the previous romantic interest.

And I guess to an extent, that works out for some people. You know, the ones with the perfect smiles, that post pictures of themselves doing everything together on Facebook, the ones that drift in and out of relationships every few months with minor problems. You know, traditional dating. The kind of thing you were expected to be able to do in the real world.

But… I don’t know. Traditional dating still happens, but for a lot of us we end up in these situations where we aren’t really sure what’s going on. And it can be mutual or one-sided.

And really, really confusing.

Let’s say you get to be good friends with someone from school or work. At those kinds of places, you’ll probably end up getting to know a bunch of people, maybe even hang out with some of them from time to time. But maybe this one person is a little extra special. You’ll text or call each other a little more often than other friends. You’ll both have these moments when the two of you just click really well. Like maybe you’ll find out the two of you went through some similar incident that really affected both your lives. Maybe you’ll learn that the two of you struggle with the same areas of life. It’ll probably be something that will make you say “Hey, this person’s pretty important to me.”

And at some point one of you is going to form feelings for the other. And it’s going to suck. Because on the one hand, you’ve met some amazing guy or girl that you really get along with. Someone that really gets you, and you get them, and you both want to spend a lot of time with each other. And if you’re lucky, you probably already have a lot in common, too. But on the other hand, this person’s become a really good friend. A friend you don’t want to lose. And that’s going to make it very difficult to tell them how you feel.

You might just risk it and tell the person outright. You might just want to get it out of the way and start on the road to getting over him or her if they reject you, so you can go back to being awesome friends. If that person feels the same way, then great! But if you’re reading this, then chances are things didn’t go that way. The other person probably told you they didn’t see you that way, or they weren’t looking for someone right now, or something else that crushed your heart. And maybe after that, you two stopped being friends. After all, it can get really awkward for both parties after a confession like that. But if you’re reading this, then chances are you’re still talking or hanging out. And if this person is really as good of a friend as you say they are, then they shouldn’t just drop a friendship like that. You guys should still be friends.

But… things still don’t add up. This person rejected you, but the two of you still go out of your way to talk or see each other more often than your other friends. And I mean, if you’re good friends, I guess that’s to be expected. Maybe the other person just assumed you got over them and there’s nothing weird between the two of you. But you still have these moments with each other that make you feel more connected with him or her than any other person you know. Maybe the two of you still tell each other personal, intimate things that neither of you would normally share with most people. Maybe you guys will playfully flirt with each other, and you’ll wonder why if he or she wasn’t interested in you. It can even be something as simple as letting your shoulders or legs touch when sitting next to each other. People are so quick to apologize and put more physical distance between each other if they accidentally touch, so why would the two of you not only be fine with it, but continue to let it happen?

I guess one of the first things that come to mind may be that one of you is using the other, or leading the other on. That’s always a possibility. Admitting feelings for someone leaves you in a vulnerable position, one that can easily be manipulated. And maybe that’s happening to you. Maybe it’s happening, but the other person doesn’t know that he or she is doing it. That can happen, as well.

But maybe some time has passed since you’ve confessed. Maybe you’ve grown closer, or maybe it seems like the other person may be into you. Maybe you want to revisit the idea again. Except you don’t, because you feel like you already avoided losing an important friend once.

But the thing is… eventually this other person will probably start dating someone. What do you do then?

There’s probably going to be some awkwardness between the two of you. Those intimate moments will probably be toned down. You may not talk or hang out as often. Their new boyfriend or girlfriend probably isn’t going to like you. You’re a threat to the relationship, and you can’t understand why because clearly you weren’t good enough to gain the love of that certain someone but they were. They’re not going to like you hanging out with your special friend. And your friend might be convinced to distance themselves from you altogether.

Either way, there’s probably going to be some distance. You’re going to be frustrated. You’re going to want to be happy for your friend’s new love life, as any good friend would want to be. But you wanted to be that love life, and your feelings matter too. And since we’re talking about romantic feelings here… no matter how much you want to be happy for your friend, your feelings are going to matter more.

And honestly, you might even be mad. After all, a lot of what you two did was a little more than just good friends. Maybe it wasn’t exactly romantic, but… it was a little more than just good friends. And you both knew it.

Or you think you both knew it. But if the other person is acting strange with you after starting to date someone else… then yeah, you probably both knew it.

Or not. I don’t think many people talk about it. They usually just let it go and move on. Or try to move on. And it will still hurt every time you meet someone new because you remember the other times you’ve been in the gray zone. You’ll be thinking about the mistakes you either have made or think you’ve made and how to avoid a similar situation. But people that find themselves in the gray zone tend to find themselves there time and time again. Maybe it’s because these halfway romances form between friends. If you just ask someone out, someone you just met at a party or a blind date or something like that, then you know their role in your life. It’s a date. It’s not a friend. That’s traditional dating. But… sigh. I don’t know. Traditional dating just seems so business-like that way. I mean, how do you know if you really like someone unless you get to know them over a certain length of time?

Problem is… well, you get to be good friends. A good friend that you like. I don’t know. Maybe traditional dating might work out better, but…

Sigh. The gray zone, man. It’s fucking balls.

Advertisements

Don’t Panic About Money

I’m going to begin by saying I’m not a financial adviser. I’m a 20-something year old college graduate, trying to live on a part-time job while I continue looking for fulfilling full-time work. Like a lot of other people in this position (and even a lot of people in general), the lack of money can stress us out. It makes us feel helpless and scared. It’s like our world is slowly crumbling down, and all we can do is watch until we can afford to pay a little money to stop the crumbling for a short time.

I’m currently approaching the end of a car lease. I’d really like to buy the car, and I’m afraid I’m not going to have enough. There’s a small, yet noticeable scratch on it, and if I turn it in without purchasing it, I’m sure there will be a significant charge (figures I’d go seven years in a shitty car without getting any damage, yet within two years of a new lease I would). I’d really like to buy it, but unless I can negotiate a better price, I may have to find a car somewhere else- and fast. And even if I can afford it, unless I can really bring down the price, I’ll be left with almost nothing.

My heart’s been beating a lot lately. I’m anxious, a little uptight, kind of irritable, and am just worrying all day. Sound familiar?

I’m probably not the most reliable person to say this, but chances are you need to hear it anyway:

Don’t panic about money.

It’s hard not to, but panicking about money probably won’t change anything. It’s like worrying about anything else, you’ve got to just calm down and try taking some kind of action to fix the issue, and if there’s no action you can do, worrying is just going to make you feel worse.

I know a lot of people that freak themselves out over money. Some of them drown themselves in their worrying and fall into states of depression. Others look for quick ways to earn a lot of cash, like with lottery tickets or selling stuff, but quickly become disappointed when all of their financial problems don’t disappear. A few people will look for quick seasonal or part-time jobs, usually two or three at a time. While that is a somewhat admirable way to display work ethic and what someone will do just to survive, they ultimately become trapped and unable to pursue careers that may actually relieve them of their monetary woes.

And don’t get me wrong, money’s important. It’s something worth worrying about. Occasionally. But all the time? I mean… it’s just money, you know? It’s cliched, but it’s not going to buy you happiness. And ultimately, it’s not going to matter as much as some of the other experiences in your life. When you think of the past, do you think of how much money you had? Probably not. Money may be involved in those memories, but you’re probably thinking about your experiences and relationships with people instead. An article I read recently said it best: “You will never be on your death bed wishing you spent another day at a job you hated because it gave you money.”

So try not to worry about it. And the reality is, most people never have as much money as they’d like, so you’re not alone. It’s something that comes and goes, and the sooner you can accept that, the sooner you can stop worrying about it all the time. It’s not the only thing that matters. And yeah, that’s cliched too, but it’s also true. Good luck.

The Dilemma Of Open Windows

Is it… is it gone? Is winter finally over? The trees and flowers are budding, my car is coated in pollen, it’s been in the 60s and 70s for the past week; is spring finally here? Ha ha! Ha ha ha ha! Yes! Finally! Fucking finally! No more cold! No more snow!

Ah, this is great. This is really great. I’m going to open my window up, let a nice cool breeze in, make some tea, sit down, open a new book … yes. This is nice. This is really, really-

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!

Oh, for fuck’s sakes. Not two minutes in and I can already hear a group of kids screaming at the top of their lungs. Oh, and now there’s a lawn mower. And another one. Sigh.

I love when spring comes. It’s so refreshing after a shitty winter. It’s warmer, trees are looking alive again, the sound of the wind blowing through newly formed leaves and grass is so pleasant; it’s all a genuinely pleasing experience. (Except for allergies. Allergies suck.) It’s nice to just lie in bed on slow, lazy days and have the wind come through the windows and dance around the house. It makes you drift in and out of naps at a refreshing pace.

But I’m not going to lie. The time for open windows has its fair share of problems. First world problems? Yes, but don’t tell me you haven’t been irritated at some point by one of the following cons of open windows.

Dealing with outside noise

As I mentioned above, outside noise can put a serious damper on the open windows experience. Kids scream constantly. I don’t want to be the old guy that tells kids to shut up, but the kids around my block are shouting all the time while they’re playing. Literally shouting at each other. What are these kids screaming about? They’re hanging out in the same driveway playing basketball, or on the same lawn playing baseball. What are the hell are they yelling for? Are they all wearing earphones and just shouting so they can hear each other?

It’s not just kids, though. Sometimes you get adults that feel the need to have a conversation from across the street. Why they just don’t go over and talk to one another is beyond me. Then you’ll get the people in their twenties that rev up their car for ten minutes in their driveways and peel out of the neighborhood, tires screeching, completely unaware that they don’t actually look cool and aren’t really leaving a trail of fire behind them. Then there are lawn mowers, weedwackers, chainsaws, and any other loud lawn care device. There’s never really a good time to use them without pissing people off. Morning, afternoon, or evening, no one like listening to all the noise for an hour. And lucky for us, Saturdays always seem to be perfect for  filling the neighborhood with that commotion all day.

Dealing with inside noise

It’s a two way street. The outside world also has to deal with your crap. Perhaps you’re an “enthusiastic” baseball fan, frequently voicing your opinions about the game with select language in a louder tone. Well, to everyone walking past your house (or even nearby houses with their windows open), you’re a lunatic, and they fear you may be beating your wife. Having a fight with someone? I hope you don’t mind the outside world listening in. Trying to have sex? Better do it quietly, lest some puberty-stricken youth is jacking off to the sound of your love in a nearby bush. Oh, and just because you like to to listen to your favorite movies or music with the volume all the way up, doesn’t mean the rest of the neighborhood does, too.

Humidity

You know what’s obnoxious? When it’s cool outside, but there’s no breeze, so it’s still hot in the house. You know what’s more obnoxious? When it’s humid. It’s gross. The whole house feels sticky. The carpet feels like it’s been recently flooded and still drying out. You feel like you just got out of the shower but are never drying off. Sometimes your clothes stick to you. Posters start to warp (why?). No one likes humidity, but it can’t be denied that even on a cool day, humidity with open windows makes you want to turn the air on for the sole purpose of ventilating the house (or at the very least pull out the fans).

Rain

I don’t particularly mind the rain so much, but when it’s coupled with humidity it can make the house feel even more gross. But I know most people don’t want to open their windows when it’s raining, so I figured I’d mention it anyway. The windowsill gets wet. The carpet gets wet. The curtains get wet. The whole house in general feels wet. Need I go on?

Bugs

I know. After winter, I forgot they existed too. But they’re back, and invading your house. You think you’re safe because of the screen behind the window, but they’re not perfect. Screens break down over time, and chance are there are some decent sized holes in some of your screens, too. Bugs love them, mistaking them for invitations into your home. And even if your screens are fine, they still manage to slip through the cracks between the sides of the window and screen. The ones that bother me most are the stink bugs. They’re big, they appear out of nowhere, and you can’t just squish them.

Trouble sleeping

Unless you live alone or sleep with someone, you probably prefer sleeping in a room with the door shut. After all, no one likes to be watched while they’re sleeping. That being said, it can be difficult to get an effective cross breeze with the door closed. Some nights will be good, of course, but sometimes it’s just going to get a little too hot. You’ll open your window all the way but it doesn’t really get cooler. You’ll take your shirt or pants off, but it’s still too hot. You’ll take off the covers, but still toss and turn as you try to find a comfortable position. After a while, you’ll fall asleep. Your body will cool down, and with the window still wide open, you’ll wake up freezing. Just can’t seem to win on those nights.

The house has different temperatures

Heat rises. It’s going to be hotter upstairs than downstairs. You’ll be in one room and feel fine, but go to another and it’s going to be hot. You’ll spend some time in one of the hot rooms and return downstairs just to find that’s it’s too cold. You may find yourself adjusting how much each specific window in the house is open, and it’s generally a pain in the ass. You may want to open more windows because you’re upstairs, but your downstairs people will complain because it’s cool enough for them. Again, you might be longing for central air conditioning, if only because the whole house will feel the same.

Like I said, I love opening the windows. A fresh breeze feels fantastic, and the sound of the wind is too soothing. I’m glad it’s warm enough to finally open the windows again, but it certainly brings its own set of annoyances.

Attempting Poetry

Poetry and I… hmm. We don’t always get along. And I’d really like us to.

Lately I’ve fallen into a creative rut. Well, “rut” is a bit of an understatement. It’s more like every time a open a Word document, I produce shit. A bit harsh, but what can I say? I’ve been tapped out since the beginning of March, and I’ve been feeling a bit dispirited lately. I started a handful of short stories with some ideas I’d been playing with, but I just wasn’t feeling it. I felt like everything I’d been writing lately was more or less the same, and it was getting a little awkward trying to expand what I wanted to say into ten or more pages when perhaps one or two would be more appropriate. So I hesitantly decided to take a break from writing fiction and revisit poetry.

I don’t hate poetry. I really don’t. But it doesn’t do for me what fiction does. It’s very hit or miss; sometimes I love it, sometimes I just don’t see it. When I took my creative writing workshops during college, I always felt more attuned with fiction than poetry. I found myself anxiously waiting for the second half of each semester so we would move on to drafting short stories. And when I moved on to separate advanced poetry and fiction workshops, I knew for certain that fiction is where I belonged. And to tell the truth, I honestly never expected myself to write poems again.

So needless to say, I’ve been feeling pretty out of my element while writing this past week. And I guess that’s to be expected. After all, I haven’t written poetry in three years. And it’s not like I completely forgot everything I learned (although it certainly feels like I have), but I am struggling to remember techniques like how to effectively take advantage of form. I suppose I can just write prose poetry, although part of me feels like that would be too similar to writing a paragraph of fiction, and I’d like to try something new right now.

So what is writing poetry doing for me lately that fiction wasn’t? Well, even though I’m not writing good poetry, I’m expressing themes and ideas more easily. I don’t need to worry about crafting an entire story around them, I just need to focus on the one thing I want to feature. Which is great, because while a lot of successful short stories center around a central theme, right now I feel like I’m beating a dead horse when I try to do so. Writing poems helps me focus on what I want to say without having the obligation to transform it into a longer narrative. It’s kind of like when you come across a set of lyrics from a song or lines from a story that are really strong, and then separating them from the rest of the piece, making them stronger, and therefore making them stand on their own much more effectively. Whether these poems will eventually transform into longer works (or even possibly flash fiction), I don’t know, although I feel like I’m more successful working with poetry right now than fiction. And I’m not even writing good poetry.

It’s interesting to note how I’m already thinking how I can use poems to help my writing, though. I don’t want to belittle the craft of writing poetry by calling it a good brainstorming session for future stories, but I’d be lying if I said that it wasn’t providing that function for me. Maybe poetry and fiction are more related than I initially gave them credit for.

This leads to another interesting idea concerning writers in general: should they reach out and experiment with different crafts of writing? Should the fiction writer also write poetry? Should poets write fiction? Should creative writers write articles, columns, and other forms of “informational” writing? I believe writers should take risks when writing, read unfamiliar literature, and overall never get too caught up in their comfort zones. Maybe that should include types of writing altogether, too.

At any rate, I’m enjoying the process of experimenting with poems. I look forward to what I’ll be able to accomplish and hope to become more familiar with the world of poetry as I look through poems.

Drifting Apart From Interests

Sometimes it’s not just friends or family that drift away, but personal interests too. And sometimes, the effect can leave as strong an impact on you as if they were real people.

Gather ’round, boys and girls. Today is story day.

Today is the 11th anniversary of Rooster Teeth. For those that don’t know, Rooster Teeth is a community website that makes comedy and gaming related videos. Most people know it best for their web series Red vs. Blue, and indeed, that’s how I became familiar with the site. Way, way back when I was a high school freshman.

Summer vacation just started. It was either late June or early July, and I was playing a game one of my friends lent me. Strangely enough, another friend from school called me up out of the blue and wanted to hang out. We weren’t particularly close, but I thought it would be fun so I said okay. His mom picked me up (neither of my parents were home and I honestly can’t remember why we just didn’t hang out at my house) and drove me back to his place. We didn’t do much, mostly just played more video games. However, after playing Halo for the first time, he showed me a funny video that had manipulated gameplay in Halo to make it look like the characters were talking.

I thought it was hilarious. I’d never seen anything like it before, and I was pretty impressed. Using Halo‘s multiplayer mode, Rooster Teeth made a team of incompetent red and blue soldiers who fought each other “in a boxed canyon in the middle of nowhere.” When I got home that night, I looked through all of the videos they made so far (which I think was about 10). They offered to download them, and I immediately downloaded all I could. I spent a lot of time that summer showing each of my friends those videos, and they loved them as much as I did.

The friends on my bowling team loved them so much, we decided to order shirts from Rooster Teeth’s store to wear as team uniforms. At the time, there were shirts for sale that had the color of each character with the name on the back (I was Simmons, the nerdy guy with the maroon armor). I actually still have my shirt, and it surprisingly still fits. It’s extremely faded, though, and has a couple of holes, so I mostly just use it as an undershirt or when I’m staying home all day.

We quoted lines from the show to each other constantly. Some days that’s all we did for conversation, just exchanged quotes with each other. Some lines still stick in my head to this day, just randomly popping up in my thoughts.

“Grif… why in hell would you give somebody CPR for a bullet wound in the head? That doesn’t make a lick of sense!”

ClassicAnd that continued throughout high school. Red vs. Blue was a major source of inside jokes and entertainment for a lot of us. I even bought a messenger bag with their logo on it when my old one broke during senior year. I used that bag throughout college and even now, when I bring my laptop to the library or coffee shop to write.

Unfortunately, when my friends and I had a falling out after high school, the inside jokes faded, and Rooster Teeth became more of something I experienced by myself rather than with a group of people. Which is strange, because Rooster Teeth eventually became a huge community site where I could have connected with tons of people that loved their material as much as I did. Sadly though, I was always hesitant about meeting strangers on the Internet, and never actually joined. My loss, I guess.

However, Rooster Teeth started doing more projects as time went on. The first big one I remember was RT Comics, which started around the time I began college. 2 or 3 days a week, a comic written by Griffon Ramsey and drawn by Luke McKay would be posted on the website. They would usually involve recent gaming news or the lives of the Rooster Teeth staff, and I found myself particularly loving the latter. This was the first time I got to know the people behind Rooster Teeth a little more.

Around the time I transferred to my four year school, Rooster Teeth started producing Rooster Teeth Shorts, short skits involving the Rooster Teeth staff. Like Red vs. Blue and RT Comics, I loved them. I constantly rewatched them and started to become a little envious that these guys could make a career creating content like this. Shortly after, I also started listening to their podcast. I would download it to my mp3 player each week and take it with me on my walks. Some of my better memories of my college days involve those long walks around town while listening to the Rooster Teeth guys basically hang out and call each other assholes. It was supposed to be a gaming podcast, but more often than not it was about funny stories from their lives. And in a time where I didn’t really have any friends and I was struggling to make some, they helped fill a big void in my life. Yeah, as strange as that sounds, listening to this group of coworkers and friends every week put something in me at peace.

Yeah, for a while, Rooster Teeth was a pretty big part of my life.

These past couple of years, however, I feel like we’ve drifted apart. Why?

Well… despite that I enjoyed many of Rooster Teeth’s projects, there are also a number of other series that don’t really capture my interest. Most of them involve gaming news, videos explaining how to unlock achievements or trophies, etc. And as some of you may know, I’m not really a gamer anymore. I mostly just like my older games these days, and because so much of Rooster Teeth focuses on newer games, there’s not a lot for me to be particularly interested in.

RT Comics ended almost three years ago, and Rooster Teeth Shorts became less consistent, with the original staff members appearing less frequently. Rooster Teeth has taken on a lot of new employees during the past few years, and it’s not that I don’t like them (in fact I really love a few of them), but there was something about the original team that connected with me more. Maybe it’s because they were older, maybe I was just more familiar with them and I didn’t want to get to know a whole new group of people. Or maybe it’s because I have a lot of respect for them and just missed seeing them in videos. I mean, these were a group of guys that made videos for a small website and eventually made an entire company revolving around creating content. As an artist, I’ve got to say, it’s a dream job. They made the dream happen.

Some of my favorite people stopped showing up on the podcast, too. When I was able to return to school for my last semester of college, I didn’t have a lot of time for walks, either, so I stopped listening to it as much. By this time, the podcast was usually two hours or more, which fit my walks perfectly. But since I wasn’t walking as often, I didn’t have a convenient way to listen to it. I couldn’t really listen to it while doing schoolwork because I couldn’t put my concentration into both. Sometimes I listened to it on my long commute, though.

But even after I graduated and had more time, I found myself not getting back into the podcast. I still don’t walk as much as I want to, and when I do, I usually feel like listening to music instead. I haven’t been checking out Rooster Teeth as a whole, either (which is strange because it’s still my home page). There were some other projects they’ve done, like RT Life and RT Animated Adventures that I enjoy, but I don’t check them out as often as I like. And again, I’m not sure why. It’s not like I don’t have the time right now. It’s just… I don’t know. Like I mentioned, a big thing I loved about Rooster Teeth was that they took something they loved and made a living creating content based around it. And during the past few years, I’ve discovered a lot of other people that were able to do the same. And honestly, I’m feeling more connected with the stuff they’re doing than I am with Rooster Teeth. And that’s hard to say, considering how much it’s influenced me growing up.

So it’s been 11 years since Rooster Teeth began making their first series, Red vs. Blue. Lots of memories. I went from loving what they made, to loving their growth as a company, to loving the people themselves, to just sort of not keeping up with them much anymore. It’s something I’ve noticed for a while, but I’m glad I finally got it off my chest. It’s like being friends with someone for a long time, but you’re not really hanging out anymore. Oh sure, you see what they’re up to on Facebook, and you don’t have anything against them, but… well, you’re into different things now. You’ve grown apart. You want to connect again, but deep down, you know you’re probably past the high point in your relationship.

At any rate, I do want to check out what Rooster Teeth’s been up to lately. Now that it’s getting warmer, I’ll probably be spending more time outside, so maybe I’ll trying listening to the podcast again. And if memory serves correctly, a new season of Red vs. Blue will be starting within a couple of months. Considering that that’s the only show I really go out of my way to watch on Rooster Teeth, maybe I’ll take some time to check out some of their newer projects, too.

At any rate, always remember that you can drift away from interests as easily and naturally as you can drift away from people. But unlike people, you can usually try to reconnect without any awkward moments. Just personal realizations about what you really like. 🙂