Overexposed & Under-Appreciated

COVID is gone! The pandemic is over!

Okay, so that’s not true, but I had my first taste of that feeling in the two years since my flights were cancelled in March of 2020. The last week has been a whirlwind of social gatherings, in-person events, and lots of restaurant food. This last week has me feeling overexposed in the area of potential virus infection, and under appreciated in the area of friendship.

This last week started a week ago, obviously, on Wednesday. My semester was nearly over. I had one final done and two more left to complete and was more than happy to take a break from the studying to go celebrate a family birthday at a restaurant. Something that used to be a given was such a special occasion. We’d barely gone out to eat at all throughout this whole pandemic, so gathering in a group of five of us at a restaurant to celebrate and eat cake was very exciting. We even lucked out o the table placement, finding ourselves isolated out on the closed patio, since it was the only open table big enough to accommodate us. It was laughs and hugs and birthday cake and cards and no thought of COVID. It really was perfect. (Except I did the math wrong on the bill and I hope she took the tip amount and not the total! Eeeek!)

Thursday and Friday felt like they didn’t exist as I worked through pages and pages of material I have surely forgotten already, completing my final two papers, one 10 pages and one 17 pages, and found myself finally at ease for Friday night pizza and shows with the wife.

Saturday was the beginning of more human contact than I have had in a long time. The day started with some editing of next week’s podcast episode (which I didn’t finish and nearly forgot about until late Sunday evening). Then, two separate friends came over for in-person interviews. There is something great about the chemistry of an in-person interview. Between the two interviews, I received a phone call from a friend who was at a crossroads with their addictive behavior and confided in me to help guide them through it. It was a heavy conversation I had in the car while eating Taco Bell, but ultimately one I am glad I was able to be present for.

Saturday evening kicked off with picking up a couple friends for dinner and driving them to Hamtramck, where we all met up with another friend who had just flown in from the West. We were all going to a concert in Hamtramck and it seemed only fitting to start off the evening in a dinky Polish restaurant where we were all shoulder to shoulder and there was no ventilation. The food was amazing. The four of us met up with another friend at the concert and in those 4+ hours that we were at the venue, and in the restaurant before that, there were no masks or talk of vaccines. It was truly like nothing had happened. It was glorious. We watched the band play a 3+ hour set until the lead singer got too drunk to entertain and we decided to leave. Way to go, Jimmy.

On Sunday, my friend who was in town and also staying with me, wanted to go to Grand Rapids and visit this Kava cafe. Kava is a weird root drink that is supposed to get you intoxicated in one way or another. After waking up later than I would have liked to due to the late night before, we finally left for Grand Rapids. The deal was that I could play whatever I wanted on the way there and he could play whatever he wanted on the way back. I suppose since I was driving, I should have gotten the whole trip, but he bought gas at a time when people are making gas memes, so I guess it works. In Grand Rapids, we went to this cafe and sat and played an entire game of Scrabble while he drank his Kava and I explained why I didn’t drink mine (see upcoming sober post about how triggering this was). Then, after Scrabble was over, we went next door and each got some homemade ice cream for the road.

Back at home, we played a Facebook Live show to celebrate the album I put out 20 years earlier that my friend produced. It was a fun show, despite my friend being super uptight about our lack of rehearsing. I’m sure the 48 people who watched were fine with it. Afterwards, I put my basement back together, edited my podcast, hung out a little bit and went to bed.

Monday was a lazy day, but we spent it with some of the same people we went to the concert with, playing board games and using VR headsets until our stomachs were upset. I cooked an awesome dinner of lemon pepper chicken, garlic rice, and broccoli and then it was Netflix and bed. A nice calm Monday after the long weekend.

Tuesday was my friend’s last day in town. He wanted to be dropped off in Detroit at a mutual friend’s place to hang out and that mutual friend would take him to the airport. Knowing this, and being exhausted from the late nights I am no longer used to, I left the ball in his court. After spending a measurable chunk of the day trying to decipher if he was being catfished on Tinder, he finally showered and packed just in time for us to leave 20 minutes late to go to Detroit. I grabbed a coffee from the place I dropped him off at and headed home. Erica was out of town for work and I could not wait to get in bed, lay with my cat, watch TV, and go to sleep.

After spending the day catching up on the two days of work I missed and reflecting on the last week of hanging out with friends, helping friends, hosting friends, and working with friends, I feel a little drained. I feel a little used. I feel a little under appreciated.

On three separate occasions with three different friends of mine, I went above and beyond the call of duty. This last week, I helped a friend in one of the most desperate of times, I hosted and chauffeured a friend, and I gave another friend his 10th second chance. I did all of these things and I don’t feel like any of it was acknowledged. I don’t need a banner of thank you’s and praise, but a simple acknowledgement would be nice. Don’t get me wrong, I think that part of being a friend is being there without the expectation, but how many times do you do that before you’re just being used? How many times does selfishness get written off as friendship?

This is one thing I am in a constant state of working on. I spent years seeking nothing but validation from other people, and in the fear they would judge me or think less of me, I never truly offered myself to any of them. I was always a class clown shell of a person. Now, I am ready to exchange vulnerable for vulnerable, and I am ready to build those relationships from the ground up, but now that I have love and respect for myself, it becomes more and more obvious every time someone else doesn’t reciprocate or see my value. It feels like it may be time for a reevaluation of some of the people I’ve been holding onto in my life and potentially beginning the process of letting go of those people who do not see or appreciate my value, even when I expressly lay it out in front of them. Time to say no, create boundaries, and make new friendships that mean more.

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