Friday, February 7, 2020

Notes On Friendship And Internal Migration

When it comes to my hope for the future, this is the week that broke me. The criminal president was acquitted and has been acting even more shamelessly. Seeing Rush Limbaugh get the Presidential of Freedom was bad, but the news media normalizing it was worse. The Iowa caucus is an unmitigated shitshow that has left all kinds of conspiracy mongering and division in its wake. The president is an incumbent running in a time of economic growth. We all know how this is going to end.

I have decided to retreat a little bit. I am putting my all into my local political causes, like school integration and affordable housing. National politics is a lost cause. The real moment of truth happened in November of 2016. The die was cast a long time ago. The only way forward is to build from the ground up.

As I contemplate my internal migration in these rotten times I have been reminded of the power of friendship. My best friends all live hundreds of miles from me now, but we still call and text and fume and argue about the current rotten state of things. That support has been crucial so far to my mental health. Trying to get through something like this alone is just too much to handle.

Living far from my friends has made resistance difficult. It's no fun to show up to a protest by yourself, and there's only certain kinds of protests where you can take your children. I have certainly been to a few, but without friends there I feel a sense of desperation, and I go away feeling like I bore witness but that it didn't mean much.

This has all made my time with my friends, as little of it as I can get, much more valuable than it's ever been. Last summer I flew out to Texas to visit a friend, then we drove up to Colorado for a reunion with our grad school friends. It felt like putting on an old shoe, as if nothing had changed, even though so many of us had kids and mortgages and less hair and more fat on our bodies. In that off season ski chalet it felt like we were in our own little world. Before we left we were already talking about the next time we were going to get together.

One thing they don't tell you about middle age is that new true friendships, the kinds that thrill you and make you feel like you've known someone their whole life when you've only known them for a week, stop happening. Good friends are like the family you choose, but like family you tend to lose rather than gain over time. That's why you've got to hold onto what you've got.

Social media has given us the dangerous illusion that it can replace in the flesh friendship. It's great that I have it for a substitute with my friends so far flung, but it's not the same. I was thinking of this when I saw some old friends from my Texas days in New York City at a conference. Their hugs, the sound of their voices and laughs, were things I had sorely been missing. It was bittersweet because I was reminded of how poor my life is without them in it, and how "likes" aren't enough to fill void.

In these dark times we can only make it with others, we can't make it by ourselves. Spend time with your friends, give them a call. You'll be glad you did.

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