Saturday, September 10, 2005
Friends and the Absence of Friends

This dorm is having a party tonight.

I'm pretty conflicted about that -- I'm at the age when a kegger just doesn't hold the appeal it once might've held (although, to be honest, I was never all that into keggers.) I'd be quite happy to hang out in my room quietly, do some reading, work on my footage logs, maybe watch one of the DVDs I've got hanging around on loan from the college library, that kind of thing. However, just because I'm getting old doesn't mean the other 26 people who live in this building are beholden to my wishes, so after some thought -- and confirmation from a couple of the people I'm friendly with here that they're planning to come -- I've decided that if I can't beat 'em, I might as well join 'em.

So I cleaned my room, got those last personal effects in place, moved my empty storage crates back down to the basement, put all my laundry away, cleaned the bathroom, put on some Mr. Bungle, set some Andy Kaufman spinning on the DVD player (with the sound down, naturally), and now I'm just sitting here waiting for whatever's going to happen to happen.

I always have to go through a difficult mental shift when I travel between Vermont and Memphis, it seems. In spite of my being decidedly an introvert, I'm actually very sociable, provided I'm comfortable around the people in question. Memphis is now reasonably full of friends, and this last stay there was particularly heavy on social interaction, particularly towards the end. Vermont is a different story -- I have friendly acquaintances here, but nobody I'd call "friend" (although there are a couple of people who might become friends after a longer time than I expect to be here.) The fact that I am inherently somewhat separate from almost all of the student body by virtue of being nearly 30 means that Vermont is a fairly isolated place for me. And that's okay -- I'm not too troubled by isolation.

But the shift between these two states -- sociable and secluded -- can be difficult. When I arrived in Memphis after being up here for a few months, I felt cut off from my friends -- their lives had continued on without me, things had happened in the interim, some new people had shown up and other people had departed, and for a good month I felt as though I were trying to enter into a private conversation already in progress. Combined with the effects of coming out of a period of seclusion, it took me a while to get back into the flow of my Memphis-based social life. Now, coming back into seclusion, I feel cut off again, but in a different way -- now I just miss people, miss conversing and hanging out, miss having people to talk to when I want to.

I'll get through the shift, just like I always do -- but there'll probably be a few more dejected days before I get used to isolation again.

And I'm still fretting about what to do after this term. I have a large collection of things I'd like to do -- I've got a feature to write, a solid book idea to shop around, and I'd love to do some investigation of the other side of the film industry -- exhibition, distribution, and other film-culture-related-programs-activities. Writing, for me, requires a safe, solid spot to rest for a year or two; I don't think I'd be able to do it if I were in a situation that still involved a lot of struggle. All my other potential plans seem to be coming to naught -- my soul still urges me to try to get myself expatriated for a while, but I don't currently see any good way to do that. Vermont (and New England in general) is very nice, but as I've said to a few people recently, I just don't feel very connected to it -- shifting here for an extended period, I'm coming to realize, would involved a complete re-establishment of myself, more years spent finding a circle of friends and associates, another drawn-out demonstration of my abilities and worth... in short, I'd have to start all over again. Just the thought saps me of all my creative energy.

But the alternative to re-establishment somewhere else is -- I almost can't bear to make it explicit -- going back to Memphis. Goddamn you, Memphis, goddamn you straight to hell. I spent a decade keeping myself aloof, forever pulling away from you, holding people at arm's length to avoid getting attached, always planning my escape from your grasp, only to find once I've almost gotten free that you've become the closest thing to a home I've ever had. Many of my friends are in Memphis, all my associates are in Memphis, what little creative status I've managed to build up is all tied to Memphis -- Jesus Fucking Christ, Memphis, what do I have to do to make a clean break of it with you?

To me, the idea of returning to Memphis feels like a defeat -- in spite of all the good things and good people there, it feels like a loss... after all those dreams of faraway places, how much does my life suck if going back to Memphis seems like anything other than an admission of failure? Why can't you be more like Austin or Chapel Hill, Memphis? Why must you resist all our efforts to pull you up to your full potential? Why do you harbor so many apathetic yuppie assholes who drag the rest of us down? Sure, you need a decent arthouse theater (like, one that supports itself, no offense Co-op), and a quarterly magazine devoted to the local film scene wouldn't hurt you any (think of a barbecue-flavored Cahiers du Cinema). But to accomplish those things a person would have to make a serious committment to you, and I just don't love you that way, Memphis.

So why do I keep coming back, you ask? Well, you're easy to come back to. If I came back again, though -- and this is just hypothetical, mind you, no promises... I'd still run off to Istanbul or Dublin or Delhi or Sydney at the drop of a fucking hat -- but if I did come back, I'd need you to support me more than you have in the past: a decent job that leaves me enough time and passion to do my work, a comfortable place, no more of this barely-getting-by bullshit. And I'd need more friends -- a couple of really good, close friends, more talented, serious friends. More friends who are ready to get to work. Because Memphis, I don't want to be mean, but you need a lot of work.

So there are my terms. You have three to six months to consider them.
5:46 PM ::
Amy :: permalink