New York was an interesting experience for me. It made me realize everything that I could do on my own, and also just how much I loved my friends and Family. The decision to move back to Missouri and search for a job while here was easy to make – and I haven’t had cause to regret it yet. Although there are still faces I’ve yet to see, (and hopefully we can spend time together soon) – I feel like I’m home.
When I got back, they threw me a half-birthday party, since they weren’t able to be with me on my 30th birthday earlier this year. I got a lot of fun items, like icy hot, prune juice, laxatives, and a diaper. Someone made a cake that said, “Here lies James’ youth” on a cookie tombstone with a mound of “dirt” that looked like a grave. I was thrilled; this was what I had wanted for my 30th birthday. Someone to make jokes about me getting older, and to play it up without mercy. My sister orchestrated the whole thing, and it went off without a hitch. (Only downside was that one of my friends was unable to make it due to work.)
The following Sunday was a game night. Before I moved, there were weekly gaming sessions at my place, and I would sometimes grill for people. I greatly enjoyed being a host; I would encourage them to bring new people from time to time, and we would sit around and eat, drink, and whittle away at the night until people had to go home.
I missed nights like that the most when I lived in New York.
Now I could see how it was executed, and I’ll admit: They did a fantastic job.
As we were sitting around on Sunday playing games, I noticed something – There was a sense of familiarity here. I remembered our group chat, and how everyone had been getting together every two weeks or so to play games. Now I could see how it was executed, and I’ll admit: They did a fantastic job. There was plenty of food, drink, and fun to be had for everyone. Lots of games were played, (Timesplitter, on Original X-Box) and it seemed like everyone was having a good time. It felt very similar to the parties I used to throw.
That was when it hit me: My friends didn’t need me anymore.
As self-centered and possibly narcissistic as it sounds, it was nice knowing my place among my friends. I was the guy that cajoled everyone in to hanging out on the weekends. I supplied food, planned out the fun, and that was it. I threw elaborate Halloween parties, made drunk Christmas calls and text messages, and pushed people to spend time together.
My best friend came up to me before I left and expressed a concern about the group possibly falling apart while I was gone. He said, “Without you here to force us together, I’m not sure we’ll hang out as much.” I assured him that wouldn’t happen, and that someone else would surely step in to my position. It’s bittersweet, knowing that I was right – they were able to continue to have fun, and maybe even grow closer despite my absence.
My friends still want me in their lives, which is significantly more important than being needed. But it is a bittersweet discovery to find that my place in the group no longer exists. In the year I was gone, a new dynamic has formed. I know, because they reassure me that they want me around, that there’s a place for me in this new paradigm, but finding out exactly where that is will be a new challenge for me.
One that I both dread, and look forward to discovering.