Paul Simon once sang a song called "Maybe I Think Too Much". I'm quite certain that I do. I tend to over-think and over-analyze things. I don't know if it's just in my nature to do this, or if it is the result of a relatively solitary childhood. Being an only child and growing up amid the seclusion of the rural Delaware woods, I did not evolve a strong sense of community. I was usually on my own, wandering through the trees with my dog and my imagination for company. There is a definite appeal to being left so often to one's own devices, but it does provide an inordinate amount of time for getting lost in thought.
I wasn't exactly a social being anyway. I wouldn't say I was anti-social, just socially inept. I now realize that there are a lot of people who look back on their teen years with that same assessment. I understand that many of us felt socially awkward during that phase of life. But you know those kids you see in teen movies who get degrading messages taped onto their backs; who are so low in the pecking order that even some of the teachers take shots at them? I was one of those. I was an easy target. My attempts at being stylish repeatedly missed the mark. I was insecure and brainy--a combination that could sometimes be spun as a quirky positive for a boy, but was a real killer for a girl. College only improved my lot a few degrees. I was no longer made fun of, but I was already such a hardened outsider that I lacked the confidence to fully embrace many of the friendship opportunities that came my way.
My tendency became to value the thinking side of myself at the expense of the other parts. I still find myself falling into the trap of mistaking being admired with being liked. I have begun to suspect that I am simply hopelessly confused when it comes to the fine art of friendship. I see people coming and going around me, making friends with apparent ease, while I continue to see myself as a floundering misfit. To make matters worse, I see my children falling into similar patterns and I am at a loss as to how to advise them.
So, here is my question to you tolerant readers: What are the elements of successful friendship? Is serendipity the only path to human connection or is there--as I suspect there is--some secret skill set?