Friend Wanted: Apply Within

best-friends-day-2

I was always a “weird” kid. I say, weird because I loved books and wore glasses. Anyone who has spent any time with kids knows that this insta-classifies‎ you as weird.  As a result my list of friends was usually short. Couple this with my extreme bossy nature and the list got even shorter. It wasn’t until high school that I finally got a best friend, but even that was short lived. Every friendship ended in tears when I was growing up. I wasn’t like the other kids.

I was always trying to have friends. I had a cousin a year older than me that I adored, but I  usually felt more like a nuisance than a friend. There were kids that filtered in and out of my life as neighbors, but starting with the first one (a boy I knew as a kindergartner who was a little older than me and couldn’t properly say his ABCs) they were pretty disastrous friendships.

I didn’t realize that I wasn’t like other kids until junior high. I was spending my first week away from my parents and my sister in the midst of a camp full of junior high kids. Since I was homeschooled, it was the most kids I’d be around at one time ever. One meal (I have no idea if it was lunch or dinner or what), I was trying to join the conversation at my table. I don’t remember what I said, but it had some kind of $20 vocabulary word. The kids around me gave me a look that instantly said you’re weird. I can’t remember the details of that event, but I remember the feeling of extreme shame. Shame in being smart and knowing a large word. It was the worst feeling in the world.

In college, I had a larger circle of people to hang out with, but I always had a nagging feeling of being the last one picked to do things with. More often than not, I had to initiate hangout times, organize my own birthday celebrations, make the first step, or invite myself along. My circle of good friends consisted of three boys who, more often than not, did things together without me then with me.

I tried most of my life to not let it bother me. I had people to play with most of the time and a little sister. Yet, I longed for a best friend like the ones I read about in my books. I’d read about Anne and Diana and wonder why I couldn’t have a relationship like that. I consoled myself with fiction, pets, and my family.

And then came the internet. I can’t begin to describe how much the internet changed my social life. It was like a flash. We got our first access through AOL dialup and I would sit for hours (it seemed) waiting for things to load just to get a taste of that communication I couldn’t find in real life. At the time my fandom was Sherlock Holmes and I made so many connections online. When I was 17, I met my first online friend in real life, a noted Sherlockian scholar and author. It didn’t matter to him that I was teenager, a bit overweight and weird. We had a common love of all things Sherlock Holmes. He invited my parents and I over to his beautiful home in West Hollywood and he showed me his collection of Sherlock Holmes books and trinkets. It was amazing. For weeks after I felt amazing. It wasn’t until much, much later I realized that I had finally met someone and I wasn’t weird. There were others out there, just like me. It was eye-opening.

Online friends quickly became my close friends. In college I spend hours on message boards and still have friends from that (Hi Sarah! Hi Shell! Hi Kristin!). 12 years later, I still talk to these people. In 2003, I flew with my college friend, Adam to Nashville for a concert. I got to meet a lot of the “online” friends. It was the craziest thing I had done in my life (up to that point). When I met my friend Shell, we hugged like we had known each other forever. It was natural, it was beautiful, it was amazing. It was that group of people who knew me first as Tabz, it was that group that gave me my nickname (Supreme Commander of the Internet), it was some of that group that accepted me for who I was — weird. [I have a lot to thank Kevin Max, since it was his message boards, since he embraced being weird and tried to make a community of people who accepted everyone — especially the weird ones].

College’s T1 Internet connection changed my life during those days. I can’t tell you the number of hours I’d be checking into forums or on AOL’s Instant Messanger. One of my closest friends, Nichole, I met in a chat room and we’ve been talking ever since. She was one of those people I could call any time of the day and talk. I’d never had a friend like that before and it eased a lot of the pain I had felt in my childhood.

Then, in 2006, I was introduced to the world of podcasting because of my love of the Whedonverse. I had only recently watched all of BuffyAngel, and Firefly. My real life friend John, told me about Firefly podcasts that he loved listening to and then everything changed. After about a month of listening to Firefly Talk and The Signal podcasts I dived into podcasting myself and launched Strangely Literal. It wasn’t long after that I met my best friend, Kim.

I’ve told the story of Kim and I meeting so many times it seems redundant to type it again. It was an innocuous meeting. I heard her guesting on another podcast (for Buffy fans, it was an amazingly long discussion on the whole Spike soul issue). Offhandedly the conversation mentioned how she wasn’t sure if she should start her own podcast. I contacted her and told her that she should because she had a beautiful voice. And, as Rick said in Casablanca, it was the start of a beautiful friendship.

I think the amazing thing about my friendship with Kim is that, despite our distance, we get to see each other at least once a year and talk at least a couple times a week. Our friendship is a series of emails, Google chats, Facebook comments, Skype recordings, and tweets. We know pretty much everything about each other, have seen each other at our worst, and (amazingly) have never had a real fight.

Shortly after I met Kim, I met Emma on LiveJournal. She was an amazing writer and we quickly became great friends. About a year after we first met online, she flew from the UK to Los Angeles to meet me and visit for a month. Not only did Emma become one of my best friends, she became one of Kim’s best friends too.

Through podcasting, I’ve met most of my current local friends as well. My friend Lisa moved back to Los Angeles a couple years ago and I can’t imagine how I got along without her. We have so much fun exploring LA (and often getting lost, though less so since she got her iPhone). Liane is always fun to hang out with (she was Fred on our Angel Between the Lines podcast). Dan and Terin entered the scene a couple years ago and they add a lot of comedy to whatever we do. There’s literally hundreds of others that I can’t mention because this blog is already way too long, so don’t feel left out if I missed your name – you’re all part of my friends who I’m thankful for every day.

Finally, by my mid-twenties, I had the best friends and friends that  I had been longing for my whole life. I often want to go back to that bookish little Tabz and tell her how amazing her friends will be if she just holds on. I have friends that overlook my bossy nature, people that revel in the same geeky/weird things I do, and people who love all the things that make me quirky. So when I say I’ve been extremely blessed in the friend department, I’m not lying. Thanks to my friends I don’t feel the pain of being weird or a nuisance. I just feel loved. And that’s pretty awesome.

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9 Comments

  1. Posted September 15, 2013 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

    this story is far too familiar. I knew I was weird my whole life, I had 8 brothers and sisters to tell me that every step of the way. They mocked my passions, things I got into, and I learned very early to hide who I was, which is sad, because half my family are geeks. I think the siblings closest in age to me though are the other half and they were the loudest.

    When I went to school to say I was bullied is an understatement, and there wasn’t much help to be had because as new kids would come to school they were told if they wanted to have friends, they couldn’t be my friend. I had one friend, who wasn’t really a friend, it was someone who needed someone to dump on and to take care of her. It was someone who at times was a bit of an outcast or not able to see other people and I was near and convenient and supportive of her in these times. In other times, when she wasn’t having problems, and wasn’t physically being kept from other kids, she’d drop me for anyone else. It took me 25 years to realize how toxic that relationship was, how she was one of the worst influences for me, she convinced me there was something deeply wrong with me for getting so obsessed with my books. Anything we would now consider geek related she’d mock me for.

    It wasn’t till college when having a vast vocabulary or knowing things, reading books, or anything academic was actually valued. I also went from 12 years with the same kids to new kids. I went from one friend who was mean to me, to a nice group of friends that I’d see daily. I also had a nice circle of friends at work.

    The internet introduced me to mega geeks like myself, I met some of my best friends there, and even my husband. Heck, I met my best friend in college there, and he was in the same college.

    Like you I wish I could tell young me that it gets better, that I don’t have to hide, that cool people like the things I like (I can’t tell you how many rock bands I met that were huge trekkies), and how I was cool. Wish it didn’t take so ling for me to realize this.

    • Tabz
      Posted September 20, 2013 at 2:00 am | Permalink

      Thankfully my parents and sister are weird too, so I didn’t have that feeling at home. My dad is a lot like me (bookish, a SciFi geek), my mom was terribly bullied as a kid and understood me in ways I never understood myself, and my sister was my baby sister. 😀

      I totally had friendships like your toxic one. I thought it was normal until much, much later in my life. It’s kind of sad it took me so long to see it.

  2. Heidi
    Posted September 16, 2013 at 1:33 am | Permalink

    I always seemed to have a best friend at one time or another in elementary school, but they were usually younger than me because I could boss them around. (See any similarities here?) I, however, was an only child, sort of. My half brother and sister didn’t live with us, so I had imaginary friends for a while. Luckily I met Jaime in 5th grade and we’ve been best friends ever since.

    I never realized I was weird. I never realized I was bullied. I knew some of the other kids were mean to me, but I never realized that they actually didn’t like me until years later. I’m glad I didn’t know because it didn’t bother me too much. I know I lost some friends because other kids didn’t like me, but I didn’t know that was the reason at the time.

    I think these situations turned me into sort of an introvert. I was a very outgoing child. I think that podcasting has really helped me get past that and I even run study groups at school now and do some public speaking. I’m so glad to have my online friends who care about what is going on in my life and like to hang out with me even if it’s just over the Internet. We really need a TARDIS so we can all hang out on the weekends.

    • Tabz
      Posted September 20, 2013 at 2:03 am | Permalink

      I never think of you as an introvert! LOL, but that’s probably because I know you through podcasting and making jokes in the back of the car while your parents drove us somewhere. >HUGS< I'm glad you're my friend!

  3. Posted September 16, 2013 at 2:53 am | Permalink

    Jeez … it’s as if you were narrating my life.

    • Tabz
      Posted September 20, 2013 at 2:03 am | Permalink

      HUG! Here’s to all my friendless friends who are now awesome and friends.

  4. Kim
    Posted September 20, 2013 at 3:08 am | Permalink

    I have no idea what you are talking about, we totally fight! Remember that whole caveman Vs astronauts thing??

    • Tabz
      Posted September 20, 2013 at 3:15 am | Permalink

      I’m pretty sure we both agreed that’s not really a fight about cavemen OR astronauts. 😀

      • Kim
        Posted September 24, 2013 at 10:51 pm | Permalink

        Sure, ok, yes, but it WAS a fight! We even did a podcast on it! Put ’em up! 🙂

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