As a kid growing up, I never really had a large group of friends that I hung with. I had one best friend that I did everything with and when he moved away, I was alone. Ended up spending that summer and the next couple by myself.
High school was pretty much the same -- one or two friends, but never the big clique of buds and pals that everyone else hung with. In fact, at graduation, when everyone else was doing those epic parties that have become the norm, I went out to dinner with my family and then went home.
In college, I was in a fraternity, which should have been different but was not. Funny how alone you can be in a group. Fortunately, I had a close friend who was more like a literal brother, that made it less obvious that I wasn't in with the in group so to speak. That outsider status was brutally driven home when I got married, to a girl who was also in the frat in college. We sent out invitations to everyone and no one showed up. We booked this huge beautiful church and barely filled the first couple of pews. That sucked.
My current job is pretty much the same. I spent ten years as a union steward defending co-workers against contract-defying management. Sometimes to the dismay of my co-workers. Also, with my familiarity to being an outsider, I tend to stick up for those I feel are being unfairly picked on. So I've advocated and befriended enough people on the disapproved list that I'm not in the fully trusted community. I get the sideways glances and lowered voices from time to time, and often get left out of little get togethers, even though everyone is totally friendly to my face.
Of course, as a conservative political person, everything is aligned against me. Every aspect of mainstream culture and media portrays me as dangerous, bigoted, small minded, etc. If you are also a conservative, you know how relentless this is and how lonely it can make you feel at times.
I do a bit of artwork on the side for creative release. And I recently got a chance to attend a gathering of like-minded artists for a couple of days. I'm pretty well known in this circle and yet . . .
Same old, same old. After the obligatory friendly greetings, I'm standing by myself. I see the now all too familiar dance of someone walking my way, making eye contact, then turning to change direction thinking I might be coming to talk to them. The forced small talk, awkward pauses, "oh, I've got to catch so and so before they leave..." and on and on. It gets really old.
I often wonder what it would be like to be popular like I see with other people. What's it like to have someone see you across the room and make a special trip over because they want to talk to you? What's it like to have people make an effort to stay in touch with you, to seek you out without an ulterior motive?
/end self pitying rant