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Some people just don’t belong in your life

June 5, 2014

imgresSo about a year ago when I was planning this whole travel through Europe adventure, I invited everyone I talked with to come along. And when I say everyone, I mean everyone. In normal, everyday life this over invite plan works out well since half the people I invite to things are busy anyway and in most short term scenarios the more the merrier. Going to the movies? Invite everyone in town. Going to a concert? Invite everyone within 100 miles. Going camping? Invite everyone within 100 miles AND their friends. More often than not fun happens in these instances. So it makes sense logically that if I’m going to Europe I should invite EVERYONE ever.

I did and in many ways, things worked out really well for me on this trip, I got to meet and travel with more friends than I ever expected would accept. Old friendships were rekindled, newer ones strengthened, I even got to meet Merskank’s Percival finally! But in one very particular way it has backfired and while part of me doesn’t want to write about this and have to remember it forever, another part knows that I need to get this rant out so I can hopefully just move forward with my trip.

A week before I was due to meet my lifelong friend *Hayley for a month long stay in Spain my cousin *John decided he was going to take me up on my offer to travel Europe. He and I have always gotten along well, seeing each other for a week or so each summer since we were young, so I was initially excited to see him for a week or two in Europe. We’d get to know each other better, see the world and in general the more the merrier, right?

Well fast forward a week and I’m meeting him in Spain, since he’d found a one way ticket and decided there is no time like the present. I convinced my friend Hayley that his joining of our entire trip would be fine, that he was easy going and quiet so we’d all get along great. I convinced myself that after Spain traveling with him would be good too, since I had two full weeks alone before I was due in Ireland to meet a few other friends. I even convinced my friends in Ireland that his joining of the trip would make our trip cheaper. Sure, traveling for 8 plus weeks with a male cousin you really only remember as large and quiet isn’t the ideal place to be in, but the more the merrier, right?

Well Spain was almost a total bust, Hayley and John both telling me afterwards that in normal life they would never have spent that much time in each other’s company. We didn’t fight the whole time, ever really, but often the temperature got icy and honestly by the end of it I’d too resolved that both of them were people best kept at some distance. Hayley can be hard to deal with, her loosely backed opinions often get her in trouble, and her standards for food and lodging are way higher than mine and John’s, so many of the decisions had to be run by her for final say. But she works hard for her friends and brings an energy to life that I adore, so usually I let her get away with making me pay a few extra dollars for dinner and a bite my tongue when she starts talking about how terrible the world is for even considering not to agree with her.

But with John around things became more complicated. Hayley’s zest for life pretty much scared the little life that John had right out of him and for much of the trip he was a non-participatory dead weight. He had NOTHING he wanted to see, nothing he wanted to do, no preference on where to eat, no ideas on where to stay. If he spoke at all it was when I pointedly looked at him and asked him if he had anything to contribute and 90% of the time even then he’d say no. When we’d walk places he always fell a few steps behind, never attempting to get to know us or anyone else around him. He wouldn’t offer to help carry things or do dishes, wouldn’t be generous with money or speak up when he wanted something different. He was always running late, making us wait five to ten minutes every time we were going anywhere even though I always made sure to make sure he understood our daily activities and gave him plenty of options to bump back our start time or opt out entirely (consistently waiting for someone gets real old real fast). It felt like I was always translating a foreign language to him, like he was my child I had to check on at all points because if I didn’t he’d never tell me that he had to pee and then he’d wet his pants and we’d all have to deal.

When I talked with strangers he shied away. When I went exploring, he went home to read. When I asked him about his life, he had nothing to say. It felt like he was always miserable, even though we always asked whether the plan was okay or whether he wanted to come. But he never seemed to enjoy anything that we did, even when we were doing something reasonable like going to see the famous Gaudi architecture in Barcelona. I learned long ago that forcing people to join things they don’t want to do never ends well, but we never forced him and he came anyway. I don’t know how to deal with a person who is unhappy but only answers with nothing when you ask what he wants. He doesn’t like museums of any sort, art, history or science. He isn’t interested in shopping or the beach, hiking or making new friends. He doesn’t like theatre or trying new foods. Complains later about the food we ate but offers no suggestions to improve it. Doesn’t really like beer or wine but buys them anyway. Never offers to do anything, never takes initiative or is proactive, never thinks of ways he can interact with the world or have fun. If I didn’t pointedly say every morning, okay I am ready to go anytime, we would never leave the house. Whenever we split up for the day because he doesn’t want to join in whatever EPIC thing I’ve found to see, I come back to hear that he’s sat inside all day or only gone to one of the four things he said he thought he would do. He never asks about my day or the things he missed, never looks around at the world and says, wow, cool.

None of this behavior would surprise me if I thought he just hated my company, but I know he doesn’t because so many other times he’ll seek me out when I’m perfectly happy to be alone. He’ll try to make talk with me about something or other and generally we have a perfectly decent conversation for five minutes. I make jokes and he laughs and he’ll say something that I generally disagree with or find boring and I’ll pretend to agree.

The only thing he does like is finance, and while that’s a huge topic that can keep him occupied for years, it only affords a few hours of conversation at most for the typical friendship. I appreciate all I’ve learned from him on that already but I can only talk about it so much and it worries me that in the past 5 weeks I’ve heard him give the same exact answer to every question about his life. What do you do? Why are you traveling? What do you like? What do you want in the future? What did you major in in college? All questions lead back to his 5 minute finance speech (or a non-committal nothing answer like I don’t know or sort of) which I can practically quote by now. Merskank met him for a few hours and asked him to tell her something funny about himself and even then he talked about his finance plan. Cindy’s husband asked him whether he cared about not having a girlfriend in high school and he said no because he played video games. Which video games? NOTHING IN PARTICULAR. Which movies, which music, which sports? NOTHING IN PARTICULAR. Which books? Mostly finance but NOTHING. IN. PARTICULAR.

You have to like more than one thing to be human. And if you really aren’t that passionate then you at least have to be able to fake it a bit for conversation.

Now that Hayley is gone things are a bit better, since I can get him to generally talk more than a few words and give an opinion on what to do with our day now and again. And there have actually been a few really great moments where we’ve laughed about our families or bonded over our similar upbringings. Things aren’t bad, and most of the time it’s even okay, but, he doesn’t make me better, and as hard as it is to wrap my head around, I think it’s just that some people don’t belong in your life.

I miss having Hayley’s energy to pull me along and I already feel exhausted, finding myself giving in to days of doing little more than aimlessly wandering the city streets for a few hours and then going to see a movie with him. The most excited I’ve ever seen him is when we went to the Railway museum in York and even then that lasted all of 8 minutes before he got tired and said he would have loved this when he was younger. We didn’t even pop our heads into an entire wing of the museum! But I didn’t object because I’m not excited to be here anymore, not excited to see something cool only to turn around and see him not enjoying it as much as I do, not excited to go meet new people when I know I’ll have to find ways to include him, not excited to be surrounded by a person who yawns all day and thinks appropriate travel conversation is how tired he is and how much taco bell he’s going to eat when he gets back to the USA.

imgresI want to surround myself with joy, with action, with people who inspire me. I want to look up and see people who smile and laugh, who are generous and adventurous, who work hard to improve their lives and the lives of others. I want to know people who are intelligent and critical, who are interested and unique, who aren’t afraid to take advantage of life and live it fully. I want people who help me get up early and/or stay up late. I want friendships that make me better and while I know not all relationships are easy, that many times people fade in and out of our lives just because, they do have to be worthwhile. John’s presence in my life isn’t worthwhile.

Being frustrated with him definitely put a strain on me and Hayley’s friendship, but we talked it out and I feel the better for it. I’m not sure if we’ll ever travel like that again, but I love her and we’ll always be in each other’s lives.

I only have three more weeks on this trip with him and then it’s back to only seeing him at family reunions and monopoly games nights, but until then I need to find a way to make the most of it, because I don’t want to remember the end of my trip as a waiting game until I can get away. I must have more power over my emotions than that, and I must be able to get past my genuine disappointment in who he is and enjoy myself somehow. I feel better already for writing this, and really I can still have fun even when the world around me isn’t all that accommodating. But I just wish he’d smile more.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. June 5, 2014 11:45 pm

    Yeah, that is a long time to spend traveling with someone, anyone really, let alone a cousin you’re not all that close to. I say make sure the last three weeks are full of you doing whatever you want to do, even if it means leaving him behind every other day. He says he’s traveling on his own after you leave, so he needs to get used to it. To John’s credit on the day you stayed at the museum in Madrid and we left, we ended up talking and it was a perfectly good conversation about lives, goals, etc. He’s not the most dynamic person ever, but probably in the end you guys will be closer and have good memories from this trip to share, and that’s pretty cool.

    • June 7, 2014 4:59 am

      You’re right. He’s a perfectly acceptable human being. we get along and make some jokes and explore a city and life goes on. but when a person you’re with yawns in your face at least 5 times a day everyday, offers no ideas or options and always takes the less effort way out, it starts to wear a little on your soul.

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