Monday, October 12, 2009

Distractions and a Realization

I love all the little distractions that I can find in life.

These include, but are not limited to, clearing out the refrigerator, re-organizing my jewelry, sharpening every pencil I have, drawing, watching the special features on DVD's, cleaning any surface of my house, going through my hard drives, putting e-mails in their proper folders, painting my toenails, practicing the piano, cooking, checking expiration dates on things and throwing out anything old, coiling the billions of power cords lying around, having a mug of PG Tips with milk and honey, and watching whatever's on the DVR that needs to be watched and deleted.

When I want to be, I am a master procrastinator. When I don't want to be, you will never see anyone more dedicated to a given project or cause.

I actually began writing this post on Friday, but never got around to finishing it. I was procrastinating, and have finally decided to buckle down and finish this thing. I don't really know where I'm going with it, though, so bear with me.

For the past three months or so, I have been on a social rampage. Previously, during the guinea pig era, I was working so much that I didn't see my family or my friends for prolonged periods of time. By "prolonged," I mean months, not hours or days or even weeks.

One of my best friends told me once, "Oh, I expect this from you. You're around for a while, then you disappear for a few months." I laughed because it is so very true.

In this business, I can't necessarily plan my life the way I want to. I have a schedule to think about. I plan my vacations around the release date of the movie that I am working on. For instance, "Alice in Wonderland" is being released on March 5. That means that I will probably try to take time off from the middle or end of February until the end of March or beginning of April.

So after "G-Force" was released, I expected to take about a month off. No dice. I only got two weeks. TWO WEEKS.

During those two weeks, I went out every night and tried to cram as much living as I could into the time I had. I have literally never gone out to much before in my life, even when I was a 21-year-old working in Hollywood.

My two weeks were fun and exciting, and it was during that time, at 27 (a.k.a. old enough to already know this), that I discovered something life-changing: If I am nice to people, they want to be my friends.

I know. I totally should have known that already.

But I didn't! I'm a slow learner, I guess? I always stuck with the friends that I had, never went out thinking that I would meet someone new, because why did I need new people? I limited the meeting of newbies to new co-workers, or friends of friends.

Learning that I could talk to and hit it off with strangers was, seriously, a revelation for me.

My sister always tells me something that makes me laugh- she says that people always love me, even though I don't like people, but people think that my sister is mean, even though she likes all people until they give her a reason to dislike them. She and I are the opposite in that way. Her mentality is "innocent until proven guilty," whereas mine is "I won't like you at all until you prove you're worth the energy."

I always thought that people responded to indifference, which goes to show how much I knew about people. So I was polite, but not ebullient; civil, but never enthused. This has all changed now, thanks to two evenings that I remember with fondness.

One of my friends moved to New York a few months ago and had a big party at his house to celebrate, and so we could send him off in style (um, hungover). At this party, after a few margaritas, I was goofy and giddy. I knew most of the people there, so I felt comfortable, and I ended up behind the bar, pouring margaritas, sneaking more tequila into the punch bowl, and generally being that girl. A friend came very late to the party and walked up to tell me that rumor had spread about how I was an instigator. Just because I had poured two rounds of shots for everyone in the house? Hey, if you succumb to peer pressure, how is that my fault??

A friend of a friend came up and started talking to me, someone I had never met before. I was just loopy enough to not have my guard up, and we ended up prattling on and on for a long time. He was a totally honest person, and told me something about how happy I was, how confident I seemed. It was all a farce, of course, with the shiny veneer of tequila making everything seem magical and sparkly, but it struck me that he mentioned my attitude. I woke the next morning with a vague sense of having learned something new.

About a week later, my best friend and I were at Copa d'Oro with a group of friends. We were chatting, just sitting around. I had no expectations of the evening. I was still puzzling over the meaning of the meeting at the party, distracted by the conversation that I had had, incredulous that I could have had such a great talk with someone I didn't know at all.

It was a sort of time-and-place incident that cemented my new-found knowledge. My friend and I were sitting down. Someone comes over and says hi to my friend, and sits next to her. He's introduced to everyone, yadda-ya. Then someone else comes in. This new someone is a someone that I do not like, because all he does is talk about work and complain about his job. Let's call this dude Whiny. Whiny comes in and we all stand to say hello, hugs all around.

I lean over and hiss to my best friend that if she does not trade places with me, I will kill her. She told Whiny that we would be there, and I do not appreciate it. She understands, knowing how I feel about Mr. Whiny, and promptly switches places with me. She also does not want to die.

Of course, Whiny usurps all of my friend's attention. We're in a bar, so talking to the person across the table from me is out, because I don't feel like screaming. So I'm stuck with this dude that I don't know that I am suddenly sitting next to- we'll call him Newbie.

Between the the hard ginger lemonade we'd consumed at the beach earlier and the relief coursing through me that I was not stuck with Whiny, I was, again, a sitting duck without my guard up. Newbie and I struck up a conversation, and it went eerily similarly to the one I'd had a week earlier at the party.

I didn't know, at that point, whether I was just meeting very friendly people or if it was me that presented such a different front that people were reacting to me in a way that I had never experienced.

Since I had had such pleasant experiences, I started being nice to strangers, beginning my months of hyper-social behavior. If you know me, you would know that this is a big deal. And what do you know, people were pleasant! Maybe not interesting enough for me to want to see them again, but pleasant enough for a few minutes of conversation.

This revelation should have hit me over the head years ago, but I'm happy to know it now. I am not friends with Newbie anymore- after a summer of fun, we sort of drifted apart (well ... it wasn't as elegant as "drifting"). I am still friends with Random Guy from Party, which is nice. We're not best friends, we don't talk every day, but we're friends. The kind that see each other once every month or so for drinks, the kind of friends that listen to the other's problems and laugh at the other's bad jokes. Very easy and no pressure, just the type of friend I like.

As this show gets busier and I have less and less time to be social, I hope I don't forget how to make nice. I hope this newly discovered skill is a life-long thing, and I am always able to make friends in a crowd full of strangers.

(In re-reading this post, I had another realization. When I don't have a specific point to make, I ramble and meander. I need a topic and an outline when I write these things, I think.)


william October 12, 2009 at 6:39 PM  

i saw this tim gunn interview ( maybe 3 weeks ago, and heard about this epiphany that sounds similar to what you've experienced lately (around the 10 minute mark).

i have some of the same problems in terms of meeting new people. i'm polite, but i'm not friendly. in a way, i don't expect people to respond well to me, but then i complain later about how people think i'm a bitch (but in the back of my head, i know i'm a bitch).

i haven't experienced your epiphany. maybe later in life.

jeanny October 12, 2009 at 7:11 PM  

I love Suchin.

I also love that Tim Gunn says to dress for who you want to be. I would take it even further- BE who you want to be.

I'm sure you'll have the epiphany when you're supposed to- can't wait for it to hit you! It will change your life.