Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Minnesota Nice & Organizer Burnout

Pet Peeve Alert. No, wait-- Double...actually... Triple Pet Peeve Alert!

I occasionally suffer from a mild, self-invented and self-inflicted disorder I've dubbed "Organizer Burnout." It basically means I get tired of being the Reacher-Outter.

While I like to sometimes organize a lunch date, play date, or outing, I don't always want to be the one who does it. I do my part, but ever since I moved to Minnesota, it feels like I get stuck in a rut where once I start a friendship being the Organizer with a capital "O," everyone kind of depends on me to continue that role indefinitely.

Well, that's a lot of pressure, and after enough time in the role, I start to feel taken for granted and a little wounded. While I might often reach out to new people-- that's just who I am-- I certainly wouldn't mind it if someone reached out to me now and then. I would be thrilled!

[Which brings me to a secondary pet peeve: when people run into you and say "hi stranger!" as a not-so-subtle accusation. Um, what? How do people not see that friendships go both ways? If you haven't reached out to me either in the last few months, why am I cast aside as the "stranger?" Why is it always the Other Person who has to initiate contact? It gets old.]

This brings me to my final peeve: the Minnesota Nice misnomer.

Minnesota Nice is a thing, kind of, sort of. People around the country think of Minnesotans as sooooo nice, with our quaint accented O's and our cozy sweaters and our Caribou coffee. And Minnesotans are nice, for the most part. I don't run into mean, grumpy people very often. Most people smile and nod; they enjoy surface-level chatting in the check-out line.

However, as for truly reaching out to non-Minnesotans, no, I don't think there's a lot of that going on here. It just doesn't seem to be naturally embedded in the local culture of those who were born-and-raised here. In that sense, I don't "blame" anyone. This is just how it is here, but it' been a steep learning curve for me as a non-native.

Of course, there are exceptions. I have a few lifelong-Minnesotan friends who have always been welcoming and warm. I really appreciate them. But in general, if I've wanted to break into a group of friends or meet someone new here, the onus is on me. I need to be the one to put myself out there, to plan All The Things, and to be, yes, The Organizer.

In the summer here especially, when there aren't any preschool drop-offs and pick ups, or any sociable school functions, it feels like almost everyone retreats into their private Minnesota comfort zones-- to their family cabins, to their siblings and cousins who live down the street, and to wherever "up north" is. It's as if the friendships I thought was forming all year, go poof!  and vanish from June-August.

Where does everyone go?!

I believe in cutting people slack, so no, I try not to hold grudges against those who fade in and out of my life. We all have our stuff-- our battles. Still, it can be lonely navigating the social world and the subtle cultural differences in this state, even though I've now lived here for 12 years.

My other tactic in making friends is building relationships with other non-native transplants. Several of my friends have moved here from other parts of the country.

The holidays are fast approaching, and it's easy to forget in all our busy-ness that many people around us do not have family nearby. Maybe they are from out of state, like me, or even from out of the country. Consider reaching out to them. When was the last time you invited someone new to your house?

For my part, I'm making an effort to reach out to the women I've recently met who have moved across the world to live here. The ones who may struggle with the language and culture, and on top of that of course want to make friends and feel secure in this new place they call home. This season, I am putting myself out there to be truly Minnesota Nice while balancing my tendency towards Reacher-Outter burnout.

Please note: I am not trying to rail against Minnesotans. After all, I have made this state my home and there are aspects about it that I love. It is possible the Reacher-Outter role is required of a newcomer in any state; I am just speaking from my own experience.

~Julia @ Frantic Mama

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  1. My dad is from Minnesota, but I've never lived there myself. I was kind of in a similar situation last year, when I was helping with a carpool of 6 girls to a choir rehearsal. I was always the one to organize the weekly carpool, and guess who had to drive every week! It got to be very stressful!

    1. I can't imagine not offering to pitch in a carpool like that! Wow. Well, good for you for offering! It gets tiring, though, being the one offering all the time...

  2. I don't live anywhere near, but I understand! I can still relate. It is hard to be the one always initiating and being taken for granted too! We have a reading group at our local library, my son loves being there every Saturday and I spend time outside with the younger one chasing him around the garden. Another little one stays there with his mum and I find myself entertaining and keeping an eye on the two of them while the other mum nods , smiles and sits down with her phone!!? I d like to say something but I don't because my little one loves this new friend! Ugh!

    1. What a tricky situation you are in! It would be hard for me not to be annoyed with that other mom! And yet I know what it's like to let something go for the sake of your child. Ahhhh, the things we do for our kids!!


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