Obligation. How does it happen? What external (or perhaps internal) force suddenly compels us to do something that we are not completely comfortable doing? In my case, it may just be my nature. I hate disappointing my friends and family, which often times causes me to spread myself thin or do things I really don't want to. However, yesterday I suddenly gained consciousness to this feeling of obligation to my new friend.
I was in Yaletown enjoying an afternoon with my roommate from last year, Sarah. We had plans to go to the movies and then to dinner, all of which I was really looking forward to. On my way downtown to meet her, my phone rang but I didn't hear it. Suddenly I had a voice mail from Patrick. I would have called him back, except that it didn't record the incoming call's number (which has never happened before). He mentioned that he would try calling me later. This was around 2.3o. Around 4.30 the movies was over, and not only did I have a missed call from him but there were 2 and each had a voice mail. No one calls me that persistently unless it is an emergency or they are my mom. I listened to both of them intently, and there as a hint of stress in his voice, which was mildly troublesome to hear. He said in the second voice mail that he would try calling me around 5. Like clock work he did. And that puts the total number of calls up to 4. Too many.
I was standing outside of the skytrain station with Sarah when I answered my phone. He sounded relieved that I had answered my phone and I (of course) apologized for having missed his calls. He asked me what I was up to and I said I was spending time with a friend of mine. Then he asked if I felt like going for a walk and then he could take me to dinner. According to Sarah, I had a very freaked out expression on my face the entire time but this was the moment when I was fully aware of it.
Rob warned me to know where my boundary lines lie. Definitely at platonic friendship. Mind you I had had lunch with Patrick last week, but in my mind, it was a friendly gesture. I told him that I couldn't because I already had plans for the evening. I was overcome with relief that I has a legitimate excuse to dodge this and that is worrisome to me. I felt bad for saying no, even though his proposal made me a bit uncomfortable and was something that I won't have wanted to do under any circumstance. But while sitting on the skytrain a few minutes later, it dawned on me. Had I not been with Sarah, I would have felt obligated to say yes and more than likely would have. Not good news for me.
At some level I have a sense of obligation to anyone that I am friends with. But this felt different and makes me nervous. Like I could potentially be coerced into more compromising situations. I suppose the more fundamental problem is that I'm not sure I trust Patrick because he aims seem unclear. I want to believe that he is just being friendly and making a genuine effort to be my friend. I can't help but to pay attention to my instincts this time (also something that rarely occurs).
So what should I do? I feel like avoiding him altogether now, which seems a bit radical but possibly necessary. I think this is mainly because I anticipate myself acting jumpy and weird. It's possible that I should firmly establish the kind of relationship that we have (ie a carved in stone friendship). This poses a situation that could also be awkward. For example, he could be completely offend if I suggest that he was doing something that he actually wasn't. Though I don't think it would be necessary to insinuate anything like that other in order to say that I think our friendship is great and let's keep it that way. In thinking about this whole thing, I think it might be better to do what I can to keep myself mentally stable and hedge off any chance of this taking a turn for the worst.