I didn’t get invited to parties in high school. I don’t say this for sympathy, or to complain; honestly, I didn’t even know there was a party scene at my school because my circle of friends all hung out at the coffee shop at the bottom of the hill and didn’t care much for loud music and mind-altering substances. So it’s not like I ever really felt left out. I had my crowd, and the partiers had theirs. You do you.
Rather, I bring this up because that’s the only social situation I can really think of that might have helped me suppress my introversion to the point that I wouldn’t feel so supremely uncomfortable walking into a room where I don’t know anyone and where I am not completely certain that I’m welcome.
For instance, I signed up for a gym membership on the island where I’ll be living this summer, so as not to negate all the progress the Southern Belle and I had made in Zumba during the school year. But joining the classes means walking into the gym. By myself. Where people, stronger and fitter and taller people, are also working out. And judging me. Probably. I feel like that would happen, anyway. The employees will probably be perfectly happy to have me there – I did give them my money, after all – but the social situation of trying to improve myself while also being acutely aware that I’m in a group of complete strangers doesn’t exactly put me at ease.
And then tomorrow, my boss invited me to a writing group at the coffee shop on the end of the pier. Now, I’ve never been part of a writing group before. And I will know someone there (my boss) and I have been explicitly invited (again, by my boss). But I can just picture myself walking in, laptop in hand, pulling up a chair to the corner of the table because of course there won’t actually be room for me, so right away I’ll be inconveniencing the people who have probably been coming there forever, and then I’ll have such bad writer’s block that I’l end up just rereading that horrible, horrible mystery story I tried to write in 5th grade and slink out at the end of the meeting, aware of my own utter lack of talent and convinced that everyone else could tell I didn’t deserve to be there.
Yeah, even as I write that it sounds ridiculous and a little paranoid.
The fact is, everyone at the gym will probably be in their own little world, just like me, and some of them might even be encouraging. And the people at the writing group will probably be perfectly welcoming and eager to hear what I’m writing about and want to motivate everyone in the group to just get writing, no matter how terrible the first draft might be.
But this is how I feel anytime I walk into an unfamiliar place, like a gym or a writing group, on my own. I can’t seem to shake the idea that I am somehow lacking, that I will be intruding if I ask for guidance or friendship, that I am annoying the one person I do know by sticking so close to them but also will commit some kind of social sin if I try to branch out on my own. I feel like I stick out like Elle Woods in her bunny costume at her first Harvard party.
I may be faking it pretty well. I may even be socializing even better than I think I am.
But all I really want to do is go home and read with a cup of coffee. It’s so much easier to introduce my awkward self to the world through the written word, like this blog. Socializing is hard, guys.