Thursday, May 3, 2012
"Does Anybody Hear Her, Does Anybody See?"
If you know me, you probably know that social interaction is not one of my strengths. I have been awkward and painfully shy all of my life. I wasn't one of the lucky ones who was born with the innate ability to navigate my way through social situations smoothly. I usually don't know what to say, and my jokes fall flat because I am nervous. In big groups of new people, when they talk to me I stutter and turn beet red, and then just usually shut up and let everyone else talk.
I have been told that I come across as being snobby. I really don't mean to come across that way, it's just that I don't know what to say to people. Once I get to know people, I am an open book and usually don't know when to shut up. I have had some of my best friends look at me and ask if I really just told them that because it is something deeply personal.
Deputy D has taken me places and people have apologized and said they felt bad that I had such a horrible time. Well, I didn't have a horrible time. I was just watching and listening. That's what I normally do when we go to new places. I watch and listen and soak it all in until I feel comfortable enough to contribute. I listen until I know a little more about people and what they are interested in and like to talk about so that I can intelligently contribute to the conversation.
Growing up, I spent most of my life with my nose in a book because I didn't have to interact with the characters. It didn't matter how I dressed or if I misspoke when I talked. The characters lived out their stories in spite of me. When teachers said the words "group project" or "oral presentation", I literally almost had a panic attack. I would get nauseous and light-headed and my chest would get tight and I had hard time breathing.
Just leave me alone and let me stay behind the scenes and I will be fine. Yes, I know you cannot live your whole life like that, and it has gotten a little better as I have gotten older. One of the reasons is that I have had to deal with people on a daily basis in my current job, and I love it. The people are great and I like to think that it has allowed me to stretch my wings and grow a little. I have come a long way since Deputy D burst into laughter when I told him I wanted to interview for a sales job.
It's amazing that Deputy D and I made it past our first date, because there were many, many lulls in the conversation and he said pulling information out of me was like pulling teeth. Lucky for me, Deputy D is stubborn and persistent and thought I might be worth the trouble.
I have also had a couple of really good mentors along the way to help pull me out of my box, and have belonged to an organization that has helped my grow my social skills in an environment I feel very safe in. However, new situations, new places, and new people still really scare me. It's hard for me to go new places where I don't know anyone. I still feel that moment of panic when I realize that I am going to have to put myself out there and talk to people that I don't know.
I am letting you know all of this so that I can get on my soapbox and rant for a second. If you are a group or organization that desires and wants new members, please realize that sometimes visitors are people like me. They aren't always brave enough to break into groups to try and be included or jump out there and introduce themselves.
I have visited an organization twice now, where I was very obviously a new person. The first time, I was by myself because Deputy D was working and not one person in the room spoke to me or introduced themselves until the leader walked in and told me his name. They had a conversation without even acknowledging that I was in the room. And it was a small enough group that there was no way that no one saw me.
The second time was a dinner situation where it was my entire family. We got there pretty early and picked a table because not many people were seated. And no one came to sit with us or let us know there was room at their table to join them once they started sitting down. Deputy D and I were ready to leave, and only stayed because Little Man begged us to. He wanted to hang around for the kids' activities that were taking place after the meal. We spent the entire meal at a table by ourselves.
I understand that it is going to take some effort on my part, but for us to be left alone at a table the entire time when it was our first time visiting is appalling to me. I feel like it is not important to the organization for them to get to know us or to help us get involved.
I wish they knew how hard it was for me to just walk through the doors and ask around until I find where I need to be and what is going on. I don't think I will ever be at a place where I can just go interrupt a conversation so that I can introduce myself or just go sit myself with a group uninvited so that I am not alone. I wish they knew that I was sitting there arguing with myself whether or not I had the courage to speak up and introduce myself to a room full of people because no one was speaking to me. I wish they knew I was sitting there with my heart pounding, trying to work up the courage.
I guess I am asking you not to assume that people are snobby or angry or aloof when they don't just dive into a social situation. There may be more to the story than you know, and it may be worth the time to reach out and talk to them. I met my best friend in college that way. I, as usual, had my nose in a book before class started, and she just plopped down beside me and started talking to me like we had known each other our whole lives.
I am working on my issues, and I am going to keep trying with the organization for Little Man's sake because he is doing so well there. I just needed to get it off my chest, so that hopefully I can find a way to reach out and meet some people in spite of the fact that right at this moment, I just want to walk away and give up.
"If judgment looms under every steeple
If lofty glances from lofty people
Can't see past her scarlet letter
And we've never even met her
Never even met her, never even met her
Does anybody hear her? Does anybody see?
Or does anybody even know she's going down today?
Under the shadow of our steeple
With all the lost and lonely people
Searching for the hope that's tucked away in you and me"