Writing this is difficult for me. The idea of how to explain my sketchy social behavior leaves my mouth dry and my head pounding. I will begin by saying that I am always filled with envy when meeting people who are actually good at consummating friendships and are comfortable with being overtly extroverted. It seems like most of the world has this skill dialed. I am pretty sure most people even enjoy themselves when they are with a large group of friends. And I can't help but wonder what is wrong with me.
Sometimes I feel like a social anorexic; denying myself the food of deep friendships, all the while slowly wasting away into a ghost or shadow of myself....someone easily looked through or seldom considered as an individual fit to be a good friend. And honestly, it is a symptom of my own choices. At some point, people get tired of inviting someone who never shows up or when they do show up, they are awkward, introspective and just plain weird. I have watched happy people become uncomfortably silent in my presence. And thus, the awkwardness between us grows and the intensity of my social discomfort only increases. I feel the need to run away, leave the scene or to find a chair in a dim corner and wait to go home.
And I will admit to bailing on more than one occasion when the pressure of just showing up to a party or event felt overwhelming and frightening. I have any number of default excuses that keep me from participating in large (or small) gatherings and I try and rotate through them; never giving the same excuse to the same person more than once in a row. And even as the excuses come tumbling out of my mouth, inside my head I am screaming to myself. Because more than anything, I want to be among you, I just don't know how to do it.
As it is with most people, personal baggage can be hard to identify and can take years of hard work to rectify. I have tried to pinpoint exactly when I developed such a friendship phobia (I don't have a people phobia; I love people) and it seems to have started in grade school and continued all the way through high school. Constant shunning by individuals I identified as 'good friends' and even some of my favorite family members, led me to build a wall around the softest parts of my heart. For the sake of self preservation I began to keep friends at arms length in anticipation of the eventual pain that comes with the dissolution of a friendship.
When I finally made my way to college my relationships became more genuine, stable and real. And although the wall was still there, I built a sturdy door with a solid lock and started handing out copies of the key to a couple of my favorite people. The door can still be barred from the inside, so even with a key, admittance is not guaranteed. I have heard the term 'social anxiety' and I suppose that applies to me. And although many people I know would describe me as extroverted (I interact openly with strangers, just not friends), the core of my being still houses a huddled and scared introvert.
But what I am really hoping to explain is that I understand that this is all on me; not on you, my friends. In fact, I love most of you more than you love me (certainly). I peek out of the curtains of my world into the great vista of yours and am satisfied with waving to you as you pass by. And honestly, I am content if you just wave back. If you are walking alone, I may even get over my fear enough to open the door and ask you if you want to come in. If you are traveling with a group, I will probably keep the door locked and I might even step away from the window and watch unnoticed through the gauze of the curtains. Some days, if I am feeling particularly safe, I might come outside and ask if it is okay to walk with you. And, mostly on those days, I am hoping that you will smile, take my hand and lead the way. Because I don't know how to lead this dance anymore, although I am willing to learn the steps.