For years invisible has been the word to describe me socially. I hang back and observe those around me; keeping my distance and remaining in my ‘safe zone’. Perhaps this is a condtion I’ve developed due to events of my past. Not that I’m into blaming my past for my current problems, but the reality is that treatment we receive as children leave scars and can persuade certain habits later in life.
In my case, I was bullied a lot growing up. Not the intense bullying you hear about today, but it was still pretty traumatic for me. For the naysayers, I say you weren’t there. You weren’t in my shoes so don’t you dare try to minimize my experiences. Some may call it teasing, but back then it hurt me and I found the only way to attempt to avoid such treatment was to withdraw and try to escape into the background. That became the pattern for the rest of my life. I ducked under the radar and never made waves for fear of any backlash. I find to this day I have severe anxiety over engaging in group conversations for fear of becoming a target of ridicule. I’m rather nervous writing this right now feeling some reluctance over the attention this piece may receive. Even among my friends I have these concerns.
I must repeat at this point, I’m not blaming anyone or trying to cast shame. I’m just feeling the need to express this. I’ve just felt as of late sick of being in this shadow. I’ve come to the uneasy realization that over the many years of my life, I’ve failed to make many real connections with other people. I’m not the kind to make friends quickly or easily. I just don’t know how it’s done.
For some, it’s easy. I watch as others do it. They get asked about details about their name (Is it short for anything? Are you named after someone/something?) or they are grilled about their place of origin or what have you. For me the standard intro includes the shaking of hands, a quick ‘hello, what’s your name?’ a response to that question followed by a question about how I am doing, to which the answer is usually ‘fine’ since I don’t think a new acquaintance wants to hear the true, super long response and I certainly don’t feel exposing so much so quickly. After that there’s no where to go. They smile and move on to the next person and that person seems to inspire more questions than I was asked, and they usually have better answers. What is it about me that pushes them away? I smile and do all I can to be engaged, but they just don’t respond.
I don’t have much to say, I admit that. I have led a pretty typical life. Grew up in suburbia. Average student. I didn’t come from some far off city or country. I never really did anything too exceptional early on. I don’t have any ‘interesting’ tales to share about my life so to speak. I mean, if someone in a group announces that they suffered from a terrible disease and survived, while unfortunate they were stricken and great they recovered, you have to admit that admission automatically made them 100% more interesting than anyone else at that table. I’m just sayin’. Even now when I tell people I’m a writer, I hope that will be enough to spark conversation, but I’ve found that’s not even very unique. Every time I say it, someone else is quick to pop up with ‘me too!’ and there goes my hook. We may even end up talking about our trade, but two writers talking about writing can only be interesting for so long.
I just don’t understand why I have this barrier in me. Maybe it’s because while I want this one thing, I want it on my terms. I want to be liked and appreciated for who I really am and not have to change just to fit in or become more appealing, because I can’t do that. I’m not like everyone else, but then everyone is different, so why would anyone expect me to be so similar to all the others? Sometimes my behavior may just seem anti-social, but I’m not. I may not laugh at every joke you tell, but that doesn’t mean I don’t think it’s funny. I may not react like you want when you tell a story, but I’m still listening. I am as I have been made and while I have my limitations, so does everyone else, it just seems my limitations are more evident in the social world. I can only guess that my childhood experiences have informed my adult behaviors. This not an excuse or a cop out. In fact, to be totally honest, I have no idea what this is. I just feel this need to vent. I know that some will think I’m just whining.
Maybe it’s just the way I am. Maybe I just wasn’t born with a strong enough personality to be that popular. Or perhaps it’s just low self-esteem. Maybe I’m not who I really should be. I don’t know anymore. Am I a good person or am I just someone who allowed himself to be cast in a role that was convenient at the time? Maybe I’m really a horrible person. If I gave voice to a lot of the things that go through my mind, some could say that I am. There are so many explanations and reasons for this, I cannot tell you. There’s no way to know, and I’m just afraid I’ll never figure it out. I hope that’s not the case, and I hope just getting this out of my system might help.