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Learning to be Social

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I've been told all my life that living only truly starts when you leave your comfort zone. A terrifying prospect, for sure, but I have held it near to my heart for a long time and I think that there is some veracity to the statement. It doesn't call for you to jump off a cliff or swim with sharks (two things that absolutely terrify me by the way). Instead, it merely asks that you attempt to expand that bubble we all have, inch by inch, to get to a more full you. Right now, I'm in Virginia expanding my bubble; I'm here learning to be social.

Now, I know that sounds a bit sad, having to learn to be social but itís the honest truth for me. For as long as I can remember I have always been someone who is far more absorbed in his own self-reflecting or pondering or even brooding. People seem to come as a second thought. I could be sitting in the middle of Time Square during rush hour and not even notice a single person. Sure, the noise would annoy me after a while and I would look for a more quite place, but I could sit for easily over an hour just absorbed in watching and thinking. Never interacting.

Thatís what Iím trying to change this week. I joined a political activist group this past year out of my general interest in politics (as some of you might know I was originally a Polisci major). This group is a 501C3 registered organization, which is to say theyíre big. They span all of Virginia and include every school. Well my chapter president stopped me near the end of school and told me about a program that was coming up all about student leadership and learning how to essentially act as a lobbyist while still being a student. She told me that I should do it (Iím putting it nicely there -- I didnít actually get a choice) because she thought that I would benefit from it. Of course, I thought this was a slight at first because my social skills are the equivalent of a cold noodle: under cooked and undesirable. But in the end I opted to go, and now here I am.

And let me tell you this. I am thrilled, terrified, excited, anxious, alive, tired...just a mess of emotions and mental states. But I am also learning. I seem to have hit it off well with the people here. I really canít tell you why, I donít like me so when other people like me Iím always a little shocked. But these people all seem to like me...at least in some capacity.

I told myself during the drive (a lovely seven hour drive filled with traffic and delays mind you) that I would be as close to who I am as possible. I would not put on masks as I have often done before to slip by unnoticed, but I would also not just sit idley and watch from the sidelines. I was going to be me. What a liberating thought.

Perhaps itís because Iíve been pent up all summer with my parents, lacking any autonomy, or maybe I just was really ready to meet new people. Whatever the reasoning was doesnít matter though because I have been more social in the last two days than I have been all summer. Iím exhausted because it takes so much energy for me to engage with pretty much anyone, it feels like Iíve been running all day by the time I get some alone time. But despite this, I feel good with my progress.

I write this in my very minimal free time now, everyone else is busy watching the DNC. I donít mind not being social now, this is a gift to myself for all the hard work Iíve put into this day. I was authentic, and that authenticity somehow didnít paint me as an asshole or an insane person. I still canít get over that. I never thought there was more to me than either of those things.

Anyway, I hope that this was a somewhat enjoyable read to those of you who have made it this far, my lovely loyal readers and friends. Iím going to need a long shower now, and I will probably implode soon enough into a closed off, introverted bubble...but until that happens, Iíll keep doing what Albert Camus once said:
ďDonít walk in front of meÖ I may not follow

Donít walk behind meÖ I may not lead

Walk beside meÖ just be my friendĒ

Itís good to feel like I have some friends.

(EDIT: It appears that Camus might not have actually been the one to say that, but I love the man so Iíll stick with it until I can find out for sure)

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Updated July 29th, 2016 at 05:00 AM by Greyson

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  1. dither's Avatar
    Good luck with that Greyson, i hope you figure being social out. I never did. Years ago, i was never into groups but i must have done five, maybe six, adult-learning courses. They went okay, i did okay, but the social thing just didn't happen for me.
  2. Smith's Avatar
    Good going Greyson (did that for the alliteration)!

    It has taken me time to figure out being social too. The thing that helped me, was realizing I have no control over others in a social situation.

    Sure, if you hang out with somebody long enough you learn how they act. The things they say. You learn what that all means that it's almost like you're reading their mind.

    But in general, the best thing you can do is what you already did. Be yourself. Know yourself. And the rest falls as it was meant to.
  3. dither's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Smith
    Good going Greyson (did that for the alliteration)!

    It has taken me time to figure out being social too. The thing that helped me, was realizing I have no control over others in a social situation.

    Sure, if you hang out with somebody long enough you learn how they act. The things they say. You learn what that all means that it's almost like you're reading their mind.

    But in general, the best thing you can do is what you already did. Be yourself. Know yourself. And the rest falls as it was meant to.
    I've always felt the most at ease with complete strangers, it's the " getting to know part " that i was never comfortable with. Enjoyed meeting people but didn't want to stick around.
  4. Smith's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by dither
    I've always felt the most at ease with complete strangers, it's the " getting to know part " that i was never comfortable with. Enjoyed meeting people but didn't want to stick around.
    Perhaps an insecurity or general distrust of people?

    You don't have to open up quickly, or with a lot of people. Quality > quantity! ^_^

    Just whatever you're comfortable with my friend. That's important.
  5. dither's Avatar
    Best not go there.
  6. Smith's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by dither
    Best not go there.
    Sorry, didn't mean to make you feel uncomfortable! Keep on keepin' on dither. <3
    Updated July 29th, 2016 at 12:45 PM by Smith
  7. bdcharles's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by dither
    I've always felt the most at ease with complete strangers, it's the " getting to know part " that i was never comfortable with. Enjoyed meeting people but didn't want to stick around.
    I'm the same. When people first meet me everything's great. Then they get to know me and my shine wears off (in my head at least). The solution? Practise - and maintain - an air of mystery and distance, so that people will fall over themselves trying to discover "the real you"; and if you hold it just out of reach (the best place for it) the excitement never wanes. It works both ways - Hemingway drank to make other people more interesting; I keep them at arm's reach for the same reason. And it keeps you alert too; whenever they get close you have to come up with something new to tantalise them; writing a book falls neatly into that category. And lastly know when to bow out. Be that person who scarpers early from social engagements, ostensibly (and untruthfully but who cares about that?) to rush off to some other shindig (when of course we all know we're running back to our WIPs to do some proper socialising with our IFs)
  8. Donnam's Avatar
    Thank you Greyson, I enjoyed it right until the end. You touched on emotions I am sure we all experience at some time. ' I am thrilled, terrified, excited, anxious, alive, tired...just a mess of emotions and mental states.' I think you successfully left your comfort zone then. It's only a guess but I would say people are attracted to you because you're authentic. This emphasis why it is so important for children to have opportunities to build strong social skills. It allows us as adults to tuck ourselves away, but know how to blend (seemingly effortlessly and painlessly) when we're out. Give me a nature trail any day, so much less complicated.
  9. dither's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Smith
    Sorry, didn't mean to make you feel uncomfortable! Keep in keepin' on dither. <3
    Not uncomfortable Smith, just don't want to go off topic. It's supposed to be about you.
  10. escorial's Avatar
    yeah man the best way to learn is to just watch other people and see how they react and interpret other people..especially strangers..cool man..i can give you a few of my chat up lines for the ladies but I might unleash a power in you that could destroy your ability to love..anyway keep watching and learning....

  11. dither's Avatar
    Tell you what, life can be really boring when you don't know anybody.
    Updated August 1st, 2016 at 01:52 PM by dither
  12. Greyson's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by dither
    Tell you what, life can be really boring when you don't know anybody.
    Life is boring regardless of how many people you know...what makes it interesting is how you going about making it your own. I think one of the biggest things I learned this week -- right before my entire body shut down from people overload-- was that you can do as much as you want, be as active as you want, talk to as many people as you want, but unless you're enjoying yourself you're wasting your time.

    It doesn't matter how many friends you have, so long as you can expect to be yourself in the fullest sense around them and so long as you can expect to have a good time.

    ď[H]e never ceased in his heroic and earnest endeavor to love them, to be just to them, to do them no harm, for the love of his neighbor was as deeply in him as the hatred of himself, and so his whole life was an example that love of one's neighbor is not possible without love of oneself, and that self-hate is really the same thing as sheer egoism, and in the long run breeds the same cruel isolation and despair.Ē -- Hermann Hesse

    Don't convince yourself that there is a difference. I hope I didn't misread anything, and I hope this made sense. Buck up man, you always have me as a friend.
  13. dither's Avatar
    Greyson, social contacts are invaluable.

    Take now for instance, i'm desperate to find another job, i have minor problems with my house, nothing massive, little more than niggles. Many people might say " oh i know, i could have a word with such and such", put the word out. Somebody might be able to suggest something and of course, that's not a one-way thing. That's not an option for me.

    Love? I wouldn't know how.

    I'm going on about me again but this IS about all you others who might consider going it alone, DON'T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT.


    Make the effort

    Even now. Take yesterday. I sat on a public in town, bored witless. Some chap came and sat beside me. I getting ready to walk. He coughed few times, nervously it seemed. I folded up my newspaper, put it in my bag, then he got up and left.
    Updated August 2nd, 2016 at 03:49 PM by dither
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