When I meet someone new I like to preface our acquaintanceship by telling them that my life is one long string of awkward events. The reason being that I feel the need to justify the next utterance I speak, the next step I take, or the next situation in which I find myself because I just know it will be, well…awkward.
It’s not that I can’t carry on normal conversation or that I am clumsy. Rather, I tend to over-analyze every word I speak, every move I make and every situation in which I partake to a point where I slap the awkard label on everything in order to conceal the social anxiety I’m feeling. And I really do mean everything. It seems I can’t ever seem to figure out the best thing – or most normal thing – to say or do in a given situation, the problem being that the majority of situations are not a given – they just happen. And they seem to just happen more and more to me.
Although I constantly receive comments about how mature and put together I appear, on the inside I feel like a rubber band ball overgrown so big that I can’t even determine which band to pull off first to relieve some of the stress. In college, while other students could casually stroll into class two minutes late or walk out of class mid-lecture to use the restroom, I would have rather died or peed my pants before disrupting class, which you know would have resulted in 50 pairs of eyes focused on me. Don’t even try to tell me no one notices.
Looking back on it now, peeing my pants would have caused a much more embarrassing scene and yet, the thought of it still wasn’t enough to will me out my chair. I’ve tried to blame it on 13 years of private Catholic school where we were punished for being tardy and forbidden from going to the bathroom during class, the only exception being that if there was absolutely no way to hold it in then only one and one person only could go at a time. You can imagine my shock on the first day of college at the absence of a bell ringing, the emptiness of the wall near the door where a bathroom pass should dangle, and the audacity of that student going to the bathroom while someone else had already left the classroom to do the same thing.
My older friends always told me that by the time they reached their mid-20s, they felt secure with who they were and that they didn’t feel as awkward in their skin as they did as a teenager or young adult; despite having 25 years of age, I realized today that I still bear the scars of structure that Catholic school imposed and that I still feel equally as anxious.
Today, what happened, was that a Deer Park Water service technician came out to exchange our office kitchen’s misbehaving water cooler. Of course, he arrived at noon on the dot with just under 4 minutes to go on the toaster oven timer counting down to my perfectly crispy frozen pizza lunch. I immediately became agonizingly aware of the gravity of the situation at hand: the timer would sound at exactly the moment the service guy was bent over, plumber’s crack exposed, in the middle of the exchange. If only kitchen timers were designed to stop alarming on their own; then, I would have sat at my desk, found comfort in knowing the timer would only annoy the service guy for 3 beeps, and let the pizza burn. But no, the Cuisinart engineers couldn’t provide me that luxury; thus, it happened that I pulled up my big girl panties, rose to the occasion, entered the kitchen head held high, owned up to cooking the pizza and excused myself. That was that.
After the incident I sat at my desk eating lunch trying to figure out why I had experienced anxiety over something so irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. The guy didn’t even flinch when I walked in but I was so worried about disturbing him. Why? Is it because I’m a people-pleaser afraid of upsetting someone’s flow? Do I not know how to voice my needs? I mean, a girl’s got to eat. Or, what if the situation were reversed? Would I have moved out of the way with a smile? Or would I have huffed and puffed and rolled my eyes at the person trying to retrieve lunch for the day? Maybe it’s not that everyone else will judge me. Maybe it’s me who judges everyone else. And being familiar with the judgments that go through my mind, could I be living in fear that others will make those same judgments about me?
Or it could be that I know Psychology all too well, fated – no, cursed – to analyze every human thought, action and interaction that ever was.
One thing is certain: I am the common denominator. It’s me who is present in every awkward situation. I am the one that harbors anxious thoughts and it is only me who can turn that anxiety into something productive – the one with the power to stop over-thinking and start doing.
It’s kind of like writing a blog post…sometimes you have to stop editing yourself over and over and just click “Publish”.