Humans are social creatures. It’s important for us to feel a sense of belonging. This fundamental need drives us to seek company; to form meaningful relationships with others; to engage in conversation. Essentially, we seek to make a human connection. A disconnect can lead to social isolation, loneliness and depression.
I struggled with my sense of identity and belonging throughout childhood and early adulthood. I was an extremely introverted child and shied away from people. I wasn’t able to effectively communicate and therefore, I found it difficult to make friends.
As a grown-ass adult, conversation still doesn’t come easily for me. Unfortunately, I’m also awkward as f#@k. Random sh!t just comes out of my pie hole. On the outside, I might look aloof and confident but on the inside, I’m a jumbled mess of insecurities that could rival that of a fifteen-year-old teenager. My six-year-old daughter has more pizzazz and social skills than I do. It’s really embarrassing. Luckily my friends accept me for who I am, flaws and all.
Recently, I met a mother of a child in the same swimming class as my daughter.
“Hello,” I said to the woman sitting next to me.
She gave me a welcoming smile and asked, “Which one is your child?”
“Oh Mandy,” I replied, pointing at the rambunctious girl doing cannonballs into the pool and getting told off. I rolled my eyes. She had a few minutes until class started and still managed to get into trouble.
“You’ve got a lively one there,” she laughed.
I giggled. “You don’t know the half of it!” Mandy’s a Little Miss Independent.
Lisa, the woman, was a talker. This suited me just fine as it prevented me from any outbreaks of verbal diarrhoea.
“Breanna does choir, ballet and swimming on Saturdays. She does Japanese, tennis and piano during the school week.”
“Oh Mandy does piano,” I threw in. It had been a while since I contributed to the conversation and I didn’t want to look disinterested.
“Yes, piano is so good for the brain. Breanna has done it for a few years now. She’s excelling at the moment. Did you know that music makes children smarter? I’ve listened to classical music since Breanna was in my tummy.”
Lisa rambled on and on. I don’t think she had paused since we started talking. How did she do that? She must have huge lung capacity.
I gave a noncommittal grunt as I watched Mandy attempt breast stroke. I was so proud that she was giving it a go.
“And of course, I had to speak to her teacher about the girl not inviting Breanna to her party. It’s just not acceptable in this day and age.”
I realised I had zoned out. I tried refocusing on what Lisa was saying.
Does she realise she’s monopolising the conversation? Is she a nervous chatterer? Is it possible that someone is more socially inept than me?
Our girls hopped out of the pool and rushed over to get dried. Lisa was still talking. I heard ‘coffee’, ‘next time’ and ‘see you’. My brain connected some imaginary dots.
“Yeah, I’d love to,” I replied, absent-mindedly stuffing Mandy’s things into her swim bag.
Lisa shot me a wary expression and left.
“Mum, why did you say you’d love to when she said ‘see you’?” Mandy asked me with a look of confusion.
“Lisa asked me to go for a coffee next time she sees me,” I said, a little uncertain.
“No she didn’t.” Mandy scrunched her brow. “She said she needed a coffee next time, and she said see you.”
“Oh.” That explained the weird look then.
Yes, I’m socially awkward. Yes, I say random things. Silver linings people. I’m pretty awesome at listening… most of the time.
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