I think there's something wrong with me.
I say this in my mind as I gaze at my reflection in the restroom mirror at work one afternoon. I'm getting ready to leave for home -- for real this time -- but I can't get the weirdness of the earlier exchange out of my mind:
"See ya, Sra!"
"I don't think she's leaving."
The ellipsis is me, not knowing what to say. I wasn't leaving for the day then, I was just putting some mail in the outbox next to the door. But they mistook me for leaving, and so they said goodbye, and then spoke about me in third person instead of to me in second person, and then I just didn't know what to say. So I didn't say anything and just went back up the stairs to my desk where I had a few things to finish up. This spurred the questioning vocative from my Boss, but still I said nothing.
I didn't know what to say.
What would a normal person have said?
Somehow I think this is the type of thing a normal person wouldn't have even had to think about. They'd have paused in the doorway to the kitchen and cracked some joke about how they're not really leaving. But I can't think of a joke to say in that situation. I can't think of a damn thing to say.
So I'm staring at myself in the mirror, feeling awkward and wondering why social exchanges are so difficult for me. They really always have been, I know that, and I know that I've always felt different from everyone else, even since I was a child. Social things that other people understand naturally are completely foreign to me. For instance, though I do have a sense of humor, it's a special kind of sense of humor that isn't really compatible with most people's. Frequently I can't tell that someone is joking about something, and I end up looking foolish by taking them seriously. Also, I don't understand how to make small talk, I don't enjoy doing it, and I don't even see the point of it. Why should I want to talk to someone about little details of their lives when I don't really know them that well and I don't plan on getting to know them well? These are some of the things that make me different from most people.
There was a brief period in which I was able to overcome my different-ness somewhat. I have alcohol to thank for that. Now that makes me sound like a real lush, so let me just clarify that I didn't drink my problems away. Rather, I was able to see myself through the uninhibited, fearless eyes of a girl who's had a few too many drinks... well, alright, a girl who got completely, stupidly, and sing-on-the-street-corner-in-the-middle-of-the-night-at-the-top-of-your-lungs-edly trashed. And by seeing myself like that, I was able to say, Hey, this being confident and socially fearless stuff isn't as hard as it seems!
So for awhile -- about two years give or take -- I was able to apply the same uninhibited attitude of my drunken self to my sober self. I felt much more normal. I almost even felt like I could see social situations in the same way most people probably see them.
But that period ended shortly after I was hired on at the Law Firm. Luckily, it lasted through my interview, because I'm confident that if they had seen me how I really am -- timid and shy and scared am I -- they never would have offered me the job.
I'm different from other people, I know that. And I want to be ok with that. I want to not care what other people think of me. But I do care. I hate that I care, but I do.
Maybe one day I will learn to embrace the awkwardness that is me, and not be afraid to show myself for who I really am behind the mask that I awkwardly try to wear for others. I hope one day I find the courage and the way.
Until then, there's the person in the mirror staring back at me, trying hard to be brave, and hoping that nobody notices how scared she really is.
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