When you’re in high school, you think the friends you have then are the friends you have forever. Fortunately, I still have some of those friends in my life today, but there are quite a few who haven’t stood the test of time. The cyclical nature of life has a way of doing that. Eventually, you grow up and you stop to ask yourself, “Where did everyone go?” Then you bump into old friends or acquaintances, or meet new people, and you find yourself in a whirlwind of thoughts and emotions that make you question: Should I have _____? Or would I rather be a b*tch, a snob, or a coward?
One of my other fears is this: I see someone I used to be good friends with across the room. We were relatively good friends, but life eventually got the best of our relationship. I approach them to say hello and I’m met with a side-eye saying, “Why are you talking to me?”
Andrel sometimes teases me whenever he brings up a random name from the past. He would say a name from high school and I would casually mention, “Oh yeah, we were good friends at one point.” He’d laugh, then proceed to ask me who I haven’t been friends with. Throughout high school, I thrived on social interaction. So, more times than not, I’ll run into someone I used to be close friends with whenever I’m home in Toronto.
Whenever I run into these old friends, my initial thought is always they don’t really want to talk to me. Because to some extent, I feel guilty that I didn’t keep up with the friendship. They have every right to side-eye me. They have every right to greet me coldly. So, should I just wait it out and see if they’ll greet me? Should I run the risk of being embarrassed and humiliated? Eventually, enough fear builds up inside of me that I convince myself to give a weak smile from across the room with a weak wave.
But here’s a crazy thought: What if they’re feeling the exact same way as me? What if they know they didn’t do their part either to keep the friendship alive? They acknowledge that life happens and friendships fade, but there are no hard feelings. So, now I’m sitting here, being awkward and ignoring this person. Congrats to me: I’m officially being a b*tch.
I’ve challenged myself to chance the possibility of the side-eye. It might suck in the moment. I might feel slightly embarrassed. But I can get over it. I’ll say my hello, make polite small talk, then be on my way. Or I’ll say my hello, they greet me warmly, and we’ll catch up on each other’s lives. I’ll never know which scenario will play out if I continue to choose to be b*tchy.
One of my fears has always been this: I recognize someone I’ve met before. We didn’t have extensive interactions, but we interacted enough for me to recognize them. I approach them to say hello, but I’m met with a blank stare asking, “Why are you talking to me?”
When I come across someone I’ve met before, my initial thought is always they don’t remember me. Because why should they? We’re not actually friends. I’m not anyone important. Why should they? I can’t be the only one who feels this way, am I? Whenever I recognize someone across the room, the above scenario is on replay in my head as I debate whether or not I should go up to them. Should I wait to see if they’ll recognize me and approach me? Or should I run the risk of this particular scenario playing out? Eventually, enough fear builds up inside of me that I convince myself to look the other way.
But here’s a crazy thought: What if they do recognize and remember me? I mean, I may not be the most important person in their world, but people are capable of remembering people they’ve met more than once in the past. And even if they don’t remember who I am, people are capable of being polite and civil. So, now I’m sitting here, looking the other way, and ignoring this person. Congrats to me: I’m officially a snob. I’m sure I’m not the only one part of the club.
Recently, I convinced myself to run the risk of being met with that blank stare of “Who are you and why are you talking to me?” because it’s a small embarrassment that I can easily get over. I’ll awkwardly laugh as I explain to them who I am and where we met, we’ll make polite small talk, then I’ll be on my way. Or it may spark the beginning of a deeper friendship and we’ll make intentional plans to meet up again. I’ll never know how it plays out if I continue to act snob-ish.
Then there’s this other fear that has nothing to do with people you already know and everything to do with complete strangers: I meet someone for the first time. It could be by complete coincidence or through mutual friends. I try to strike up a conversation and I’m met with a confused glaze asking, “Why are you talking to me?”
When I graduated from university, my parents and my brother flew out to Alberta to celebrate with me. My brother and I were walking around campus at some point during the weekend and I would timidly smile at everyone we passed by. Not thinking anything of it, my brother observed my unusual timidness and asked me a question: “Do you say hi to everyone?” I stopped for a moment and shook my head. “No, I don’t.. I don’t think anyone really knows me,” I replied without thinking much of my statement. My brother quickly responded, “Why not?” And to that, I had no reply.
Whenever I encounter unfamiliar or familiar strangers, my initial thought is always they don’t want to know me. It’s this insecurity that they might not find me to be interesting enough or cool enough or smart enough. It’s this fear that they won’t like me, so why should I even try. We replay the above situation over and over again in our heads, talking ourselves out of meeting new people.
But here’s a crazy thought: What if they do end up wanting to get to know you as a friend? What if they’re in the exact same spot as you: open to meeting new people and making new friends? I truly believe we’re all looking to connect with others on some level and the person you’re avoiding making eye contact with may be able to meet you on your level. So, you miss out on what could possibly be the start of a great friendship because of fear. Congrats.
I’ve also crazily convinced myself to run the risk of possibly being rejected because, once again, it’s a small embarrassment that I will have to learn to get over. I’ll make the polite small talk, then move on with my life to possibly never encounter this person again. Or something sparks and our encounters become a bit more frequent. Again, I’ll never know unless I stop acting cowardly.After university, you start to hear the same phrase over and over again: “It’s hard to make friends the older you get.” And I believe it. Because we’d rather be b*itchy or snob-ish or cowardly. We all see the risk of embarrassment, of failure, of rejection. We’re afraid that our greatest fears will become realized. For some reason, we don’t think of the other side of the coin. We don’t realize that things could actually go.. well. We don’t think that our greatest fears could actually be irrational and illogical, that we’re wrong.
So, here’s to no longer being b*tchy, snob-ish, or cowardly. Here’s to taking a risk, hoping for the best, and getting over it anyways if it doesn’t go well. I’ll let you know if I survive.