I have terrible social skills.
I always have. I don’t know why–both my brothers are well-adjusted, sociable, likeable people, so it can’t be an environmental thing. I’m backwards, though. Shy. Weird. It made things difficult when I was younger. I remember I hated going to church because church meant Sunday School and Sunday School meant sitting in a room full of other kids who I didn’t know how to talk to.
The worst part about being socially awkward is being forced into social situations. It only makes it more uncomfortable. I’d get overwhelmed and I’d lose track of the conversation and my timing would be just a tick behind–so close, but when something is that close to being normal it makes it seem so much further off.
Regular school was tough, too. Every single first day gave me severe anxiety (although, back then I had no idea that this was even a thing–I knew I was different but I thought that I could force myself to be the same as everybody else. You can imagine how well that worked). Even if I remembered faces, names, friends, from past semesters… I didn’t know how to engage with them. Our relationship was forged in the confines of a particular classroom, and outside of that context I had no idea what to do or say. I didn’t have my script. I didn’t have a schema. And everybody else seemed to be doing just fine without one.
When I’m around new people I forget how to be myself. I know I’m inside me; I can feel my personality pressing against the inside of my skin. But there’s just something stopping me from letting it out.
I’m always just a few steps behind. It’s awful.
When I was in my late teens-early twenties, I drank. A lot. I drank because I couldn’t be social sober. I needed to drink until my inhibitions were completely wiped out. That means I don’t remember a lot of 19, 20, 21. Luckily, camera phones barely existed and apps like Snapchat and Instagram were merely a glint in their creators’ eyes, so I don’t have embarrassing photos/videos to fill in the gaps. I drank until I was funny. I drank until I knew the right things to say. I drank until I was drunk, and the rest I can’t quite remember.
University helped. I think it’s because in order to have any level of success in post-secondary school you’ve got to put yourself out there. Even if it’s just a little bit. I also managed to somehow make really good friends. Although, I’ve never had a problem forming strong bonds with people one-on-one–it’s group situations that really throw me off. But in school I found my way.
I faked it, mostly.
I stole behaviour from my best friend (a social situation wizard, god bless her). I would ask myself: What Would My BFF Do (WWMBFFD)? And go from there. It helped me quite a bit, and I’m grateful for her because of that (and for a multitude of other reasons as well).
In between the social anxiety and faked social competency, I stumbled into myself. I took a creative writing class and that creative writing class led to another creative writing class which led to another… and before I knew it, I was part of a community. Some of it, I built. And some of it was pre-fab. But all of it is a safe space where I can be all the parts of myself, comfortably.
I’m writing this because I’m moving in three months and I’m terrified to leave this community behind. I know I’m going to have to start all over, and that’s scary. I’m afraid this was a fluke. An accident. A mistake.
And I don’t know if I’ll be able to make it happen again.