You know that guy who has his social life mastered? It seems like he’s at every community function or social gathering, restaurant or bar, or even school and church activities. As smoothly as a chameleon, he always dresses the part, but more importantly, he’s always socially confident as he nonchalantly wows the masses. He never trips over his words or his own feet. He never relentlessly shoves his foot in his mouth when he encounters new people or any novel social setting. I am certain this guy would find me either charming or intolerable depending on the amount of grace he holds for mediocre social losers, such as myself.
When I was younger, I was boldly and confidently me. I wore what I liked, said what I meant, and did what I was compelled to do without fear of social scoffing. In high school, I was a unique mediocre character, but I was proud of that character. Throughout college, I was so outgoing, I couldn’t enter a single restaurant in my small college town without running into a handful of acquaintances with whom I could casually chat it up. Upon entering my graduate school program several years ago, I completed the Myers Briggs Personality Indicator. I scored a zero in the introversion category, which honestly makes no sense considering the reality that introversion and extroversion act more as a continuum. I live convinced I am much more introverted and mediocre at this phase of my life, though the source of my daily energy continues to pour in from social interactions. My current bout with social inadequacies leaves me mulling over the question, do we change socially over time or do we simply change our minds?
Let me offer you a picture of who I have become socially. I thoroughly enjoy sitting at a pub bar alone during the middle of a work day with only a couple stragglers to accompany me in a large open room. Quiet conversations on my back porch over a glass of wine and the hum of early 2000s indie rock are my favorite nighttime moments with friends. I’m not sure if countless hours spent listening to explicit details of individuals’ traumatic pain as a counselor or my own personal losses and grievances landed me in this smaller, quieter, more selective comfort zone. What I am sure of is the reality that becoming an uncomfortable, insecure, mediocre yet extroverted professional and mother leaves me shamelessly failing at socially keeping up, and I’m fairly certain living this way is nothing more than my own apathetic choice.
Because I live in a region with a tropical climate through much of the year, our community offers a plethora of fun in the sun activities. There are festivals, farmer’s markets, and water centered attractions to provide families with outdoor entertainment and social engagements speckled throughout the calendar. One of my family’s favorite community events poses as a free, outdoor live music series held downtown on evenings in the spring and fall. We love spending time with blankets and chairs sprawled amid a crowd of other people, eating dinner from food trucks, and engaging in social networking all while listening to local artists explode unique sounds across the city. There are two facts these events reveal about who I am: 1. I am obviously outgoing because in this crowd of hundreds, I know a lot of people. 2. I can’t do crowds of people sometimes because I am just socially lazy and oh so mediocre.
What is social laziness? One Friday as my children and I made our trek from our parking spot to the city park where the fun would take place, I felt the weight of my husband’s absence. He’s a coach, and baseball season was still underway, and let’s be honest, he wouldn’t have forgotten the chairs. I walked up with the diaper bag on my back while carrying a large blanket that my girls and I would use as our base for the evening. My diaper bag, though I have no baby in diapers anymore, (moms, keep that diaper bag. You won’t regret it!) held juice pouches for the girls (because we’re poor), baby wipes (because we’re a hot mess), sweaters and a first aid kit (because we’re prepared-ish), and a bottle of Cabernet and a stemless glass (because we’re classy). Immediately after spreading our blanket across our chosen grassy space (okay we were kind of late per usual, and it was the only space left), my children abandoned me to check out the arts and crafts vendor or some other child friendly activity (I hope…), leaving me forced to flex my social muscles. I sat on my blanket and checked my phone to find that my favorite people were running even later. I scanned the crowd around my safe little square of fabric only to be comforted by more than ten faces of individuals I know well enough to approach and easily start a conversation. That same voice that yells in any other uncomfortable social situation sounded off alarms in my head. My thoughts yelled, “nope, not today,” so instead I pulled out my bottle of cab, poured a glass, and put my shades on sitting awkwardly and unapproachably on the ground while all the other adults were doing life the right way, talking and at the very least sitting in a chair. No one approached me, and most people looked at me with understandable judgments and concern while I sat sipping my wine and smiling to myself, as I people-watched. Friends, I’m not socially handicapped, I’m socially lazy and just an overall mediocre individual. (Disclaimer: when my best friend showed up, her disappointment in my awkwardness at least compelled her to buy me an acceptable vessel from which I could consume my wine at such events in the future and remain classy).
If you’re reflecting on my social awkwardness and assuming you don’t struggle with this social laziness concept because you’re not particularly fond of people watching, consider these common mediocre moments: Have you ever stared at your phone and scrolled through social media to avoid making eye contact with a stranger in the waiting room? Have you ever turned down an isle in the grocery store then immediately turned around to avoid superficial small talk with an acquaintance? Do you make up excuses not to go to events just because it’s been a long week? Friends, being socially lazy leaves you feeling mediocre and disconnected. Don’t be afraid to approach people and make a new friend. Don’t be too scared to network within your community. You need people. We all need people, and building relationships is the best way to beat all the negative self-talk we attack ourselves with day after day. Get outside and have fun. Turn strangers into acquaintances, turn acquaintances into friends, and turn friends into family. Be socially daring instead of socially lazy, no matter how mediocre you believe you are. Just paint the room black. There is a loud beauty within the mediocrity. Find it. Bust the speakers. Never turn it off.