So I don’t know to what degree everyone else does this, but I often see amusing and all too true graphics on Facebook and Twitter about agonizing over every. single. conversation. you have with someone.
This is why I worked in food. You don’t have to talk to the food. You don’t wonder what the food thinks of you. You don’t go home and wonder if the food thought you were weird or if it’s just pretending to like you because it has to.
And you might laugh and think, how do you expect to have a degree in Psychology and not talk to people? And my thinking is, that’s future Me. Future Me won’t have this problem because I intend to get over it. Realizing an awful lot of people have the same problem makes me feel better. Realizing the people who come to me to talk might have this problem also helps.
Past Me didn’t have this problem either. It’s so easy when you’re a kid in school, you know what kids are into by what groups you meet them in. You go to Math Club, you know they like math. You go to Drama, you know they are theater geeks. You find your crowd pretty easily.
All that changes when you become an adult. You encounter people every day–at work, at your kid’s school, at the gym–but who knows what the hell they like? So then you have to engage in small talk, which is just about the most painful thing ever. Or you have to be that type of outgoing person who can ask a stranger questions like, “If you were a ghost who would you haunt, and what would you do?” Which is something I would totally ask someone I know, but not someone I want to meet.
So this morning, I dropped off my son at camp. This involves, you might guess, talking to people. A teacher I’m pretty familiar with was there. He was in a beekeeper’s suit, which made me feel a little less awkward about how I look.
So what do I do when I’m looking for something to say? I bring up things I don’t actually need to know, just to make conversation. I pretended I wasn’t sure if my son needs a doctor’s note for his medication he has to take during the camp sleepover tomorrow. I know he needs a note. I was actually kind of hoping he’d say no, you don’t really need a note…just so I could get out of calling the doctor for the note.
Yes, I was talking to someone, in hopes that I could avoid talking to someone else. Figure that out.
To the guy in the beekeeper’s suit, this was probably just a blip in his day. Probably forgot about it by now. Unless he’s like me, and then he will think about it all day and probably tonight when he’s trying to sleep. (He’ll probably wonder if I thought he was weird for wearing a beekeeper’s suit, which I totally don’t, because if you’re playing with bees, by all means, wear the suit.)
Why do I keep thinking about it? It was a perfectly legit question. Why do I have to agonize over it all day?
So now that I actually had to call the doctor for the note, I bit the bullet and did it as soon as I got home. I actually thought about what I want to say, and then I tried not to forget it all when I’m on hold. I took a breath when the person came on and I just tried to tell it like a short story. I know they will ask for my son’s info, so I wait to say that. I keep it simple and they will fill in the blanks.
The thing is, I’ve had this issue since I was a kid. For some reason, talking to people on the phone freaks me out. My mother used to make me call and make my own appointments once I got into my teens, and I hated it. I always thought the person on the other end was going to yell at me for some reason or other. It’s irrational, I know. That’s the thing with anxiety; most of the time it is completely unwarranted. I also was anxious as a kid because my mother was always super prepared, and I usually wasn’t, and I felt like it would be the end of the world if I forgot my insurance card, which my mother also let me carry once I was a little older. Like nobody ever forgets their insurance card? I look back now and realize it was a lot of worry for nothing.
Most people probably have the ability to compartmentalize their encounters, realize which ones are important to remember and which aren’t. I can remember conflicts and awkward moments from decades ago.
So, what kinds of memories pain you to this day?