There are two kinds of people in this world – those who grow stronger and wiser with age, and those who allow experiences to choke the life out of their spirit. Those who run bare-backed and free in the sunlight and those who tip-toe in the night. You cannot be both. What consumes me is trying to understand the tipping point. What determines which of these you get to be in life, in the dark or the light?
This weekend I went out with a friend and old coworker; months had passed since we had seen each other last – so although I was not completely enthusiastic about the event we were going to (understatement here), I was pretty pumped to be going anywhere with an old pal. Now my reasons for avoiding this event set aside for later, I would like to dive right into what really put me over the edge.
The event: a bar crawl celebrating a mutual ex-co-worker’s last night in NY. I didn’t know any of the other attendees as the “man of the night” and myself had never hung out socially before. My friend and I arrive after much to-do on the lower east side, and because of this have about 10 minutes to spare before having to rush back out the door. Not my idea of a great night but I roll with it.
The awkwardness is already in the air as I am not a particularly welcomed guest. I had already said my farewell via email (I admit in a somewhat wounded and thus less than mature fashion). I will digress later. Now for the exchange of the night… I didn’t hear the first part of the conversation but my friend, our ex-co-worker, and one of his friends are all becoming acquainted; before I know it, someone I do not know says to me (very abruptly might I add) “So you hate everyone huh?”
I thought quickly to myself… do I?
Responding decisively I said, “no – I don’t. I’m sarcastic, but I don’t hate people. I would also say that I am a very low-level energy person. Maybe that is sometimes taken the wrong way?”
The stranger persists, “But do you generally like people before you meet them?”
My response: “No. Why would I like you if I don’t know you?”
So he says, “See you do hate everyone… That’s okay though.”
I was looking at the ground at this point and found it nearly impossible to look up. My mind was racing with thoughts as it usually is. I thought about how much I dislike an insincere apology (something that had happened moments before – or very close to it). What’s the point of saying something if you don’t mean it? I wondered if I would have felt so small at that moment if everyone in that room insulting me were women and not men? What an odd thing to think, but there was a lot of truth in it as well. I allowed myself to be a small little violet during a stampede of elephants.
Now the question is: why did I feel that way? Why did I, and do I so much lately have to tip-toe in the night?
Sadly, it’s easiest for me to be the “light conversation” at a bar; work, sports, local hang outs, weekend activities, pets, booze, anything that keeps it breezy. When it comes to real conversation it is a whole different ball game. Nothing comes out – zip, zilch, nada. At best you get some cynicism and a couple sarcastic remarks. My stomach twists and my head starts screaming out that everything coming my way is in-genuine. In the past the disparity between people’s words and their actions has been proven time and time again. Because of this, I feel I can’t reveal the true details about myself or my life because it might not be enough – I might not be enough. This fear has become overwhelming. I can’t answer simple questions anymore – at least not if they have meaning to me. I am often asked what kind of music I like or what my favorite books are. Not complicated questions – yet I’m speechless. My mind answers and then immediately stops me from following through. If I hesitate, now you know why.
Now I say I’m wounded – but that really isn’t fair. I suppose the regret with the above mentioned ex-coworker is that I saw someone a bit like myself. Well, I would assume similar to myself. It appeared that the person (whom I am now digressing about) was wounded himself in one way or another, and went through each day with a shield of wit and humor. Now this is totally fine. I get it. I get vehicle, I also get the jokes – but in my own way I reached out, just to say I was there. Not in any weird or line crossing way; only to offer friendship and that was shown complete disregard. After trying to extend something more… past the jokes and superficial banter but not being able to break through – all the while knowing there has to be something more – the whole lot of it became insincere; or at least this is how I felt. I took it personally though I know it probably had nothing to do with me. In fact, the worst of it is – if the roles were reversed I would have probably done the same thing. I was angry at someone for doing the exact thing I would have (and have) done.
I could tell you as much as the day is long – I don’t care what you or anyone else says about me; it just doesn’t matter and believe me some opinions matter more than others, but the truth is, human beings are social ones. We want to love and be loved. It’s been said before – and repeated because it’s true – stories mean nothing if you have no one to share them with.
Now what events in my life have led me to shut down during this bar incident maybe better discussed in a therapists office instead of a blog. Though I do know now after just 2 days of introspection I could have done a couple of things differently. Could I have peeled my eyes off the floor? Yes. Nothing was flying in my direction and physically going to harm me. Could I have used my “chatty bar talk” expertise to make amends with someone I will never see again (screw my wounded ego). And finally – to the person who made me feel worst of all – I could have said “I don’t usually like people at first, but you seem pretty nice.” What could someone really say to that?
There is nothing wrong with being a little nicer each day than you were the day before. God knows I am trying.