Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people. - Eleanor Roosevelt



Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Let's start with constructive criticism and discomfort

My New Year's resolution, like every year, is to push myself into more social situations where I don't know the people in the room. What better way to do that than to join a group of people who all like to do the same things I do?

Being in Houston is actually the perfect place to do just that, so I sat down and googled writing groups in Houston, and voila! I found one that is meeting just under 20 miles away, and seems to hit the spot with its small number of attendees and promise of constructive criticism and feedback on all types of writing. I eventually have to go back to Denver, but I'll give a writing group a whirl while I'm here in Houston, so that once I'm back in Denver, I'll know what to expect at one of these meetings.

I'm looking forward to it and, of course, dreading it, but I'm bound and determined to make 2011 the year I really make this resolution a reality. Wish me luck!

An epiphany, which has led to a resolution for 2011, or at least a wish for 2011

I was maybe five when this was taken. I refused to smile, because I was so shy, so they sent me to the back of the line, until all the other kids had their pictures taken, and gave it one more try. I still didn't budge. Yeah, I'm shy and stubborn.
It seems I begin a lot of blog posts with "I haven't written in a while," and this post is one that I would begin with that statement, except I've circumvented doing that by using a back door method. But, really, there is a reason for why I didn't want to just begin this post with "I haven't written in a while." That reason is that I don't want to do the same thing anymore...

You see, I've had an epiphany this past week, which has rendered me acutely aware of how much I suck. The epiphany is nothing new to me. In fact, it's one of those things that I've known all my concious life, but have chosen to ignore and cover up with all kinds of excuses that now, with that epiphany I mentioned, are just plain garbage.

The epiphany I've had is simply that I am not a social butterfly. For some who are reading this, this might require a "duh" in response, for others it might be a new thing they're finding out about me. Whether you knew this about me or not, I consider this epiphany important at this particular point in time, because my birthday is coming up and I still don't know what I'm doing to celebrate it. Usually, my birthday is celebrated quietly. My best friend spends the day with me and takes me out to lunch or dinner. Then I go home to have cake with my family.

I buy an outfit ahead of time, get up early and get all prettied up for my special day, only to sit down and talk about my hopes and dreams for the coming year, when I'm officially a year older and hopefully wiser, then I go home to have cake, at which point I usually change into my sweats and watch the ball drop on television to mark the beginning of a new year.

Woopty doo, I just couldn't wait to come out into the world thirty-two years ago, less than an hour before 1979, just so I could spend the rest of my life as a non-party person with a party day for a birthdate.

All these years my quiet birthday celebrations have been satisfactory. Though admittedly not the greatest way to celebrate such a festive birthdate, I'm happy being surrounded by those I love. This year I'm spending my birthday in Houston, Texas, instead of in Denver, and my best friend isn't going to spend the day with me and my sister and mom and dad aren't going to have a cake ready for me to have a piece of while I watch the ball drop, in my sweats. Instead, my brother's going to be here, and...well...that's it. Seriously. For my birthday this coming Friday, I get to look forward to I don't know what with just my brother to share it with. As much fun as I have hanging out with my brother, it seems I've gotten used to at least four other people celebrating the fact that I was born, and having just one this time around makes my lack of sociality all that much more apparent and easy to brood over.

This all goes back to the fact that I have never been a party person, and I socialize only with those I want to be friends with, and not just acquaintances. When I was a kid, I was pretty much forced to socialize with other kids, and only a couple were ones I considered my friends by choice. The rest were kids I had to tolerate because their parents were friends with my parents. It felt like torture to have to feign having fun singing happy birthday to a kid I cared nothing about. I grew up, and I still had trouble socializing and making friends. But I did make friends on my own, eventually, thanks to settings like school and work, and the friends I made there stayed my friends for years, and some are still my friends to this day, but that's only because I wanted them to be my friends and felt comfortable with them.

Now, the nice thing about being an adult is that my parents can't force me to be friends with someone I don't want to be friends with, and I can choose how often, and if, I want to socialize with certain people. I choose my comfort zone, and I get into cruise control. Yeah, baby. The not so nice thing about being an adult with the same non-existent propensity for sociality as that of a five-year-old, is that when my birthday rolls around and I'm away from my usual circle of people and comfort zone, nobody's there for my birthday. When my parents forced me to socialize with kids I didn't want to socialize with, as much as I hated it, I knew that those kids would come to my birthday party, because their parents forced them to be friends with me too, and it just worked out great to have a system where it's "you scratch my back, I scratch yours, but I really can't stand you." Now, as adults, if we don't like each other, we don't go to each other's parties, period, and let's face it, there are two kinds of people in this world: Party People who go to a party just because it's a party, and Non-Party People who don't go to a party because it's a party. I belong to the latter group, and this makes me a dull New Year's Eve birthday girl. A harsh epiphany.

I know for my birthday I'll end up doing something fun and unforgettable, because that's how things I dread usually turn out, but this birthday will be unforgettable for a very prominent and not-so-pleasant reason: it is the birthday I became acutely aware of just how my lack of sociality has a negative effect on me, and offers no comfort for me in the long run.

I don't know what it is about social situations, like people gathering at a party for instance, that makes me want to run in the other direction, but I do. I want to run the moment I see more than two people I don't know in a room where I have to interact on a personal level. Social anxiety? Maybe. Shyness? Definitely. Just the way I am? Absolutely. To be fair, when I am in a small circle, with two people aside from myself, I find I can work my way around my shyness and anxiety to not only let my real personality lead the way (it's fun, my real personality), but also to gain friendships that have lasted years, sometimes a lifetime. But add one more person and I become a nervous wreck who has no idea what to do with herself, she's so anxious and out of sorts. Frankly, I'd rather sit at home and stare at the walls than be in such a situation. I find a lot more comfort in solitude than I do in large groups of people, so I choose solitude. Except solitude, like a credit card without accumulating airline miles, is kind of useless.

The problem is that although solitude is a lot more comfortable than going into that room full of people and just shedding the shy, anxious and built-in shell I carry on my back and shoulders, the comfort is short-lived. For 2011, I want long-lasting social comfort, which I know is going to take a lot of socializing discomfort to reach.

Happy New Year.
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