Can you call it reconnecting with someone if you’re not really sure you had much of a connection to begin with? Whether it was reconnecting or simply the original connecting, I recently chatted it up with an old classmate. We knew each other in high school, even had a few words in passing to each other, but never much conversation.
Was she shocked I was gay? Absolutely not. Even the one girl I dated for nine months said she always suspected. We did meet in drama club; it doesn’t take a valedictorian (which she was). This new/old pal was shocked I was a comedian. I agreed. She asked me when I came out of the shy closet. Up until that point, I didn’t realize I had. The reason we hadn’t connected much in high school was I really didn’t connect with a lot of people. I knew them. They knew me. But outside my core group, I knew about as much about socializing as the bird lady from Home Alone 2. (That’s a classic in my book).
I only went to one party with my classmates right before graduation. It was a bonfire, and I was stoked (Do people still say that?). This was the kind of party they show in 80’s teen movies. I walked up the field, and a couple approached me. The girl, leaning over her boyfriend (or the boy that planned on taking advantage of her condition, whichever was the case) spoke to me. I didn’t understand her. She spoke again, exactly the same way.
I wasn’t going to get clarity, so I had to start breaking down the sounds and connecting them in my head until it began to sound like actual words. A-ha! She had asked me if I was drinking. This was a perfect opportunity to reveal myself as a school role model and say-
“Nah, he ain’t drinkin’!” her buddy chimed in. “That’s the morning announcement guy.”
How dare he judge me! It was true though. I wasn’t drinking. And I was the morning announcement guy.
But, Mikey, how can someone willing to do the morning announcements be shy? If you can speak properly, it’s not super hard to read where the next student council meeting will be held. It’s when I actually had to come up with something on my own where the work was needed. Was I handicapped by anxiety? No. Was I ever completely comfortable around people? Nope. I heard once that Cancers were introverts that appeared to be extroverts, and, for me, it’s spot on.
I knew my social anxiety hindered my high school experience. I wasn’t comfortable being 100% myself around people. In college I thought, what if I take a different approach? If not talking a lot and not talking to too many people didn’t work for me (I mean, I didn’t get invited to a high school party until right before graduation, people) then what if I just talked to everybody?
I was in the dorm elevator my second day in college when I realized I had forgotten my new say-anything-to-anyone idea. There was a girl in the elevator with me.
“Hey!” I said with more enthusiasm than anyone should ever have greeting a stranger.
She, of course, gave me the ‘why are you talking to me?’ eyes as she said hello in return. I decided not to let my apparent sketchiness affect my goals and furthered the conversation. Plus, there were tons of people at this school. I could afford to make a weird first impression with one.
What did add to my sketchiness, however, was that I followed her off the elevator onto the same floor. Then down the same hall. Then to her room. It turns out I had just tried out my first anti-social anxiety experiment on my next door neighbor whom I had yet to meet.
It also worked. Milee and I have been friends since. Or maybe she just led me to believe we were because she thought I was creepy and didn’t want to risk me having an episode. Either way, I’ll take it.
I’ve worked on being socially comfortable since. Waiting tables and stand-up comedy gave me plenty of tricks in case the stomach goes into the ‘what if I don’t say anything interesting’ frenzy. I’ve gone out with friends who aren’t very social and tell me, “it’s not fair because it’s easy for you.” True. It is now. (With a big emphasis on the –ISH).
The question I get most often now? How long doing stand-up comedy before you stopped getting nervous to go on stage. I find it hilarious. You mean I’m supposed to stop getting nervous?
What are your tricks for coming out of the shy-closet?
love and bonfires,