Hi, I’m Anxious and Don’t Know What to Feel About New People

I hate meeting new people, and I’ve never been good at it. I’ve always felt like there is this implicit assumption that, whenever we meet a new person, we’ll somehow give them a little overview of who we are, then they will give theirs, and then we will evaluate each other to see what kind of relationship will be born: “Hi, I’m Nes, I have a Master’s degree, a ton of baggage, and make jokes at inopportune times.”

“and if this interaction continues any longer, you will learn more than you planned about my cat.”

I don’t want to give an overview. I don’t want to meet a new colleague and spend the first few meetings in quiet contemplation over whether this person will judge what they know of me as worth ridicule or friendship. I don’t want new friends or new email addresses to ignore.
I think a lot of universal discomfort with meeting new people comes from this unstated judgment of our respective character introductions. That’s probably why we look for friends in places we’d want to be. I get along decently with other English teachers, and that is because there is at least one thing we have in common that we both approve of. Conversely, if I met someone at a Trump rally, I’d probably start off with unremitting disdain for that person because they have put themselves in the company of a bigoted man-baby who lusts after the unjust authority of a dictator and has had a direct hand in the wrongful imprisonment of children.
I would probably make some decent friends at a writing workshop or a book club for people who like dragons too much, and I would want to abandon alone in the desert anyone I met at a meeting for racists-who-don’t-call-themselves-racists. But what about everywhere else? There’s all this neutral ground, or places slightly weighted with my own enjoyment or dislike of them that still attract people of communities I might like to be a part of. I’ve heard knitting circles can be wild.

I’m ready to fucking party.

What about a Denny’s at 3 in the morning? If I met someone there, they could be like me. They could be tired and spiritually exhausted and have the general sense that their time is running out faster than they’re using it, and we might get along by sharing this mutual sense of our own inevitable demise. But there is equal probability that the person I’d meet at a Denny’s in the desperate hours of the morning has just killed someone and left the body in the storm drain outside, and they’ve come to Denny’s because they like the food and want to get rid of that I-just-killed-someone feeling.

Today’s special comes from meat we found outside. Can I get your order? Also, the milkshake machine is down.

Seeing as lately I feel terrible if I think about even eating chicken, I don’t think I’d hit it off with someone who leaves bodies in drains. Also, you don’t go to Denny’s that early in the morning because you like it; you go because you know there are hours before the sun comes up and it’s hours since the bars closed and Denny’s is the only one that will have you.
So what do we do about all this neutral ground? Worry, of course. My brain tells me anxiety is the answer to all these uncertain places.
I am an anxious person and trying to figure out why that is has driven enough conversations with my therapist that I felt like it was worth writing about to explore further and see if anyone relates. I’ve been thinking a lot about this idea of neutral, negative, and positive ground for interacting with other people. I’ve started categorizing the places I go regularly, but all that has done is either make me guarded whenever I’m somewhere neutral or somewhere I can’t characterize.
And what about this place? I’ve been writing here a long time, and I’ve noticed, remarkably, that I have no idea what kind of person likes my writing. I don’t exactly like my own writing, so they probably aren’t exactly like me. It’s weird to say that this blog is neutral ground. I’ve no idea if the people that read my writing would like me as a person, and I don’t know if I’d like them. Maybe?
So what’s left to do? Worry, I guess. Worry and wait and avoid people in some places and tentatively seek them out in others. And no more Denny’s.

28 Replies to “Hi, I’m Anxious and Don’t Know What to Feel About New People”

  1. What happens at knit night stays at knit night. I’ve been there, I know. Even saying that is probably too much. I’ll be looking over my shoulder for the next three days!

    Social filters are not my strong suit and I’m super not good at small talk. I go from “Hi, my name’s Rhubarb” to “shame about all that plastic in the ocean slowly killing all those lovely animals, huh?” or “what do you think happens in our brains when we die?” with like zero preparatory steps in between. Or worse, I just don’t speak at all, because I’m so afraid to say something stupid / inappropriate / potentially creepy. Trying to make nicey with co-workers is extra hard because I spend 40 hours a week cleaning up a lot of their mistakes and usually have an overwhelming urge to tell them all the ways that they’re wrong. Because they are. So wrong. All the time. And they don’t even care! Like, how can you be that wrong all the time and be ok with it?! Does not compute.

    Sorry, tangent. This is another reason I don’t friend well. I’m even worse in person than I am in writing, because at least with writing, I can edit on the fly.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I tend to forget to talk to people, and I’ll just sit and listen to them until I slowly get too tired of the interaction to have many barriers left, and then I make jokes to deflect how much I want to flee to my bed.

      Co-workers are so difficult. I have the same thing. I know and like a lot of teachers, but then there are the ones who I don’t exactly think highly of, and when they try to bond with me over our one common ground, it takes a lot of willpower not to launch myself into a detailed and well-cited explanation as to why they are bad at their jobs and not worth the time I’d have to take getting to know them beyond the flaws I’ve come to accept as their entire personality.

      I’m also a bit better in writing than I am in person, but that’s only because I’ve got delete keys.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I could spend a week in this comment thread. I actually shuddered yesterday when someone suggested I go ask around at a bar for a phone charger- like that’s an everyday human behavior. I don’t really know what everyday human behavior is outside of a classroom of teenagers and adults I’d rather avoid. I thought our one thing in common was teaching, turns out it was complaining. I banned myself from the teacher’s lounge.

        Rhubarb, those questions are highly engaging. If more people asked those questions in conversation I might get out more. Just yesterday I met this fascinating guy who asked me if I come here often… I would’ve preferred to be at Denny’s. People leave you alone there. We’ve just got to find our people and build a tight-knit community that rarely speaks to each other.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Who just goes around a bar talking to people?! I’d much rather watch my phone fade and die than open up the channels of communication with people who might want to actually talk to me for something beyond just needing their stuff.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m not sure I count as a person (maybe half of one? I’m not sure, I may be a hobbit), but I like your reading. And I think I’d like you, in the way I like people who can sit by my side, be silent for a long time, and then say something about the weather, or the car that just drove by, or something of the sort, then I would reply, and then we would both fall back to a somewhat awkward silence, with the feeling of having achieved something. Then I’d probably ask something along the lines of ‘wanna eat?’, and go from there. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You’re a person! That does sound pretty much exactly like a regular time with my friends that I do see. And the answer to “wanna eat?” is almost always yes. These are the best kinds of friendships, ones defined by mutual comfort and food

      Liked by 1 person

      1. See, I think we’d get along just fine if it wasn’t this pesky geography thing. Stupid hemispheres. And well, I mean, it’s very hard not to bond over pie or french fries, or burgers (either regular or veggie). Food unites us all. 😀

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I can pretend to be outgoing and friendly, but it takes lots of energy. I can certainly relate to “I don’t want new friends or new email addresses to ignore.” And no, you wouldn’t like me in real life. Few people do. That’s why I’m hanging out here. 😉

    Liked by 2 people

      1. It’s a pleasure. I can’t remember whether or not I have read it either, but I think pretty much everyone who’s alive and knows how to read has at least heard of this book. 😀

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I love this post–your turns of phrase made me laugh out loud, despite the raw truth obviously woven throughout. I, too, struggle with the whole “meeting new people” debate–I like to refer to it as “my friendship plate,” which is a very small, appetizer-sized plate…and is generally full already. I don’t have the energy or the fortitude to rearrange my psyche on a regular basis in order to meet new people… Thanks for the laugh–and the comfort of the knowledge that I am, indeed, among my peers here 😉

    Liked by 1 person

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