Things To Avoid When You’re Socially Inept

Oh why??  Why did I do it?  What was I thinking?!  How could I have forgotten and ignored the basic traits in myself that will surely make this endeavor a total disaster?  What if the people suck?  Or are weird?  Or figure out that I’m strange?

Well, I’ve gone and done it.  I’ve dug myself a hole from which there’s no escape.  In my scramble to find ways to enjoy my time here in this Mexican bordertown, I inadvertently and heedlessly hurled myself into a puddle of stress, anxiety and self-doubt.

Upon moving here, I immediately checked MeetUp.com for groups involving things that I enjoy: Hiking, yoga, exercise, trail running, knitting, writing, reading, drinking.  There was NOTHING.  I looked again with different keywords: backpacking, pilates, fitness, jogging, crocheting, books.  Still nothing.

With the summer rapidly approaching, I kept going over and over and over the same lament: I wish I had friends here.  I wished for D to go hiking with.  I wished for Blondie to clean with.  I wished for M to have beers with.  I wished for K to people-watch with.  It started to form into a bona fide funk, and I needed to do something about it.

So I planned a hike.

But I didn’t stop there.  Oh no.  I kept going.

There have to be other hikers here right?  Out of the tens of thousands of people in these three “cities”, there has got to be one or two that are funny and sarcastic and awesome like D, right?  RIGHT?!

And so, on a whim, I paid $36 and started my own MeetUp group called Hiking For Dummies.  I described my goals for hiking this summer and posted the first trip to Palouse Falls that day.  (Which was, incidentally, Friday, the day before the hike itself….I wasn’t lying, I got a wild burr up my ass and three minutes later, I was the organizer and founding member of this group now open to anyone to join.)

I don’t really know why I did it.  I wanted a hiking buddy, for sure; the Old Man humors me and goes when he has no other choice, but deep down, he really doesn’t like it.  It’d be nice to have someone who likes it like I do.  I wanted to meet other people.  Find things to do here.  Discover ways of forming relationships that doesn’t include the bar–which, I fear, I’m rapidly outgrowing.

For a few hours, it felt good.  I was proactive.  The pipedreams of what COULD be kept playing on repeat.  My summer previewed and it was packed with trips and pictures and summits and waterfalls and fields of wildflowers.

And then came the sugar crash.

Mostly, if you met me, you’d never believe me if I told you that I’m generally uncomfortable in new situations and around new people.  But I’m a fake-it-till-you-make-it kinda girl.  I do my best with small talk and smiles and silently pray for a reprieve from someone else.  Until I get comfortable, I’m happiest standing in the back, checking shit out, letting someone else take the lead.  (After that, look out, I’ll charge to the front, but that’s a whole other post on a whole other personality!)

Expectedly, people started signing up.  I had actual MEMBERS who were excited that FINALLY there was a group like this.  I had the type of people that, on paper, were exactly the type of people I was looking for.  Varied hiking experience, varied ages, varied backgrounds.  And it was all of a sudden, REAL.

End honeymoon phase.

It wasn’t long before I realized that it was me who was the organizer of this group.  Me who was going to have to do all the greeting and introducing.  Me that was going to have to take the lead.  Me that was going to have to make the small talk until everyone started picking up on their own.  Me that was going to have to diffuse the awkward moments (the MOST scary because I am usually the CAUSE of the awkward pause…).

And here I sit.  ready for battle once again with my own, probably very mild, case of social anxiety.  Joining a group like this would mean that I could attend when I wanted and bow out if I didn’t.  I could choose who I talked to and who I pursued a relationship with.  As the organizer, it must be equal opportunity to all who join.  Because that’s the type of environment I want to foster.  On the one hand, I’ve taken steps to create a situation that I’ve been searching for.  On the other, I never meant to sign up for the responsibility that goes with it.

My next MeetUp is this Saturday.  I just posted it, and there’s already one person who’s RSVP’d.  Here’s hoping she’s not a serial killer or close talker…..

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