Despite being well beyond my teenage years, I still entertain the oft ridiculous emotional state(s) I experienced then. While the 80’s were Pretty in Pink for many, I found them to be mostly Weird Science; my version cast without Kelly Le Brock unfortunately. I was socially awkward then, and am still the introvert on the wrong end of a double-barrel shotgun overly apprehensive to speak, fearing a shotgun shell of embarrassment is going to spread across my face. As a teen I was more flustered by girls, today I’m fairly unbiased as to whom my awkwardness is directed. Male or female, young or old, I’ll sling my awkwardness regardless.

Speaking in public places, not to be mistaken for public speaking, is difficult. I have a soft-spoken voice, and as well I can become easily flustered. It feels as though an espresso-like shot of anxiety floods my brain. To compensate I may turn part of it off, or downshift the wheels turning in my head. Unfortunately, it seems the area dimmed is that charged with remembering people’s names and speaking English. I’m a convicted mumbler; multiple counts. As such, by default and through years of practice, I’ve taught myself to avoid engagement. I fear not knowing what to say, not being heard clearly, and in-turn feeling the fool.

The rub is I enjoy genuine conversation. I appreciate deep philosophical discussions and thrive when engaged in something that peaks my curiosity. However, I’m nauseated by small talk and lose interest and focus rather quickly. This intensifies my social awkwardness as returning serve during conversational ping pong only illuminates the gaping hole in my bonding skillset.

Despite my thirst to swallow whole the details of another human being, I keep myself from drinking of the fountain that may contain the vitality I seek, or at least a portion of the vital formula to living — better. Day after day I live as what I would prefer to be my former self; socially stunted. Opportunities to connect with another at a coffee shop, the gym, on the trail, pass and I’m left regretting the passing. Rather than a meaningful—or brief—connection, I sit and verbally scold myself in the silence I’ve created. A conversation of one ensues despite the wisdom of knowing better than to engage with the voices of my past. It only serves to exacerbate the issue, causing a retreat into the lonely room housed by my mind. This, whilst sitting amongst a crowd.

The social awkwardness has, and is, interfering with the trajectory I wish my life to take. There are projects I want need to do, things I want need to become, people I want need to know. All of which I see as necessary to become fully, or even partially, made bravely.

Perhaps recognition is a necessary step toward progress, but patience isn’t a virtue with which I was born, nor have since nurtured. The fear of appearing foolish, coupled with a habit of visualizing outcomes of conversations based on my desires, become deterrents that sew my lips shut. Rather than allowing uncertainty to unravel the stories without my preconceptions, I fast forward to the final chapter having already written the epilogue; an epilogue that frightens because it requires acting outside my complacent self. I need to open myself to the mystery of the experience, as that is where beauty is often hidden.

Curiosity should be my muse, for she will guide me to invite the blank canvas, and teach me to crave the unwritten page. She will show me the value of connection—without expectation. With the muse’s help I can allow the story to be written in the moment, and perhaps what was socially awkward will become intimately graceful. What is deeply set behind the eyes of the muse is a story, a story which will only reveal itself if I get out of the way and become the canvas rather than the pen.