7. Making a New Friend
I have always considered myself a fairly shy and introverted person, and I always felt that I had difficulty making new friends. I’m the one who’ll attend an event–perhaps and workshop, lecture or seminar, or even an exhibit, and just move around on my own without knowing anyone at the start, and leaving without knowing anyone! I just sometimes get so intimidated by people, especially in crowds.
It’s a reflection of my being so self-conscious, I suppose. I never really consciously have thoughts running through my head, like “Will he/she like me?” “Will they talk to me?” “Will they want to be friends?” “What will they think of me?” and so on, but I’m pretty sure that’s how my body feels, and that’s probably what every single brain cell in my head is thinking. But they don’t tell me about it. They don’t speak out aloud to me. I rather wish they would, then I’d be able to process the feelings. But they just silently think away and make me avoid contact.
That doesn’t mean I don’t want to make new friends. If you looked at my Facebook page and checked out my friends, you’d see over a thousand, and the list grows a little more each day. I’d like to think they’re all friends, but a Facebook goes, they’re really all people I’ve met in various occasions over the last several years of my life—pretty much from childhood friends to colleagues. The vast majority of them, really, are former students of mine. And I’m really happy that I’m connected to them through Facebook, and see what significant things are happening in their lives.
If you really counted them, I’d have a fairly good number of friends whom I communicate with occasionally. Most of them were made through work, or in school. Still, they’re not all friends who’d understand my little quirks and foibles and my wry dry sardonic humor…in fact some of my really good friends still don’t get my humor, sometimes. But those I have spent the most time with and who know me enough to figure out what I feel and what I’d say or think about some things most of the time, are a very select number of people who are now mostly halfway around the world. And the only way I can communicate with them constantly—or at least as frequently as I can given the 12-hour time difference, is through email, Facebook messages, and the occasional live chat.
So when I do creep out of my shell (oh yes, there is a shell, but it seems to have gotten more transparent) and say “Hello, I’m Cindy!” to someone, it’s because my guts tell me that person can be a friend, or would be interesting to know, or would be nice to speak with. It’s also because I’m in a totally new country where I am starting a whole new life thousands of miles away from old friends, family, and acquaintances, and I need to start making new connections and building new relationships.
I think, if we don’t go out of our way to say “Hi! I’m —. What’s your name?” we’ll never make any friends at all. Who knows what’s beyond that chance meeting? And if the other person doesn’t respond the way you hope they might, then you don’t really lose anything, do you?
I was so afraid of being rejected by people, that I suppose, that was the major reason I didn’t go out of my way to make the first introduction. But after having been a teacher, mentor, manager, actor, dancer, emcee, and so many other roles that require constant communication and initiative, as well as a certain amount of aggression and loads of confidence, I’m really quite confident in my ability to step up to someone and say “Hi! I’m Cindy. What’s your name?” I’m not worried about rejection anymore, since I’ve experienced quite a bit of it in very painful ways, and I’m still alive and still have lots of things going for me, and I know I can be a wonderful friend to others, if they’re interested in having me as a friend. So if I feel there’s a particular person who could be friendly in return (yes, I do play safe and just don’t go up to anyone on the street!) in a situation that isn’t threatening, I might just go up and say “Hi, I’m Cindy. What’s your name?” and start looking for areas of interest or things to talk about besides the weather, and the weather as well.
I just did today, and I think it’ll be the start of a wonderful new friendship!