My entire life I have had one gift: I can see when someone is uncomfortable and feels out of place. I have laser sight on the person who is standing alone at the party, who doesn’t know anybody and wishes someone would talk to them.
I’ve been the first friend to a lot of new kids at school. I’ve created spaces in busy conversations for introverts who couldn’t get a word in edgewise and are starting to get frustrated.
There’s something within me that says, “Hey, lonely kid, I see you,” and instinctively knows what to do.
And my aim is good. I’m not the kind of extrovert who tries to have conversations with people who are wearing headphones and trying to have some kind of low-energy moment in public.
No, I’m good at seeing the people who want to be part of something social but are having trouble working out how to jump in.
There’s a reason for this — something that shocks people who know me in real life, even some who know me well: I was a lonely kid. I struggle with anxiety myself. And I don’t always feel like I fit in.
I told a new friend the other day, and she was floored by this. “But you’re so charming!” she said “You’re amazing to talk to. And it seems easy to you.”
At this point, making my way into social situations is pretty easy for me — most of the time. It’s especially that way if I know at least one other person or the context I’m in. But it wasn’t always this way.
And every now and then, even in situations where I do have a friend or two nearby, I will still have the occasional unsure moment where I experience that uncertainty. That sense of not knowing where I fit in.
Or, as I said the other day, moments where “I feel like no one likes me.”
It has happened less and less over the course of my life. But it never goes away. And I can spot it a mile away when it involves other people.
So I do my best to help other people out when I can.