That awkward moment when you realize you don’t just love “Awkward Black Girl” web series because it’s funny, but because you are one, too.
After reading a million and one self-help articles on how to live my best and happiest life, I decided to take one piece of advice over all others: expand my network. You know, get to know more people, make more contacts, blah, blah, blah. Supposedly it usually makes for career advancement, allows you to develop other interests, and you might even get a new friend or a good date out of it. Hmm, I thought, I guess I could try that.
Let’s be clear. I have friends. Awesome ones. Each of them I’ve known for at least 10 years. They know my parents’ names and my phone number without looking in their cell contacts, but there’s nothing wrong with getting to know more people. If all went well, I imagined my life would consist of laughing, smiling, and doing out of the box things with a Rainbow Coalition of friends like the people in beer commercials.
I attended an after work networking event. My strategy was to go alone, as that would push me to talk to others instead of being engulfed in my own circle. Of course, everyone else arrived with someone, and for the first time ever, I felt shut out. I walked through an imaginary maze with my name illegibly scribbled on the adhesive name tag until a girl shouted it out as I was standing at the bar. Someone else I knew, thank God! I immediately gave her a peppy hello and a quick “girlfriends hug.” As it turned out, I didn’t know her at all. She’d read my name tag and struck up a conversation. My first thought was: Who reads name tags and begins a conversation on a whim? Everyone but me, apparently.
After the small talk with Ms. Name Tag Spy, I wondered what I would say to someone else after we introduced ourselves. Ask them if they’re natives or transplants? Complain about the humidity? I was clueless. I didn’t know those people, and I couldn’t figure out what to say to get to know them.
Then it hit me. I’d become socially awkward. I, once a social butterfly for years, no longer knew how to interact with the public. When and how did I become one of those people? I would shake my head at them because while they looked scared sh*tless and out-of-place at parties, I was having the time of my life, dominating a conversation with confidence. I was disgusted with myself, so I pretended to find the ladies room, but found the door instead.
Making friends as an adult is hard. This isn’t preschool, when you played with whoever your mat was placed next to, nor is it college where the campus is your own little world. It was second nature to befriend roommates, classmates in your major, and others in student organizations. You saw them every day and you had something in common. Most adults already have their own sets of friends, and there isn’t a drop-off spot for people who seek new hang-out buddies (I don’t count Craigslist), so you have to put in work.
Work begins with saying hello to a person you’ve never met, followed by something interesting enough to keep their eyes from rolling to the backs of their heads. It’s easier said than done though. The best I can do is keep trying at this thing until I can make a connection with someone. No one wants to be the girl standing alone gazing at the crowd. No one believes you’re getting that many calls and texts anyway, so continuously checking your cell phone doesn’t really work, either.
I’m going to find where this “awkward girl” hid my former self, come hell or high water. Stepping outside of my comfort zone is downright weird sometimes, but it’s worth it. Expanding your network isn’t about accumulating friends and acquaintances, but personal growth, and that’s a process that never ends. I’m willing to go through the process one awkward moment at a time.