I noticed him across the room. He was cute, funny, and… working for a non-profit that provides medical care to sick children around the world in the name of Jesus. Be still my heart.
Of course, I didn’t plan to actually talk to him. That would be not just a little bit out of my comfort zone, but a lot. So mostly I just observed. While pretending not to notice. Until. He came over to my side of the room. He chatted for a few minutes with my friends and I, then returned to his side of the room.
Now I had a decision to make. Should I cross the room, or at least meet in the middle, and pick up the conversation again? He seemed interesting, and we had lots of extra time before the event started. My stomach did the thing it does when I'm considering doing something scary. I thought about asking a friend to talk to him instead. It seemed a little less risky. “I mean, he probably doesn’t want to talk to me. And besides, I’m awkward. And what about…” This went on for a few minutes in my head, until finally I interrupted my parade of insecurities with something like, “Good grief, stop overthinking and just go have a conversation like a normal human being.” (I’ve had this talk with myself a few times, in case you were wondering.)
So I put on my adult hat, and did the scary thing. Can I just ask, how is it that my awkward middle-school self gets resurrected every time I try to have a grown up conversation with a cute guy? At the exact moment I want to make a good impression, I’m too busy trying to remember how to use my words, where to put my hands, and what expression to wear on my face. And let’s not forget managing my inner mean-girl that’s telling me I’m doing it wrong and he’s probably bored and I should just go hide under the table now.
In spite of ALL that, somehow I managed to stay put, and we had a fun conversation. We learned we had some common interests, including a sense of humor. Unfortunately, I also learned he lives far away… soon to be even farther. (As in, another continent.) So, the chances of us having more of these fun conversations are slim. I mean, I can’t exactly be too disappointed. Because sick kids and Jesus! Good for him!
I’ve been thinking a lot about the experience over the last few days. Crush or no crush… making new friends is a scary thing. I think we all know the feeling of being transformed into our awkward and insecure middle-school selves around new people. We walk into each conversation waiting for the brush-off. Or, alternatively, we stay away from connection altogether. Because the pain of loneliness feels safer than the possibility of being rejected. And just like in middle-school, we all believe we’re the only ones who feel this way. The cool kids don’t get nervous and say the wrong thing. Right? The cute boy doesn’t have any insecurities or problems. Right? Wrong.
I don’t know any human-person who isn't afraid of rejection. But I do know a lot of really brave people who do scary things in spite of that fear. And the more I spend time with those people, the more I want to be like them. The more I practice being brave, the more I think it’s worth it. Even if you end up acting like an awkward middle-schooler.
In her book Present over Perfect, Shauna Niequist talks about being brave and saying yes.
"Saying yes means not hiding. It means being seen in all your imperfections and insecurities. Saying yes is doing scary things without a guarantee that they’ll go perfectly. Saying yes is telling the truth even when it’s weird or sad or impossibly messy. Saying yes is inviting chaos, and also possibility. Saying yes is building a new future, regardless of the past. Saying yes is jumping in anyway."
I’m still a long way from being as brave as I’d like to be, but I’m glad I did this one small scary thing, and maybe even made a new friend in the process.
So, to my new friend soon to be living on another continent... if you’re reading this? First, sorry about all the awkward. Second, thanks for rolling with my attempt to be brave and turning it into a fun conversation. Third, I looking forward to seeing some of the brave things you’ll be doing soon via Instagram!