“I am not my awkwardness”

In this day and age, it seems to me that awkwardness has been assigned a certain sad glory, as if it’s somehow the new plight of our generation. When people see Zoey Deschanel and Lena Dunham being quirky and goofy on TV, it’s funny and cute and “authentic”. But in real life, I don’t think anyone actually enjoys awkwardness. Or at least, I think few appreciate true awkwardness, which can’t really be captured in a grown woman wearing a cardigan with ducks on it, or singing and dancing alone in one’s room.

For me, awkwardness is just an inevitability of my day. Things that shouldn’t take a second thought are terrifying. Asking a grocery store clerk where they keep the eggs. Calling a restaurant to make a reservation. Running into an old classmate at the mall. I’m ashamed to admit how much time I’ve wasted circling the aisles instead of looking for help, staring nervously at a phone number, or ducking out of a store just to avoid someone. I’ve bought things because I felt too uncomfortable to say no, and walked down an entire street so as not to be spotted making a 360-degree turn.

Meeting new people is the worst. The less time I have to make an impression, the more frightening it is. I’ve been told in the past that I’m “an acquired taste,” and it has left me constantly worrying that people will write me off before I get the chance to show them my weirdness can be funny, and that it’s not contagious. The sad thing is, worrying about seeming weird often makes me more awkward by default, whether that means becoming so anxious I loudly crack bizarre jokes or I shut down completely. I want so badly for people to give me a chance and get to know me for me, that I sometimes let myself become someone unrecognizable.

I’ve always been a rather odd person, and if anything, as a child I was proud of being a little different. I’m not really sure when I became quite so aware of it, and so terrified by it. Or rather, when I learned that it was something to be afraid of in the first place. Sometimes I hate myself for having ever started watching what I say or do, because what it might have saved me in a few raised eyebrows, it seems to have cost me a lot in loving myself for who I am. I’ll roll my eyes at some of the things that cross my lips throughout the day, but it’s the things I haven’t said or done that come to haunt me weeks later. What I hate most about my awkwardness isn’t that it can at times be embarrassing or uncomfortable, but that it has somehow brought me to living in fear. I don’t want to have these regrets years later, and I’m trying to be braver and more comfortable in my own skin. It’s hard to fight my own instincts, but if it means I can be more me, I think it’s a battle worth fighting.