For Want of a Better Blog: Talking to Strangers

For reasons unknown (though most likely due to the fact that I currently have guilt-free free time for the first time in 7 months), I have had no motivation to write this week, and no inspiration when it comes to what I should write, so this week’s post comes from my trusty little green book of blog topics!

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Pardon the hair!

In an attempt to improve my communication skills to increase my likelihood of actually getting a job this year, I have been working on that impossible task, that scourge of the socially anxious: Talking to strangers. It’s a seemingly simple task which many people take for granted but for some, it is something to be dreaded and avoided at all costs.

Some things were pretty obvious. For instance, it is much, much easier to talk to people online than in person. It’s not a matter of being able to lie about yourself and pretend to be someone you’re not. For me, my main fears when it comes to talking to people face-to-face are making eye contact, stuttering, and the ever-terrifying risk of the person stabbing me, punching me, or worse. The last one isn’t all that likely, I’ll give you that, but it’s still something I struggle with every time I talk to someone, in many cases even if I know the person. Talking online solves all of these problems: There is no eye-contact to be made, the closest thing to a stutter is a typo, which everyone makes, and it’s pretty difficult to stab someone via the internet. I’m not talking about Omegle or any of those websites, I’m just talking about talking to people (even those that I meet every day) on Facebook or Twitter. Little smiley faces are an added bonus 🙂 🙂 🙂 😦 🙂 >:)

Surprisingly, in my case, talking to people over the phone is the most stressful experience. One would expect that the removal of eye contact and of the possibility of being murdered would be cause for celebration, but telephone conversations freak me out. The only person I can comfortably talk to on the phone is my mother, and this is a very rare occasion because it costs an arm and a leg to call the UK from Ireland, or vice versa. Sorting out bank details over the phone? Horrific. Student loans? Even worse. Take-away? Near impossible. The upside of this, of course, is that it means I don’t follow the student tradition of endless take-aways because for me, cooking a meal from scratch is much, much less stressful that calling for a Chinese or a pizza. Sadly, talking to shopkeepers is not much better for some reason. If I’m ordering something, I have to clarify with whoever I’m with exactly what it is I have to say, word-for-word. If I’m buying something, I am in a horrific state of panic until I’ve purchased the goods and received my change, because for some reason not having quite enough money and having to choose what to put back is a fate worse than death. And don’t even get me started on Subway. 

A shocking discovery I have made, however, is that I can talk to people in pubs and clubs (without even drinking). While many people who go out stick to one extreme or the other – either staying glued to their friends and pretending nobody exists or else actively going in search for an attractive young man or woman whose throat is ready and willing to have a stranger’s tongue thrust down it in an act of pure romance – I seem to just go out and make friends. I think the reason I can talk to these people is that even if I’m entirely sober, the chances are that they are not and as a result will not be in a fit state to scrutinize and judge what I say. There are even people who I’ve met on nights out who I talk with on Facebook, or bump into time and time again in my more regular haunts and continue the conversation. Somehow, it’s a stress-free method of socialising which is not entirely centered around a screen. 

The only other thing I’ve learned in my adventures is that when it comes to people with whom you will be in regular contact whether you like it or not, first impressions mean little or nothing. I made a pretty terrible first impression when I first met my flatmates back at the start of university, but they don’t hate me (I hope). While I’m sure many of them still think that I’m strange, or awkward, or backward, I have some very close friends among my flatmates, friends who probably did not expect to get along with me when we first met. I hope that with this knowledge, I will get over my fear of talking to people. Someday. Possibly.

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Every Day I’m Tumblin’

Ah, Tumblr. The quick-and-easy blogging site which is essentially WordPress’s nerdy little cousin who’s less interested in actually reading and writing and more interested in this and that, and whatever the devil this is:

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Something fantastic about tumblr is that because its users are predominantly young people, they are constantly changing and as a result the wesite is constantly changing.

When I first joined Tumblr, I would have been about 14 or 15 years old. The website was a treasure trove of ridiculous posts – words misspelled for comedic effect, inside jokes from every ‘fandom’ possible, GIFs of puppies, everything I could ever have dreamed of.

By the time I had turned 16, however, the website had transformed. I received my first bit of “anon hate” as Tumblr changed from a land of hilarity to a website filled with hate messages and the romanticisation of mental illness. I did not like this version of the website. Honestly, the anonymous hate messages were the least of my worries of that time – it was the idea of this “beautifully broken” characteristic that made me sick to my stomach, the “thinspo” blogs, the rise of the self-diagnosis. The movement served to make issues such as anxiety, depression and eating disorders both a “big deal” and “no big deal” simultaneously, ultimately making it even more difficult to deal with these problems because there was pressure on you to feel the exact same all the time, to write heartfelt posts about how everything affected you, how everything was awful, how Tumblr is the only place you feel safe, etc etc etc. I was not willing to blog or reblog any of this nonsense. I did not, and still do not, want to be considered “beautifully broken”. Just let me slam on a “damaged goods” label and get on with my own life as I please.

I left Tumblr because I was sick of being told that I had to be sick to be interesting, but that I had to be completely normal to be allowed to have opinions on anything else. And the thing about me is that I am one hell of a lot more interested in Doctor Who and music and cartoons and comics than I am in any of that stuff.

But anyway.

I just recently returned to Tumblr (hey, I need something to mess about on while all my flatmates are out having social lives!) to find it majestically transformed yet again, this time for the better. Not only am I constantly stumbling on posts clearly left over from the end of the Great Mental Illness Fad saying things like this:

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But it would also appear to have been taken over by LGBT+ people, straight allies and social justice bloggers (or social media activists).

While SMAs get a lot of criticism for being oversensitive on some matters (tw: mild negativity) without actually /doing/ anything (tw: reality), I think that, overall, they are a good thing. The SMAs of Tumblr preach acceptance and equality for all sexualities, all genders, all races, etc. While their views and statements can seem a little extreme at times and give cis-white-males no other option but to “check their privilige”, it is an extremeness that will no longer be required if/when society eventually reaches full equality.

So well done to the people of Tumblr for turning from a community of depression-glorifying health-shaming teens to one of (slightly extreme) social activism. And well done for keeping up your tradition of cat GIFs. I’m excited to see where our online adventure will take us in the future.


Stuff I’d recommend checking out:

Hope you all had/have a great day, wherever you are!

Tx

 

Tiny update

Progress has been made.

Today, I sat in front of four people and tried my best to explain why I should be chosen for an internship with the Belfast Telegraph. And I didn’t die.

The thing about interviews is that they do not display to potential employers whether or not you would be suitable for a job. They show potential employers whether or not you do well while sitting in a room full of people whose sole purpose at that moment in time is to analyse and judge you. They show potential employers whether or not you are any good at trying to convince people that you are better than other people. They don’t show employers how good you are – they show them how good you think you are.

If interviews are anything to go by, nervous people are no good at any jobs. Modest people are useless people. Introverts are vastly inferior to extroverts. None of these things are true.

But another thing about interviews is that although a bad interview can destroy your confidence for anything between 5 minutes and 5 days, it can also teach you and help you to improve in the long run. The very first interview I ever did, which was about 2 years ago now, I got so worked up that I had to leave about half-way through the interview. Needless to say, the interview was not successful.

So whether or not I get this internship (and I really hope I do), the very fact that I stayed until the end of this interview is an achievement. It feels like a small victory over my own ridiculous self.


I’ve made this tiny little post because I feel bad for neglecting this blog over exam time. Hopefully, posting will go back to normal after Saturday!

 

Lean, Mean, Alcohol-Induced Anxiety Machine

There are certain things that I don’t let myself think about because I know that I’ll send myself into a full panic if I do. It is by blocking these things out that I maintain a level of functionality, this is especially important in social situations (come on, who wants to hang out with someone if they think there’s a chance they’ll have to sit through them having an anxiety attack?). Since turning 18 (the legal age to drink in this country), I have discovered that alcohol is especially useful in these situations. Without getting drunk, a small amount calms me down just enough that I function like a normal person. All hugs and dancing. All fun and games. Wonderful… to a certain point.

All of my flatmates go out at least once every week and get utterly plastered. They love it. The poison in their systems makes them think, say and do ridiculous things that are hilarious at the time and make fun stories for the next day. They all have stories from the start of the year about how they barely knew such-and-such-a-person but they were super drunk so they went together to such-and-such-a-place and had some sort of kooky adventure that made them best friends to this day. Alcohol is a big part of their lives, and has been for quite some time.

I have a rather more complex relationship with it, however. It helps me to such a brilliant degree in social situations (I must point out here that I only drink once a week at most) that I certainly count it as one of the more positive changes that have taken place in my life in recent times. But the second I get actually *drunk*, something that has only happened two or three times and hopefully won’t happen many more times that that, the effect is the exact opposite. I think about all the things I shouldn’t, and I start to panic. What’s worse is that when I’m drunk, I don’t even think to get away from people when it happens, because I can’t feel it coming like I can when I’m sober. I can have a full-on freak-out in a bar, and all my friends can do is look on in horror.

All of my friends, that is, except for two. Because it is in your lowest moments that you discover who your real friends are.

Since moving to Belfast and actually developing a social life of sorts, I have had three of these public panics. The first two are referred to here and here. The third happened this Thursday past. On all three occasions, it was one or both of two people that looked after me and helped me calm down. These people were Nicole and Michael.

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On Thursday, we were at Kremlin, an excellent club full of lovely people. It is my favourite place to go out, which is odd considering I don’t generally go for clubs. Because we’d gone out in a big group (usually, if we go to Kremlin it’s just 3 or 4 of us), we had had predrinks beforehand. I was… jolly. Let’s call it jolly. Thanks to £2 drinks and the obsession of my comrades with “seeing Tabitha drunk” (which is quite a let-down really, I think they expect me to a completely different person somehow), I quickly became more than “jolly”, and then quickly descended into the drunken panic-state that is the reason I do NOT generally drink in excess.

Thankfully, however, both Michael and Nicole were out that night and they both pounced on me almost straight away. And they calmed me down. And they helped me enjoy the rest of the night. And they didn’t complain once that I was causing a problem.

Thinking back to the events of that night, I am not sad that I can’t socialise in the way that everyone else can. I’m not sad that I can’t risk getting drunk like everyone else does. I’m not sad that I have wasted all these hours of my life in a state of panic.

I am happy, very happy.

This time last year I felt all alone in the world and did not feel like there was any real reason for me to stay. Now, I have a large circle of friends and a small circle of close friends who I know I could trust with my life. I have people I can talk to when things get too much. I have a place in the University of my Dreams. I have a mother who loves me and a sister who I can hang around with as if she’s just another friend.

So, so what if I have problems with socialising and communicating? I have everything I could possibly want, and I couldn’t be happier.


Stuff for you to check out:

  • Michael’s music (youtube/soundcloud)- he’s a super-great musician and a lovely person. Would you be so kind as to check it out and maybe give a little feedback? Even just the listen would be a great help, he needs a signal-boost! (No, he hasn’t asked me to post this. I’m just trying to help out!)
  • This blog, because it’s great.
  • This lady’s twitter account, because it makes me smile.

I hope you all have a great day!

Tx