I like seeing people I know out in the wild. This is a 100% change in my persona in the last decade. Before Dad died, and I was mildly agoraphobic and strongly crippled with social anxieties; so I would run in the opposite direction if I recognized someone at Target. I remember seeing a parent of a classmate of E’s somewhere once, and I literally left the store without getting what I needed because it was too small to hide in and I needed to get out before she saw me.
But now? Now I tend to enthusiastically greet someone when I see them in unexpected places. A friend of mine walked into a restaurant I was eating at to pick up her carry-out order and I ran up and hugged her before she left. I ran into an old friend at Target 2 weeks ago and I literally said, “I was feeling really crappy because my allergies are killing me and I’m grumpy and then I saw you and I love life again!”
However, I’m a little enthusiastic, most of the times.
It’s a whole different kind of awkwardness, I’ll admit. And some people freeze a little and my manic/hyper enthusiasm, but it doesn’t faze me because I know how weird I come across sometimes. The thing is, I just find this is such a better form of awkward than running and hiding. Kinda like how I’m constantly determined to use people’s names when I see them. No matter how little I know you, I try my best to use your name when I see you as it helps me relax a little. Sometimes I’ll dodge down an aisle in Target to check Facebook to make sure I’ve got your name right, and many times I should do that as I get names wrong, but for the most part? I’m a name-user. I find it helps me feel comfortable socially.
Well…all of this is to say that I received the KINDEST message on Facebook recently. You see, a friend of mine runs in the part of town I run in. I don’t know if he’s training for a 100-miler right now, but he has in the past and with as often as I see him out on my runs, he’s gotta be training for something big. Anyway…every time I see him I enthusiastically greet him by name and last week he sent me this message, “Kim, every time we pass each other running, you are always smiling. Your smiling is contagious to others. Thanks.”
It made my year. I already try not to feel awkward about how hyper I get when I see people I know in public, but that message really helped remind me on that great see-saw of social awkwardness, this is the better side to lean on…the overly-enthusiastic-greeting side. The runs-away-and-hides side was no less awkward, to be honest. But at least this side can have a positive ripple effect whereas nothing positive comes from me running away and hiding.
So I’ll keep excitedly approaching friends out in the wild. I’ll manically ramble on about something completely bizarre. Like that time I ran into a classroom parent from one of my kid’s classes at an art collective and proceeded to lament about how I wish I hadn’t worn the shirt that showed my boob sweat so clearly and that I should pack that shirt away in the summer time. YES. I AM THAT WEIRDO. But I’ll keep doing it because I truly believe that, in the big picture of life, the awkwardness that stems from these encounters pales in comparison to the joy I can potentially spread by simply being happy to see a friend.