The Social Not-Work

| December 31, 2017 | 0 Comments

Writing makes sense to me; it’s calculated, logical, clear. I can cut and backspace this sentence – or any other one, in fact ­– as many times as I need and then some, until it doesn’t just make sense to me but also expresses my inner thoughts and sentiments best. I can be eloquent and witty all at once; I can revise my every word, clarify my every missing action. I can afford to screw up and for my words to come out wrong, because I know I can make things right and that I have that safety net.

It’s why I’ve always gravitated towards writing. Yes, writing I put out into the world is set in stone and often I cringe reading things I’ve written in the past. But it’s also like water, always in flow, ever changing, ever in balance. I can count on writing to be logical and for my letters and e-mails and text messages to make some semblance of sense.

But when it comes to actual human social interaction, that all falls apart. Suddenly I’m tripping over my own words and making verbal spulling mistakes, however that even works. Suddenly, I’m anxious, worried that I’ll say something worong that I cannot take back. Suddenly, I’m Capitalizing the Wrong words In my head and emphasizing parts of a SENTENCE that don’t make sense. Suddenly, I forget to order extra cheese on the pizza because I’d spent so much time dwelling on the meat toppings and OMG did I forget to mention I don’t eat pork because I remember saying it but it might have been to my friend Joe before I made the call, instead of to Sid. Oh, and I never addressed the pizza guy Sid by name even though I know it because he’d mentioned it earlier on in our conversation but I want to use it now because it’ll make him feel good, I think.

But truth is, it’s not for Sid’s sake. It’s for mine. I want to look smrt and kind and like I pay as much attention as I do. I want my sensetenses to make sentce. I want to pretend my mind isn’t in 9teen different places all at once, half of them panicking about how I look and sound and half of them daydreaming about videogames and movies, which I should really stop daydreaming about because it’s pretty scary that I can recite The Lion King in my head but not my pizza preferences out loud.

And the hardest part? Things come owt wrong. I can’t revise what I say – and I say it before I’ve had a chance to process where my train of thought starts sailing and at which airport it’ll land. And all of a sudden, my words are no longer under my control. They don’t belong to me, but to the people poised to respond to what they hear; what they hear without listening.

It’s not just that disconnect that hurts, it’s the expectation that it won’t exist. Placed in social situations, it’s assumed you’ll know what to do – and a lot of the time, sure, we do. But anytime we don’t, anytime we slip up and get confused and fumble twelve different things, it’s suddenly a sign of incompetence. ‘You’re not trying hard enough,’ they’ll say, before recounting a story about how they’d been awkward too, once, ‘It gets better with time and practice.’ Well, no shit, Sherlock. Nobody started out where you see them; odds are, they got there with some pretty hard work.

It’s not that they’re wrong. It has gotten better. It does get better. Especially once you get to your first job or make the move to college and find yourself forced to manage everything alone, you learn to deal – as you should. But that voice in your head telling you that something’s just not right, that you look like an absolute idiot, comes from somewhere and never quite goes away for some of us, and maybe that’s okay. I’m not naïve enough to believe that those who struggle socially, for whatever reason, can just sweep those struggles under the rug. But I am naïve enough to believe that part of the responsibility of ensuring they are heard should fall upon all the rest of us, too. Life moves pretty fast, and that’s why we miss so many amazing ideas hidden behind quiet people – quiet people who just might have something to say. And if we keep telling them that, well, if they want to voice those things they just have to “try hard enough,” then maybe we’re the ones too socially inept to deal with them.

Or hey, maybe I’m wrong! Maybe trying just a little bit harder really will ensure that the faux pas and the screw-ups will spot!

Featured photo credit: Neil. Moralee Street Chic. via photopin (license)

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Category: Poetry, Prose and Comedy, Social Activism

Aaraf Afzal

About the Author ()

Aaraf Afzal is many things, but he's not particularly good at being any of them. He continues to work towards this goal, among others, studying Film & TV and Economics at Boston University. An avid subscriber to the belief that all forms of media have their own sense of artistic beauty, he is particularly invested in writing fiction and recently released his first novel "Re: Revolution" in Bangladesh. Alongside his pursuits at Culture Shock, he's currently at work writing an online series called "The Chosen Zeroes." Fandoms and inspirations include Neil Gaiman, Kingdom Hearts, Ratchet and Clank, Marvel Comics, and Culture Shock. Giggity.

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