You know what I love? This space. How it functions. What it means, the intention it takes for you to come here and read, and then comment! and then share!? I mean, it's just too good, the love I feel here.
But here's some truth, too: part of why I love coming here and writing for you - part of the reason it works so easily - is because you're not in front of me. You're over there and I'm over here and I can write things and you can write things and we can read each other's things and I can truly offer you my whole self for the moments it takes to read your sweet and hilarious and supportive and challenging and loving comments. I can then continue giving you my whole self for the moments it takes me to respond. I feel you in those moments, I see you, and I genuinely try to connect with you. I love this kind of interaction, which is probably why blogging has become so progressively fulfilling for me; we've been able to develop this little community that I truly love and care about, without all of the stress of real-life-ness.
Because, people, hear this: real-life-ness stresses me the hell out.
I've always been socially anxious. I didn't realize this until recently, and when I realized it, I was like, "HOLY SHIT HOW DID I NOT REALIZE THIS UNTIL NOW?" In third grade, I once sheepishly asked the most popular girl in class if she liked me. In the two seconds it took her to answer I thought I might die. "Yeah, I like you," she said and I then thought, "She doesn't mean it." Because she probably didn't. Because Big Feelers like me (and maybe you?) are out of place even in third grade. Because putting people on the spot can make them uncomfortable. Because that doesn't stop me from putting people on the spot. (For the record, I quite like being on the spot.) Because sometimes the truth feels shitty.
What I'm saying here is that making friends is kind of excruciating for me. I used to drink a ton of booze and then let my 'real self' come out, the loud and funny and obnoxious (and stumbling and sometimes puking) self. I'd feel like a d-bag the next day, sure, but I had moxie - I could puff myself up with loads of faux confidence, making the parts I could remember from the night before seem totally on purpose.
This was a reliable way to make friends in college, but now that I'm a real grown-up who's sober, shit's getting real. I can't relax myself with a couple of shots of tequila before new people come over for a cookout. I can go to a bar and drink lemonade out of a martini glass - I can play the part - but in terms of physiologically altering myself to make the excruciating awkwardness of adult socialization more palatable, I'm outta luck.
What's made this whole thing even more strange is the fact that we all have online personalities now. There are people we adore on Facebook - them with their wittiness and cute clothes and funny one liners - and then we bump into them at the coffee shop and it's all, "Um, hey, uh, you went away last week, right? How was it!?" We're "in" each others lives because our lives are splayed open for all to see online, but taking that shit from the screen to the street is stress-inducing.
There are a few woman I really, really want to know right now. Like, I already know that I love them - that's a done deal. (I tend to fall in love with people quickly - read more about that here in point #2.) But I don't know them yet. I know that they're funny and smart and real, but I haven't hung out with them enough in real life yet for things to feel normal and easy. Right now, the lens through which we see each other is tinted social-media-colored - we like each other lots based on our carefully-crafted tidbits. These carefully-crafted tidbits have been enough for me to know that these chicks are the real deal, that they're My People - like I said, I already love them. But we haven't seen each other all the way yet. They haven't seen me parent. They haven't seen me when I have nothing to say. They haven't seen me struggling over how I look in a bathing suit even though I know better than that. And they haven't seen me at my worst, being judgmental and curt and icy and woefully insecure.
And that's what scares me so much.
Because will they still want to be my friend? Will the Facade Of The Tidbit be washed away? Am I a narcissistic buffoon for thinking I've presented an online version of myself that needs to be preserved? I mean c'mon - just get the hell over yourself already, Ballard.
But I've decided that I can't simply let these women slip through my rapidly-aging fingers. I can't hide inside of this blog or my Facebook wall or my mostly-pretty Instagrams. I have to put myself out there, fear and all, and hope that the people who've said, "Hey, wanna be friends?" really know what they're getting into. I mean, they're adults, too, so I should give them the benefit of the doubt. Also, it wouldn't hurt to keep in mind this glaring truth: I'm still gonna love them once they've shown me their real-life selves. So, theoretically, I should assume the reverse to be true. The alternative - making online connections that hold zero water offline - isn't an option for me. That shit feels fake, like we're creating personas for ourselves instead of simply being people. And I can't hang with that.
So hear this, ladies: YOU DON'T SCARE ME ANYMORE.
Also: wanna be friends?
Love you already,