People watching is the height of entertainment for me and, for varying reasons, the past month has seen my social calendar packed. Meeting all of the new people has been somewhat entertaining, as well as terrifying. Therefore, when I look back over the past few weeks, I sub-consciously realised that there are a few set-things I do when confronted with new people;
- Analyse: Everything that I can see from body language or physical appearance, hear from their language or dialect, and feel with my gut-instinct. Trust me, I don’t do this to feel superior, or for the lols, but because it really does interest me. Everything about every person on this earth is different. Yes, some traits we share, picking them up from the environments and cultures we come from; but on the whole, everyone is different in their own special way. By looking at these differences and breaking them down internally, I am able to familiarise myself with the ‘idea of other’. This ‘idea of other’ is something that I use to cope in all social situations. We all see the world as ‘us and them’: the ‘idea of other’ simply helps in understanding that we all have flaws that we don’t want others to see fully into.
- Kick into Hyper-Drive: My sentences merge into one long stream of consciousness. All words get jumbled together in one long stream of internal panic. After all, what does one say when meeting someone new? If one is quiet, then awkwardness descends, like a cloud over the top of an already misty mountain. If one is talkative, the other person will label you as crazy and therefore run away as soon as possible. I am super aware that I fit under the latter. Motor-mouth-101 kicks in, and I will spew whatever comes into my head. As human nature and social skills promise, conversation will turn to things we find ourselves secure in: loves, passions, achievements, or interests that the talker lands on-top of the talkee’s shoulders. Thus, it sounds like I am boasting, or worse, being a self-righteous snob whenever I get going.
After all, who else has enjoyed reading Aristotle.
I have met no one who has ever read Poetics outside of ENG341, who has done it for pleasure.
- Churn it over: Taking everything that has been said and processing it to the nth degree. This will be done in great detail, and served with a twinge of regret. Regret, not for meeting the new person, but for dominating the conversation. I want to be curious without being nosey, yet not everyone wants to or feels able to partake in small talk. Apparently, the knack of small talk is to ask questions; but what happens when you are asking questions and getting one word replies? Tell me, oh wise etiquette people of the internet. What do you do then? So, I spend the rest of the day, maybe even into the next (week), thinking about different ways I could have been a better conversationalist. Being a little annoyed that I was provoked into Motor-Mouth-101 by the silence and then continue to churn over the conversation, trying to understand just how on earth I have managed to survive in this social stratum for so long and not be pin-pointed as a complete narcissist?
Now, there may be a person or two reading this shaking their heads; wondering ‘how Nesta, after all we have been through, are you still being introspective when it comes to meeting new people?’
Tell me how to stop doing items number 2 and 3, then I will: I promise.
To be honest, this is a frightfully long introduction into the main body of this post today, which is, that whenever I start Motor-Mouthing-101, my immediate subject with a new person is:
‘So, do you like books?’
I feel like Barney from How I Met Your Mother, but instead of dragging Ted around the local bars, I carry hypothetical reading material into any situation, trying to match-up one of my loves with another human being.
One of these favourites is called Flambards by K.M. Peyton.
No one has ever heard of it.
And when I say no one, I really mean that.
OK, a friend from school bought me the book for my birthday about ten years ago, and it was so sweet of her. But the reason for her buying the book wasn’t that it was my favourite; it was because there was a horse on the front cover.
Prizes to the first one to message me confirming what type of 11-year-old I was.
So anyway, I always ask ‘What do you like to read?’.
For some inexplicable reason, this kind of question always throws people. It’s almost like they have social skills and have practiced other forms of commutation with each other, at some type of institution, where grown up people teach things like Maths, or Science, or English, or social skills.
Not that there is a lesson plan for such benign things as human interactions, but I clearly remember daydreaming through my playground days. Wandering around pretending to be Elizabeth Bennet, quoting letters from Darcy, and dancing a quadrille (on my own) was far easier than talking to other people. Or worse, playing 1-2-3-tippy.
Due to said daydreaming, I don’t really know what to do when I meet new people. I’m still learning. At 22, it still frightens me: the idea of getting to know new people, making new relationships and starting new projects with said people. It is daunting.
Anyway, due to ‘So, do you like books?’ I have realised that I must be in the minority. I am not being elitist, or snobby, or snooty, when I say this. Books and reading have just dropped as popular media in the twenty-first century. Not that they aren’t being read: in fact, book sales have beaten e-books in their popularity since 2016 – #itsallaboutthataesthetic.
When I say that ‘I like a good book’, I mean it. Every part of it will enthral me; the smell, the plot, the characters, the narrative, the feel, the feels… all of it. A good book and a cup of tea does wonders for any time I am feeling blue.
It then makes me a little sad when someone tells me that they don’t like books.
Not that I’d ever force a book on someone who wasn’t a big reader. But it makes me sad to think that they will never know the joy of opening up to a dearly beloved book, to delve into characters’ lives in ways we never can in real life. For example, no one has ever been able to share with me the heart break I experienced, aged 15, when a certain death happened in the Flambards series.
There is no spoiler alert here for I am not revealing anything. No sir. You may go and read, or listen to, or watch the TV series, but I am staying mute. For it felt like a friend had died.
This is what happens when you get invested into the life of a character. You become emotionally attached. As a person who finds emotions hard to show therefore, reading becomes a little outlet for me. It then keeps me sane as I use my over-active hyper-driven brain to analyse the text, rather than something else that I struggle a lot with: myself, as a person.
Reading, then analysing, and then thinking about a text really helps me to cope with the inside of my head. It may be a surprise, as I am not one of the unusually gifted of the world, that there is quite a lot going on up there. I find it hard to stop, take a break, to switch off.
In fact, switching off is my worst nightmare. Doing nothing while thinking about nothing is awful. I can’t do it.
How do I relax then?
That’s why I love reading, books, my course, driving, people watching… all of it. It all helps me to relax. Keeping my mind busy helps me to keep calm. Oxymoronically, doing nothing stresses me out, while having a ‘little project’ relaxes me.
This post is a bit up in the air. But if you take anything away from here, let it be this: do more of what you love. I’ve been wired in a way that makes the way I read a social situation, incredibly similar to the way I read a book. God made me this way. Yes, I can pray, and yes, I can worship and read the Bible: but when push comes to shove, ‘whatever you do, do it all for God and His glory’ for me means doing what I love to do. There are desires in my heart, good ones placed there by my good Father. He knew what He was doing when He wired me up to be a nostalgic-realist-dreamer of a girl, who loves music, and being in her own world.
He knows what I love.
And He loves watching me do it.
Do more of what you love: it’s what we were created for. It may be hard at times, we may need help, but ultimately, as my La (my grand-father) says;
‘Do the work that’s nearest,
Though it’s dull at whiles,
Helping when you meet them,
Lame dogs over stiles’
- Charles Kingsley