Sometime last week I ran into an old acquaintance whom I have only met a couple of times before in the past. Two, three times, maybe? He used to attend my meetups within the social anxiety support group before I stopped hosting them. I would have seen him weeks earlier had I attended a certain meetup that I signed up for. His name was also on the RVSP list. Being the chicken that I am, as the date of the event grew closer, I decided not to attend for the irrational and stupid reason of being afraid of seeing him there and not knowing what to say. I wouldn’t say he’s my friend since I don’t know him that well. He follows me on Instagram and we’re “friends” on Facebook, but this kind of arrangement isn’t uncommon for the millions of other people who have online social accounts.
Anyway. I think maybe it wasn’t a bad thing I ran into him that day. I was walking past Bryant Park towards Central Park when I passed some guy wearing sunglasses who was walking in the opposite direction of me. I saw him out of the corner of my eye but I didn’t bother looking directly at him since I was so focused on getting to the park. Then all of a sudden I hear him calling my name. How can I describe what it felt like in this moment? First was the small pinpricks of surprise, like little stars lighting up in my mind. Then an explosion of doom settled over me as I realized, Oh shit, he’s talking to me. Only when I looked right at him, I realized who he was.
The short story is that we chatted for a few minutes and since he was headed in the same way I was, he asked if he could walk with me for a few blocks. My knee-jerk reaction was to want to say, “Umm, that’s okay, I’ll be all right by myself”, but I couldn’t force the words out. Instead, I said ok since that was the easier answer and because a teeny tiny part of myself wanted to see what on earth was so scary about talking to a random person for the next fifteen minutes. Although, I mostly wanted to hightail it out of there. Damn it, why do I do this to myself?
I can say that I tried to make an effort (at times) to talk and/or answer openly when he asked me a question. Or I hope I did? I even asked him some questions. The question I got stumped on (as usual) was, “What have you been up to?” Man, I get so self-conscious whenever someone asks me that question because A) I’m shy about sharing what I actually have been up to, or B) I have actually been doing nothing special and am just too embarrassed to say it. Option A is like opening up a can of worms and expecting there are worms inside but not knowing with 100% certainty that there will be worms. What I mean is, sharing what I have been up to can open up the conversation to a variety of topics and it scares the living daylights out of me to not know where the conversation will go from there. I cannot accurately predict another person’s reaction to an answer I give, after all.
I am satisfied that I managed to share some things during the conversation though. It’s crazy, but I actually mentioned to him that I’ve been writing on my blog and told him my posts were about my experiences with social anxiety. I didn’t give him the URL name though. If by some weird coincidence he is reading this now, I hope he isn’t offended by my perspective on some things. It’s not necessarily that I disliked talking to him, but I have trouble keeping a conversation going because I get so nervous about talking in general and/or sharing my opinion on things. Yes, I am that insecure about myself, as dumb as that sounds. Yes, I felt caught off guard that day and was totally not expecting to run into anyone I recognized, though I survived the walk and the conversation with him. After we parted ways, I was relieved that I at least made an attempt to talk to him. The encounter was one that happened by chance and was likely bound to happen, I think. If it wasn’t him, it might’ve been someone else on a different day that I ran into because that is what is so unexpected about life.
Have you ever run into someone you didn’t expect to see and have a conversation with the person? How did you feel during it and what was bad/good about it?