i’m afraid of running into people i know

It can be so awkward.

I guess I’m talking more specifically about living somewhere where you will inevitably run into the same people at some point or another, i.e. college. The people you live with, take classes with, interact with – they all unwittingly integrate themselves into your life without either one of you consenting. And if you’re not friends, if you’re somewhere in between, it can be so awkward running into them somewhere else other than. Do they recognize you too? Should you talk to them?

It can be so awkward for me. Particularly so when I never knew that person well in the first place. Maybe I worked on a group project with them for a class, and then saw them in another one of my classes the following semester. Maybe we tried out for the same club, only to find out I got rejected and she got in; we also take the same class. Maybe it was someone I knew long ago but wasn’t really friends with, and now we kind of see each other regularly in class. I hate it when these occurrences are in a repetitive setting; you can’t run away, you can’t leave, you can only talk or not talk to them. Most of the time, I choose the latter. It’s easier. It’s most likely they don’t remember you, feel indifferent towards you, or maybe they feel the same way and just want to avoid that awkwardness.

Admittedly, this doesn’t happen with everyone. There are people, most people, with whom you just don’t feel that awkwardness around them. Who make it easy for you by deciding to just talk to you after not seeing you for a year. Who wave a simple hi, and avoid the small talk altogetther. Why can’t I be one of those people? Why do I pay so much attention to those that I’m not even friends with?

I  can’t tell if this is me being socially anxious, or simply being anxious. It’s just something that happens, and it’s kind of the reason what makes me want to move to a new city every once in a while. To restart, to forget about all those awkward interactions that could have happened. To not think about how awkward I am. Until I meet people again, and those faces appear again.

Everything is made easier when I’m with someone, though. I can be with someone and be fearless as ever, going to places I wouldn’t go by myself for the fear of being seen. Maybe I’m just afraid of being seen by myself. It’s not something I’m ashamed of per se, and I never think that about someone else. But it’s just hard for me to be by myself, outside, and run into someone who is not by themselves. All these thoughts about them thinking I’m a loner start racing in my head, and it makes me want to run back home, lock my door, and veg out, trying to forget about what just happened.

I don’t know where this fear stems from, and I know I’m not alone in this. I always hear people saying how they don’t want to do this by themselves, go there by themselves. Some of them are extroverts who find comfort in company. Others just don’t like to be alone. Many reasons. But it’s hard to tell whether that fear stems from insecurities that they can’t really put into words. I’m not afraid of being by myself, I like being by myself; I just don’t want to run into people when I’m alone and ruminate about them thinking how alone I must be. Why I am so insecure about what others could potentially think of me, I’m not sure. 

I know it’s all in my head. I have to remind myself that others are just as self-centered and insecure in their own minds to even care about seeing me. It’s hard to remember, though, when you’re so stuck in your own mind. Regardless, I tend to imagine the interactions to be way more awkward in  than they actually are, which has made me be more willing to put myself out there more. But it’s not always easy. I’m constantly going back and forth, debating whether I should go out or not, do this or not, for whatever irrational fears are residing in my head at that moment. It can be hard dealing with myself sometimes.


i struggle to make friends

I don’t think most friendships are meant to last, I really don’t. For the longest time, I thought they could. Or at least, I hoped they would. But they would all seamlessly leave my life just as soon as they had entered it. One stayed, even as she moved away freshman year of high school. We thought we’d see each other next year; no, maybe the following one. We continued talking often; but after several years of keeping in touch, she, too, faded from my life.

I don’t go looking for friends with the expectation that we will be friends forever and ever, because if I did, I don’t think I would have any friends left. I now see them as people who are meant to come in and out of your life at that specific point in time, and I don’t find the gradual distance that naturally separates most friendships as something to mourn over anymore.

Of course, as the unbearably sensitive soul that I can be, I still hesitate to let people into my life. There are the simple questions of Do I like them? Do they like me? Do I like spending time with them? How convenient is it for us to see each other? Do we “click”? that get answered as time goes by, and if they are welcomed by both parties, then the acquantainceship blossoms into a beautiful, complicated friendship. But then what happens?

There are so many layers and levels to a friendship, yet the one that we crave the most is also the one that can potentially hurt us most. When I considered someone my best friend in the past, their words and actions had more weight on me. Just like it’s easier to talk to them than other people, it’s also easier to get mad at them when they don’t seem to be reciprocating the same level of attention to you. It’s strangely comparable to that of a romantic relationship, minus the romance, obviously. 

As a junior in college, I’ve made several friends in the past 2 years of college, a few whom I consider close. I think this is the most natural progression in terms of friendships. As freshmen aka the “newbies,” we spent the most time trying to get to know people and broaden our horizons. But by the time junior or senior year comes around, a lot of us settle into the few solid friends that have accompanied our experience thus far. It’s the same for every aspect of our lives: everytime we move or start something new, we need to put in that extra effort at the beginning. We’re more willing to get out of our comfort zone, in the hopes of finding that sense of community. But as time passes and we get comfortable, we start being more selective about who we see and what we do. 

There are also those friendships that you know will end by the end of a period of time. It’s a strange feeling, befriending someone, both knowing that it will eventually come to an end. This past summer, I got unexpectedly close to a few people at the program that were all in. We only knew each other for 2 months, but we spent that time living, studying and exploring a foreign country together. It was an intense but incredibly fulfilling time, and the friendships were what made it hard to leave the place. But something that consoled me was that we left as friends, and though we rarely, if ever, talk nowadays, I find comfort in that if we get to see each other again in the future, we will resume our friendship just like before. Or maybe not. Maybe that summer spark will be gone if we get to meet again. This doubt is what holds me back the most, as it’s this melancholic desire to keep the memories as they were that often prevents me from reconnecting with old friends.

As you can see, through time I’ve learned that I’m not usually the type of person to make a lot of friends nor keep in touch with old ones. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, you might meet someone with whom you have a connection that transcends any distance. But those are rare and hard to come by. So for the most part, I won’t let the fear of losing the friends that I have stop me from forming my own experiences. This is my choice, one that comes mainly from my inner drive, but also from the fear of being the one left behind. 

Essentially, I think we each have to find what friendships mean to us and the value we want them to have in our lives, just like being in a relationship. As someone who was born in one place, grew up in another, and is now studying college elsewhere, I don’t have a place where I call “home.” I have several homes, but none are truly home. I’m fortunate to have either family or friends in each of the homes that I have, but I will always be an outsider in those places, either because I haven’t lived there enough or because I’m simply not a local. This mentality is what drives me to want to live in different places, and maybe someday I’ll find a place where I would want to call home. Maybe someday, friends will be more than just a temporary part of my life.