I never greeted my parents when I was younger. That eventually translated to other adults and my parents spent far too much time than they should have, berating me on my very bad habit. Anyone familiar with African culture understands the importance of greetings and its relation to respect, especially for adults and older people, and it isn’t difficult to imagine how my disregard for the important tradition of greeting one’s elders caused me quite a bit of trouble.
I wasn’t being intentionally stubborn however. I just felt greetings like “Good morning” or “Good evening” were much too formal for an interaction with two people who, for lack of a better expression, I felt “cool” with. As I have grown older though, that has evolved into how I interact with my friends. I rarely check up on friends, believing that they know how much I care about them (I do) and rationalizing that my friendship is much cooler than constant “Hey” and “How are you doing?” and I interact with them only when I absolutely need to.
This behavior is much symptomatic of how I view the world. I view the world as being made up of individual spaces that we all occupy which we only leave when we absolutely need to, in order to interact briefly with others for the most important reasons, and then retreat to immediately after these interactions. In more practical terms, my “Space Theory” has manifested itself in some really interesting – and weird – ways. For example, I try as much as possible to send messages to people when they are offline, so I am not pressured into having a conversation with them if we are online at the same time and I intentionally place my phone on “Silent” mode because it’s easier to miss calls that way so I reduce interaction with people to the barest minimum. To be honest, I don’t know how to interact directly with people.
Not being comfortable interacting with people didn’t seem a problem when I was a kid. I didn’t have too many friends; I had a limited network of people I related with and I didn’t know I had a problem. Now though, with a relatively larger group of friends and a burgeoning network, my awkwardness around/with people seems to be becoming even more pronounced. Most days, I rationalize my awkwardness by telling myself that my friends know I appreciate them or I tell myself people are overrated anyway and I don’t need to interact with people to feel good about myself. Other times, I immerse myself in studies and work so I don’t have to think and worry about it. There are times however – like this morning when I had a really honest conversation with one of my closest friends – that I realize that I can’t continue to run away from this problem.
I don’t know what I’m going to do to change; some of my initial solutions – like writing down a list of people I need to check up on daily – seem impersonal. I just hope that if any of them do read this however, they understand that contrary to popular belief, I’m not an impersonal cold fish.