I was leaving a holiday party a few nights ago. Although I left well after midnight, the party was still going strong. Even though I’m rather introverted, I never leave a party unless it’s for a good reason. Those reasons include:
1. wanting alone time with someone, out of concern or romantic interest;
2. already having other plans;
3. getting hit hard with a bout of social anxiety;
4. overthinking and overdrinking;
5. and being too much in my head or feelings.
Notice how work or being tired didn’t make the list of “good reasons.” If I can, I’ll crash on a friend’s couch. So far in my life, couchsurfing indicates a good night. If I work, a lack of sleep certainly won’t stop me from spending time with friends. As my grandma says, “You can sleep when you’re dead.” My response and newest motto are, “I’m not dead yet.”
Back to my reason for leaving this party early. Sadly, it was a case of sensitivity. I was seriously beginning to miss my brother. I also inadvertently discovered my exclusion from an event I wished to participate in. Between the saudade I felt for my brother, my presumed exclusion, sleep deprivation, and my girlfriends’ departure, I was not in a party mood.
Earlier on, a friend of mine noticed my silence. Seeing as I had no cigar or whiskey in hand, and was mute during a debate on the validity of superheroes, his concern was valid. Silence is not something I’m well acquainted with. Considering the circumstances, it was certainly uncharacteristic. I acknowledged my friend’s concern. Due to the number of people present, I felt discomfort at the thought of being too candid. My short reply about missing my brother seemed to satisfy my friend who went inside. While determining how much more socializing I could tolerate, I found myself momentarily distracted by new people.
As the night wore on, I realized I needed to take my leave. Following my friend out-a useful social tack when people might wonder why you’re leaving early–I realized we hadn’t said goodbye. I called out to him, really feeling the need for acknowledgment, “Are you going to leave without saying goodbye?” Fortunately for my feelings, he made his way back for a proper exit.
I guess he could tell I was still upset and inquired about it. I can’t always determine the expressiveness of my face, but as often as I curse being an open book, I was grateful in this moment. I finally removed the mask of bravado I’d donned that night, sharing how I often wore it to force myself out of fear. I confessed my omnipresent anxiety, despite my pretense of confidence. I ran out of words, cognizant of my vulnerability.
Part of my motive for this confession was that I knew he’d understand. Despite his calm demeanor, I suspected how anxious he truly was. Based on our friendship so far, it was fairly apparent he couldn’t sit still at parties. He always needed something to do, to keep himself occupied and distracted from impending self-doubt and fear of social buffoonery. I often found him tucked away in quieter corners of parties, usually conversing with someone he already knew. I even concluded that his smoking was for the same reason as my drinking–keeping yourself busy to avoid anxiety.
His response surprised me. He acknowledged the use of masks, admitting they didn’t always matter. Sometimes people are just bitches. He reminded me of my already amazing friends and to not give a shit about others’ judgment. I thanked him for his kindness, then looked at him to gauge how my openness was received. It felt as if he had more to add, as always. Instead, he said, “Let’s keep in touch. We should really keep in touch.”
I’m uncertain why he said this, but his parting words have lingered in my mind. This was the first time I’d been open with him about something personal like my mental health. As exposed as I felt, it was worth it for being understood. I hope for further openness in the future. So few can or even want to hear about mental health issues. Only time tells with these things.
Communication & Contact
On another note, the concept of keeping in touch stayed with me past that conversation. After processing my vulnerability, I found myself inspired to share the above story. I wanted others to see how a little courage goes a long way. Although I frequently see this friend, I hope his desire to keep in touch means more realness. As scared as I am for this, it will only help us and our friendship grow.
My friend’s parting words also made me think of how we all keep in touch nowadays. I pondered modes of communication. How we choose to contact people matters. Texting is useful, efficient, and convenient when communicating basic needs, time, location, and quick jokes with friends and family. It is not for long conversations, time-sensitive topics or serious emotional matters. (Unless you’re in crisis and contacting a hotline while desiring anonymity). It’s not for dating. If you are online dating and don’t feel comfortable exchanging numbers for a real phone conversation, you might not be ready to date. Of course, everyone’s standards of ‘acceptable’ vary, but generally speaking, asking someone on a date over text is juvenile.
On the other hand, there are more beneficial forms of virtual communication. Take families that live far apart for various reasons. Soldiers celebrating holidays overseas can now do this with their families via video chat. Talk about modern miracles! If you’re in any sort of long distance relationship, it’s vital. The majority of our communication occurs through body language, so face to face is preferable. The next time you find you’re ‘not getting’ a joke or simply misunderstanding, check what you missed. Was it eye contact? Did you tune out of the conversation? Or was it the mode of communication you chose?
Either way, keeping in touch is necessary for humanity. When we lose touch with ourselves, loved ones, culture, and faith, we lose our humanity. We can touch others with more than verbal communication. Body language naturally accompanies our dialogue. Intentional eye contact is a powerful tool in every aspect of life. Not all of us are easy to read, unlike me, so eye contact aids in understanding someone’s intent.
With 55% of our communication reliant on facial expressions, eye contact, gestures, postures, and other nonverbal cues, it’s no wonder eyes are the window or door to the soul. Your pupils dilate in response to excitement, fear, attraction or arousal. This doesn’t include the color change in eyes also due to an emotional response. Pigment in your iris expand or contract with the change of pupil size, altering the eye’s color temporarily.
Eyesight aside, there’s also art. I think creativity, in general, keeps us in touch with each other and our Creator. I’ve previously pondered creation before as I likely will in the future. Until then, use your humanity to connect with others. Create something that keeps us in touch with our immortal selves.