Ever Feel Like A Living Ghost?

Currently, I’m away from Costa Rica visiting Florida to find a new place to live. I’ve decided it is time to return to the USA after a successful and enjoyable 8 year run in Costa Rica. Unfortunately, residency requirements in Costa Rica have become stricter. I can no longer come and go as a “tourist”: I must either invest $250,000 into property or retire at 33, which sadly isn’t happening. Furthermore, my health insurance is in the USA. This requires that my parents send me a monthly shipment of medicine and diabetic supplies. This doesn’t quite make me an independent adult and I believe I really need to take charge of meeting my own needs 100%. Relying on my aging parents for medicine is not fair to them, even though they religiously helped me out over the past 8 years .

This week is being spent visiting various apartment complexes in and around Jacksonville, Florida. It’s been stressful trying to find prospective apartments in a place I’ve never been before. I’m relying on Google Directions and luck to get me to the apartment leasing appointments on time. So far, so good.

Here’s one interesting thing about traveling alone: I often feel like I’m a living ghost. I’m not sure if it is because I’m afraid to reach out to strangers or if my BPD is getting in the way of appearing relaxed. Either way, when I am out and about I walk around feeling almost invisible except if I engage someone head on.

I sometimes feel a degree of awkwardness I experienced in college when I went to the main dining hall to eat alone. At first, I loathed the idea of dining alone: I thought it made me look like an outcast or social reject. By my senior year, however, I mostly got over that and just went and ate regardless of how I felt. I couldn’t rely on people to eat on my schedule so I just struck out on my own when necessary.

As a result, I’ve learned to “eat alone” by myself as an adult fairly easily. I tend to gravitate towards quieter restaurants that aren’t packed full of people. Once inside, I’m quick and to the point ordering my food and beverages. I try to avoid small talk because it makes me feel nervous. I probably come off as on-edge and aloof even though I don’t intend to project myself in this way.

I also feel like I’m a burden to my server. Most waiters don’t want to serve a solo customer because it will occupy one of their tables for an hour. They’d rather serve a bustling table of 4 or 6 customers who will produce a giant tip. As a result, I tend to be generous to servers when it comes time to tip at the end of the meal. I want them to know that I appreciated their time and good humor greatly.

Tonight I walked for about half a mile to a busy restaurant district. Most people didn’t even notice me walking by, save a couple people exercising who had to dodge me in order to maintain their walking/running pace. Once I was in a more crowded area, I noticed people made space for me to pass by only if they were also alone or with one other person. Larger groups were an entirely different story. It seems that Americans in large groups tend barge through whatever area they’re in completely oblivious to their surroundings. When confronted with these types of situations, I often find myself listing over to the gutter on the side of the road or walking on the curbs of streets to avoid the oncoming parade of people. Again, it makes me feel like I’m strange or weird when 50 people are happily plowing ahead in one direction, while I’m ducking off to the side in order to avoid them.

Let’s face it: when you’re by yourself it’s hard to create social situations unless you’re naturally charismatic or flambouyant. I envy the guys who can visit a city on business and pick up a hot waitress at a restaurant for a one night fling. Maybe these types of stories are trumped up, but I can’t help but believe that there are indeed people highly skilled in socialization that can make a trip by themselves or with a troup of 30 enjoyable. I’m ashamed to admit that even at 33, I’m still nervous around new people and don’t know how to socialize. This is probably leftover from the social anxiety I experienced as a youth.

So this means I essentially operate like a ghost for 99% of my trip save the moments when interacting with others is absolutely mandatory. I suppose if I were more confident I’d reach out more and try to please people instead of duck them. For whatever reason, it just feels easier to avoid people opposed to engage them. I suppose that way I can avoid any sense of social rejection if the interaction doesn’t go as planned.

Parents: make sure your children are confident around other people, to the highest degree possible given their personality. I’m not a very social person by nature and I prefer to spend most of my day alone. At the same time, I do need to interact with others to feel connected and “normal”. Ultimately, I think everyone needs to connect with others at some level, whether they are 100% introverted or happy-as-a-clam in a crowd.

There’s something to be said for someone that can work a crowd. They don’t have to know much except for how to get what they want out of others. That’s why everyone talks about “networking” while at university: most of the time, it’s WHO YOU KNOW, NOT WHAT YOU KNOW. You can have a genious IQ and savant-like capabilities. Still, if you cannot mingle among others comfortably, your brains will only take you so far.

At some point, we have to engage with others even if it makes us quake inside. Hopefully, I’m not the only one at 33 that still has trouble in social situations. That would make me feel a little better about being awkward in a world that is powered by social status, grace, and likeability.