I think the toughest thing about anything is taking the first step. You know, you’re sitting there and there is this awkward silence with someone. It could be anyone. I walk into a classroom to teach and the room is silent. Nobody dares speak a word. I can’t fucking stand it. Or you walk into a music shop and there is no one in there but you and the cashier. Awkward. Over and over and over again, those first few moments of any encounter with anyone can be awkward. But does it have to stay that way? No.
I’m fucking tired of it. Life is so short. Why spend it in uncomfortableness with people. I’d rather reveal my most embarrassing secrets than sit there in stupid silence. I’m sorry but I would.
Some of the people I have admired most on this planet are people that refuse to be kowtowed by silence. They don’t fucking give a shit. They talk about awkward stuff and they don’t care. This guy J who used to do push-ups during class and talk about his gym teacher that he and his friends called ‘moose knuckle.’ My friend from high school S who can walk up to anyone and instantly begin a charming conversation about ANYTHING. This other student H who wouldn’t let one millisecond go by when I entered the classroom before she’d blurt out something about the look on my face or the clothes that I was wearing instantaneously engaging me in a conversation. I admired the hell out of these people. All too often I fall prey to that mind-numbing silence that sneaks up on people when nobody dares stick their neck out and I can’t fucking stand it.
I’m sorry but I don’t think anyone really enjoys silence. Unless you’re alone, and probably not even then.
So here’s what I do. I walk into a classroom. Nobody is talking. Everyone is staring at their phones. I feel my soul shrinking backwards into the white board. I feel myself getting smaller as each student enters the room. My enthusiasm wanes but before I let it completely disappear, I take the plunge. I make myself look like an idiot. I go for it. I say whatever comes out of my mouth, to the nearest person I can find. It doesn’t matter what is said, but I break the ice before the ice swallows me up.
Someone has a chilly look on their face. They look like they’ve swallowed a rank tuna. I start talking to them anyway. I find out that they suck at math and hate their living situation. I listen and soon realize that I’m not the only one with worries on my mind and as I start trying to help them laugh or at least crack a smile, I start to feel slightly less self-conscious and pretty soon I am feeling connected to more people in the room and the awkwardness is slinking away. It’s really easy to connect but over and over and over and over again I forget. Each new encounter on a new day with a new person, it happens again and again. How to begin? Who says what? Eventually maybe it will stop mattering whether nonsensical jibber jabber comes out of my mouth or not because at least the death sentence of silence is broken.