Doing the dance of unfamiliarity

We all get planted in new and unfamiliar situations whether it’s by choice or forced.  You know, like the time you were forced to go to overnight camp for a month when you were nine and became known as the lesbian because you spoke too closely to someone’s face.  That was not something you or I was used to or expecting and would have loved it if our or my parents flew back from France to get you/me.  However, during these times of stress and severe trauma, we are allowing ourselves to learn what it means to be ourselves and how to figure shit out in a world where every one and every place is different.

I don’t get it!

The best way to figure the rules of a situation is to observe.  Actually, that’s a lie – it isn’t.  Yesterday, my second day in a new city, I was parked on the south side of the street and couldn’t park between 9:30-11AM because this was when they cleaned the street.  At 9:25 I noticed people were getting into their cars and moving them or were just sitting in them.  I thought, oh god, does that mean I have to sit in my car for 1.5hrs?  I don’t know!  I drove around the block to notice cars double-parked on the other side of the street (it’s a one-way street), notes on double-parked windows saying “call me if you need me to move my car”, and people just standing around their cars.

After eight times around the block, I started to panic.  I couldn’t keep driving around the block for another hour!  So, I pulled over behind the double-parked cars and was satisfied.  I’m doing what ‘the people’ are doing.  I walked up a bit to check out the cars and no one was in them.  Uhhhh, so do I leave it here or do I sit in my car?  Ugh!  I couldn’t just leave my car there and I wasn’t willing to wait an hour in my car.  It was terrible.  So, I drove back around to the front of my apartment and pulled over; I had noticed the sweeper had gone by.  It was only 10am but thought it would be fine to park at that point.

Getting shown the ropes

I was getting out of the car and a man named Ricky says to me:  “I wouldn’t leave your car if I were you.”  Apparently, there was a notorious anal ticketer who hangs around until exactly 11am.  Ricky clarified:  “You turn your head for second and she will get you.  You gotta stay here until 11am on the dot.  I am willing to sit here until then because I don’t want to waste money on a $45 ticket.”  So, I sat down with Ricky and Frank, another participant in the action, on the stoop beside my car and chatted until 11am.

This chaos happens every Tuesday morning.  At first, it was stressful – I didn’t know what to do or the rules behind the Tuesday morning cleaning when everyone else seemed to know exactly what they were doing.  Even after some careful observation, I was nervous that I would be doing something wrong.  What if I did choose to stand beside my car for an hour.  Would I look silly?  Would I be wasting my time?  Only until I knew what to do, until Ricky saved me from brain despair, did I feel relaxed.

If you don’t get it, get some confidence

That might sound like a small thing to stress out about but we all do it so some degree.  It could be ordering at a new restaurant we’ve never eaten at before, that uncertainty that your new outfit is actually cool, or when you play on a new sports team.  But, once you feel comfortable, you own that shit.  It feels good when you get some reassurance and it feels even better when you can reassure someone else.  You’re so confident now that you can inform others and this power of knowledge is such a great phenomenon.  This is why people gossip but that’s an entirely different topic.

What’s your point?

I guess all I’m trying to say here is that it’s good to force yourself into the unknown and it’s OK to make mistakes, to be scared, to be unsure.  I’m such a shy and insecure individual that these moments of uncertainty allow me to build more confidence.  I saw Ricky walking around and I’m pretty sure I would have asked him what was going on.  You might think that this is all very obvious.  However, I’m one of those people (I think there might be two of us) who used to ask their friends to order food for them at McDonald’s and who stayed at home for university because I was too afraid – making friends did not come easy.   So really, putting yourself ‘out there’ is a great thing, pushing your boundaries is character building and just think of all the stories you’ll have to share.  I have way too many but that’s mostly due to my hyper-aware brain.  Again, that’s an entirely different topic.


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