Hi. I’m Lori Miller and this is your Mental Health Moment.
This back to school time is a good reminder of what awkwardness feels like. It’s hard enough to be a kid or a teenager, but then worrying about how you’re coming across to others can be a real mind wrecker.
Unfortunately that awkwardness doesn’t always go away when school’s over, does it?
Here I am pushing the half century mark, and I still have way too many Lucy Ricardo moments in my week.
And these moments aren’t things I can really plan for or prevent. They just kind of happen, and I’m suddenly faced with a moment where I feel like I look silly or did everyone hear this weird thing I just said?
In all honesty, publishing Mental Health Moment can be awkward sometimes because I’m always wondering if maybe this episode was a little too quirky.
So that little high school awkwardness is still roaming around my own yard a bit.
I come by this feeling honestly because when I do get really awkward, I tend to do it in a big way.
A few years ago we were visiting family in Texas for the holidays. Our connecting flight home to Florida was supposed to take us through the very large Houston Intercontinental Airport.
Naturally, our first flight was running late — very, very late. When we got off our plane, we realized we had just 15 minutes to change terminals and get to the very end of the largest concourse to catch our next plane.
It seemed like there was no way but we had to try, right?
We immediately started that zombie walk-run-swinging arms move you do in an airport when you’re in a hurry.
We managed to change terminals with no issues. But once we stepped off the tram that took us to Terminal C, I knew we were in trouble.
Our window to board the plane was now at about five minutes and we had still had to go all the way to the end of the concourse.
If you fly enough, you know once they close the door that leads to the plane, it’s game over. Capt. Sully wouldn’t be able to pry that door open.
My husband was chivalrously pulling most of the suitcases so I figured this was my moment.
If it’s to be it’s up to me, you know?
So I just took off running towards the gate.
If you know me, you know I don’t run. At all. Ever.
In fact, if you see me running you should run too because I’m probably being chased by something.
I kept my focus firmly on that gate number and let my feet fly through the busy crowds. My husband told me later that I hurdled a couple of pretty good sized strollers but I’m not so sure about that.
Still, I was on the move.
Once I got close enough, I saw the gate attendant make his way to the jetway door — and open it!
Oh no, no, no, I said to myself.
I raced through the pods of seats at the gate and yelled, “Hey!”
The man turned around.
I slammed my boarding pass down on his little desk, and with zero air in my lungs declared like a warrior princess, “I’m supposed to be on this plane and so is my family!”
“Yes ma’am,” he said, completely devoid of any emotion.
“You and the 200 people standing behind you.”
They hadn’t even boarded the plane yet. 😲
I turned around and to my horror, those 200 people were now clapping for me.
I almost always sit in the back of the room so this kind of attention felt like 14 different kinds of hot flashes happening all at the same time.
I didn’t know what to think. I tried to laugh. I may have taken a bow, I don’t remember.
I felt so awkward and embarrassed.
As I took my spot in line with my family and fanned myself with my boarding pass trying to calm down, my husband leaned over and said, “Do you see that man over there?”
I saw a man standing just a few feet from us, smiling and talking to the people in line behind him.
“That’s Romeo Crennel,” he said. “He’s the defensive coordinator for the Houston Texans. He was clapping for you, too!”
And that’s when I decided, the whole thing was just too freakin’ funny.
Was he impressed with my speed?
Did he see me throw a few blocks when I was moving through that crowd back there?
The football jokes started spilling out. I realized that even though this was, I think, THE most awkward and embarrassed I’ve ever been, I created this pretty great memory for my family.
No one has let me forget it.
Now I wasn’t perceiving my awkwardness here. This is about as real as it gets.
But you know what?
Within a few minutes, those 200 people had already moved on.
They were more focused on getting home to Florida than thinking about the awkward girl running through the airport.
I did get a few thumbs up as we walked to our seats on the plane, but mostly the experience was over.
So now it was up to me to decide how I was going to conceptualize all this.
What would I take away from it?
If that story didn’t normalize awkwardness for you, here’s a little additional ointment to put on your own awkwardness.
First of all, as you can see, awkwardness happens to all of us.
I can’t tell you how many people have told me how awkward they sometimes feel in therapy. They wonder later when they play the tapes back in their head if they said something silly or that I must think they’re the most awkward person I’ve ever met.
These are people from all walks of life who are accomplished and purposeful and don’t appear to have an awkward bone in their body.
I let them know that feeling awkward is sometimes just part of getting to know someone. It’s part of the process.
We’re all sailing in this particular boat together.
Second, you’re probably not as awkward as you think.
We are so wrapped up in our own heads, dissecting every thought and analyzing our every action.
How much are you thinking about someone else’s awkwardness right now?
You’re not, right?
You’re too focused on your own issues and circumstances.
Others are doing that exact same thing, too.
I wonder how many of those people in that airport even remember my little amazing race today.
If you do have a genuinely awkward moment, then just know that this is part of what makes us human.
Taking awkwardness too seriously only serves to drive you underground and keeps you from taking the risks that will move you forward.
Unless it costs you something tremendous, most likely an awkward moment was just simply that … one awkward moment in time.
Keeping a healthy attitude can provide you some great stories for the future. I love telling my awkward and embarrassing airport story because it’s just so me.
I can get so focused on something that I miss really obvious stuff sometimes. Like a crowd of 200 people!
Accepting those awkward moments can help you weather some of the crazy stuff in life because none of us can predict anything anyway.
You may as well be able to learn from it, laugh at it and enjoy some of it.
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Thanks for listening!
I’d love to hear what you think!
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