Joe Clark ~~ Aug 28, 2004

So, I see a pattern. It's an old pattern, but I have been reminded of it again in my present life. The pattern is that I realize that I am not one who thrives in large groups. I see clearly that I do much better in smaller groups (less than 10 people, and depending on the people, sometimes less than 5). In large groups, I tend to play the silent role, only speaking on occasion, and usually not really being a part of the overall conversation. I also play the passive role, not really trying to sway the actions of the group or convince anyone of anything. This is an area in which I've not changed much over the years. On the other hand, I think I've made progress in being more interesting and more friendly in one-on-one or small group settings, so I think I do have something to offer to people, it's just..hidden.. sometimes.

Now, for the history lesson. In high school, the best example was the youth group. I was a member of the youth group, but I didn't associate with the other members a whole lot. I did feel connected to the youth group, but mostly because I helped some of the youth leaders with things like the weekly newsletter (categorize that as "respected"). But as far as purely socially fitting in, it was never firmly decided. In college, I was involved in two groups, one big and one small. It was quite interesting (and this may be something I've never said before except to myself) that the first weeks of college were interesting. I enjoyed the larger group more I think, and it was only after a few months that I started going more to the smaller group. Over time, though, I began to feel like the smaller group was really "my group", and the larger group was the group I went to, and really enjoyed, but wasn't really part of the "in" crowd (no it's not a clique, but you know what I mean). Now, recently, I've found myself a part of another large group, and I finally decided I feel the same way about it that I felt about the large(ish) group in college. I think in both cases, the people are plenty friendly and plenty willing to allow new people in and value them and all that. But I think that I still act in whatever way I do such that other people in the group go on about their lives, the status quo being that I'm there, and they don't mind, but they really spend their time on more "interesting" people (you know, the people who actually talk).

So that's my judgment of my situation. Is it an unfair judgment? Quite possibly. Should I amend it? Maybe. What I do see, in this group and every other one, is that I "thrive", if you will, on one-on-one conversation, or, alternatively, on a small, focused conversation of a few people. A bit of structure (but not too much) helps. But I think that most people are too busy to make that effort, or have already determined "who I am" and how they will relate to me. Is that true? Do you think people, when they meet new people, observe them for a bit of time and then decide how they will relate to them in the future? It is basically restating the cliche "You only have one chance to make a good first impression." Well, anyway, I don't think I give good first impressions to most people, so they have to work harder if they want to find out why I'm worth their time. So is it fair to other people to make them work harder? I lack clue. Is this whole topic a kind of judging people, that thing we're not supposed to do? Probably. But are they being the judge for determining how to relate to me based on only, say, 30 words of conversation, or am I being the judge for judging them and saying they judge me? I have no idea, but I think I think too much. :-)

Now of course, there are plenty of action steps I could take and things I could do and positive self image boosting I could do and all that stuff to make myself more appealing to people. I'm sort of waffling about that too. Simple example: Should I spend more time making my hair "look good" so people know that I care about myself and how I look? I dunno. Someone did some hair styling and filled my mind with thoughts of caring about my hair last night, but the first comment today was that it wasn't that great (because my stupid hair sticks out in the morning...bleh). Maybe I just need training in how to "look good". Or maybe I should just continue to be who I am, take it or leave it, realizing that people are predisposed to leave it anyway. So the question is...with regard to this perceived problem with myself, is it really a problem that I need to (or can) deal with, or is it something I should just accept as my personality and move on with life, realizing that we all have our own burdens to carry?

I dunno. I think I make decent friendships with a buncha people in small venues.. I don't think I have any real enemies, and I don't think there are many people that really dislike me. But is that because I am "a beautiful butterfly" (random) or is it just because my "true nature" is not seen by very many people? Am I tolerated, or am I respected, or am I loved? Frequent question. Also an invitation to be judgmental (stupid me).

Anyway, as I said on my xanga site tonight (in elusive form), I think I really am "worth the effort" but I can be easily overlooked too. I think that changing how I act in groups may not be possible or may not be the best use of my time. I am what I am. But that should not be an excuse, and I should always keep a careful eye out for specific things I can do or say to improve myself and to let the large groups of people know that I do actually do something besides sit there.

Disclaimer: If you find yourself in one of the groups I generically mentioned, well... don't be too alarmed at my jaded views on these subjects. Realize that these writings are my outlet for what I think deep down, and they're not always polished or "right". Just a "Joe in progress." Moods change. And try to perhaps understand that 1) I'm talking about groups in general, and not any people in particular, and 2) I'm talking mostly about my response to life and my response to the people in it, not really about how other people act. I'm annoyed at myself that I don't make myself do what it takes, and I don't think it's really fair to expect other people to go arounding searching me out in spite of my shortcomings -- I wish they would, but it's on the verge of being selfish to expect it. Bleh. Maybe I'll have more of a clue on this topic later.