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viewpoint

Humanity, not the “awkward”

| Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Ingredients:

2-20 teaspoons of uncomfortable situations on any given day

1 cup of humanity

Recipe does not call for any “Awkward”

I have this horrible tendency to run away from situations that make me uncomfortable. I wish I meant this in a figurative sense, but sadly, it’s quite literal. I tend to physically run — eh, prance — away from unsettling scenarios. Whether it is because I’ve abruptly bumped into another student’s tray while weaving around the corner of NDH’s oriental cuisine doorway or sat down in the wrong classroom during the second week of classes, I instinctively escape in a frenzy. I used to think my awkwardness was a temporary problem, one that would disappear during the post-puberty era. But, as a 20-year-old who bolts the other way in the midst of a blundering moment, I am sad to say my affinity for uncomfortable circumstances is not developing anytime soon. Maybe one day I’ll join the population of cool, calm and collected. Until then, I have to work with what I’ve got.

This is old news, but a situation really isn’t “awkward” until someone points it out as such. Taking this into consideration, I’ve done my best to redefine life’s inevitable graceless moments. Being less awkward is as simple as changing your perspective on instances of inelegance.

Eliminate the “A” word from your vocabulary. Situations are no longer — dare I say it again — awkward. Instead, these moments are “celebrations of humanity.” Think about it: uncomfortable scenarios are brought about by accidental instances of aloofness, clumsiness, distaste, tactlessness — the list goes on. But aren’t these things also the most intrinsic to our human nature? We can conceal them to the best of our abilities, but it is absolutely crazy to presume you can go your whole life without a loud stomach rumble while sitting in a 15-person seminar classroom. You are going to yell someone’s name across the quad before realizing that it’s not actually someone you know but a total stranger. There will come a time when you sneeze into your sleeve and have no way to hide the mucus from the person sitting next to you.

Acknowledge these things. They call for celebration, for in these moments you have proved totally human among other human beings who have most definitely experienced something similar. Being uncomfortable at times is an inevitability of daily life. Instead of trying to hide these moments or pass them off as “awkward,” you might as well embrace them. Recognize the fact that your stomach just made a bizarre noise in the middle of a discussion on Shakespeare’s tragedies. Say something like, “Should’ve eaten before this class” or “Grab-and-go sandwiches are always a bit unsettling.” Don’t shy away. Stand in solidarity with the fact that nobody’s perfect. Others will follow suit.

In the past, I believed walking towards someone you don’t know but always pass in an otherwise empty hallway or being left alone with someone you just met or times of unexpected silence were the most uncomfortable situations imaginable. I figured these circumstances led to inevitable flashes of disconnect and unfamiliarity while the other person internalized judgment. These three setups were the trinity of awkwardness, I firmly believed. Now, however, in seeing these things as “celebrations of humanity,” I’ve come to know them as moments of unity, as there is an agreement of feeling in each scenario. Chances are the other person experiences the same feelings as you. That familiar face in the hall probably recognizes you as well, so say hello. Commemorating your humanity alone can be fun, but when two people come together in celebration, it’s a party. Three or more individuals — that just might be a rager.

During lectures, I have a bad habit of swinging my left leg back and fourth under the table. I’m afraid to count the number of times my foot brushes up against that of another student, but I assure you, it is more than a dozen times within a given class period. Each time this happens, I eventually catch my classmate looking under the table to see who exactly is incessantly trying to play footsie with him or her. Is it a bit uncomfortable? Yes. A bit clumsy? I suppose. But I refuse to acknowledge this reoccurring event as awkward.

To my classmate I simply say, “I really like your shoes.”

Paige Affinito is a junior Accounting and English major. She has found that humor is much easier to capture in 140 characters than 700 words. She can be reached at Paige.N.Affinito.2@nd.edu 

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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