I am not cool. I am not smooth, slick, suave or together. I wish that I was: not like the “cool kids” in high school . . . more like James Bond-ette with a diaper bag. I want to smile at the right times, catch people’s meaning without them having to come right out and say it, always have what I need in my bag, be dressed for the occasion and do it all with a smile and without breaking a sweat. Instead, I’m more likely to accidentally offend someone by laughing at the wrong moment, misinterpret directions and walk through an alarmed fire door and be pooped on by a bird (possibly all in the same afternoon). I don’t know why this is, but it is.
Living abroad has really put me in touch with this part of myself. Only the coolest of the cool could pull this off and look slick at the same time. For me, it just throws my awkwardness into greater focus. The language barrier, the cultural differences, the little idiosyncrasies of the expectations of day to day life — I’m ill equipped to be able to keep up. We all pick up on words and cues and expectations based on experience to help us understand when we’re welcome, liked, understood . . . or not. Everything is different here — I don’t pick up on anything, and even when I understand the words, I’m missing a lot of the meaning.
I took B to the doctor today (a new doctor) to check on a scratch that I thought was getting infected (it wasn’t). The appointment went well, but I sat in the wrong place, tried to leave before she was done, tried to leave without paying and was literally chased out the door by the receptionist who was bidding me farewell (I made eye contact but didn’t say anything on the way out, and I get the impression that was NOT the right thing to do). This is not uncharacteristic of my afternoons in Vienna. And, all of the people I was dealing with today actually spoke English (it’s worse when they don’t).
Being cool is just not in the cards for me. For some people, perhaps it’s easy, but for me to achieve such heights of slickness, I’d either have to devote most of my life to it or be so tightly wound that I’d end up institutionalized in the very near future. There’s no way for me to get there without letting go of things that are more important.
I’m really getting to be ok with it. (It’s a process.) I have a lot going for me, but coolness isn’t on the list. There truly are more important things, and I refuse to sacrifice any of them for the sake of being slick. It’s not cool, but it’s who I am.