After many years of hand-wringing and searching, I finally joined (more precisely, I was invited to join) an actual book club. Like one where people meet up in person. It’s true that I did join the Rumpus Book Club late last year. That has been a good experience for me overall in that it has exposed me to books that I probably would not have easily come across before. But it’s also mostly online and therefore easy for me to lapse into my solitary ways and just not engage. Bad habits die hard.
Last night, my book club experience finally got me out of my proverbial shell. The stupid thing is: I don’t think I’m a terribly shy person. I will say that I make acquaintances fairly easily. Friends…well that’s another story. To be part of a book club, I imagined that it would be something between acquaintances and close friends…and that always kind of scared me. Mostly because I would see them on a regular basis, and so I couldn’t get away with holding everyone at arm’s length for longer than a couple of months. Eventually, they would get to know me fairly well.
Whenever I would think about that prospect of new people getting to know me, my mind would be flooded with variations of “what-ifs”. Would I be funny enough? Will I have enough outside interests in common to participate in the social aspect of a book club? Will I be able to discuss the book intelligently enough to not look or sound stupid? What do you even wear to a book club meeting? What if I have a bad hair day? What if I’m not cool enough? What if I’m not nerdy enough? Well read enough?…et cetera, et cetera.
I know, it sounds exhausting in my head right now, doesn’t it? Also – my apologies to my book club who might be reading this. I’m taking a huge leap of faith by putting this out there.
I am just relieved to discover that I had no reason to be so afraid. I’m reminded of a part of Jenny Lawson’s book, where she discusses going on a spa weekend with some fellow bloggers that she hadn’t met before. How she was unsure about being friends with women, harboring a rather unfounded fear of being judged and ridiculed when she wasn’t looking. She ended up having a lovely time with them and decided that women were “worth [her] trust and time” and that she didn’t have to be afraid to make new friends. I really related to that. To be clear though, my fear stemmed from possibly just not fitting in, while Jenny’s fear was based on a general distrust of women.
It’s a funny thing to be in your mid-thirties and feel like you’re the new kid all over again. Vulnerability can scare the bejeebus out of you, but only if you let it. I am glad that I didn’t let it scare me this time.