It is entirely possible to be in the company of friends and yet to feel alone and isolated. It does not even necessarily have to relate to being somewhere else on an emotional or intellectual level. I was with a group of friends the other night and while I appreciated their company, there were a few lengthy moments when I felt that I could just disappear entirely without my absence being noted.
I can’t help but wondering if this has happened to you, too. It so happens that all three of these friends of mine work for Starbucks. Not only that, but they all happen to work at the very same store.
There were quite a few times when they would start discussing things that were happening at the store, customers that came into the store that were bothersome, and other phenomena that I could not and would not ever understand or appreciate.
All I could do was to just sit there and nod my head as though I had some kind of knowledge or grasp on what they were discussing. Even though I did work at Starbucks four years ago, it feels as though it has been a lifetime ago and I just don’t feel that I am even close to being the same person that I was in the summer of 2005.
What do you do when you are sitting in a group of people and you are the sole person who has nothing to contribute because you can’t relate at all? It happened six years ago at a dinner I attended with an ex-girlfriend. Someone brought up the theory of string physics and somehow I was the only person at the table who had no idea what they were describing. I mentioned something about how I had read an article about string physics and how I found it to be fascinating.
After the meal, my then girlfriend powerfully rebuked me for speaking when I had nothing substantial to add to the conversation. I should not say anything, she said, unless I knew what I was saying. I wonder if that rebuke remains the reason that I will not pitch in with ideas unless I know them to be of some use.
What do you do when you are in similar situations? Do you stick it out and hope to get involved in the conversation, wait for the conversation to shift to something that can possibly involve you, or do you just enjoy the conversation as it is?