The Isolation Journals: Glorious awkwardness

Day 4 of The Isolation Journals. I’m standing at a food stall on campus when my happy crush, whom I’d only ever liked from afar, picks the same food stall to buy water from.


As a self-admitted awkward child, you’d think I had plenty to write on this subject. You’d think this was my wavelength and my wheelhouse, and that I had a closet full of stories to publish for the prompt.

No. The way my brain processes shame (or hurt, which often registers as the same thing) is to toss it into the deep, blue sea. I block out memories that might harm my will to survive. It says a lot that my memory worsens every year, and I remember less and less about my own life.

But I do like Jon Batiste’s take on life’s awkward moments: “In discomfort, valuable epiphanies are often found. Also, in retrospect, they generate great laughter. Ah, the Glorious Awkwardness! Reflect on a particular moment in your past when you felt most in touch with your “Glorious Awkwardness.” It could be a cringe-worthy moment you’ve replayed a thousand times in your mind. Or something essential about who you are, something unchangeable. Go back there.”

So I tried really hard to think of a time where my awkwardness was somewhat endearing, especially if it gave me memories good enough to keep. The answer, to my surprise, was something I used to write about constantly: having crushes.

Picture this: I was standing at a food stall on campus, waiting for my lunch order. My happy crush of the time, whom I’d only ever liked from afar, happened to pick the same food stall to buy water from. WATER. He could’ve picked literally any other stall, but no, he came over to ruin my life.

So there he stood, right next to me, for the longest two and a half minutes of my life. I’m telling you, I turned stiff as a statue. I was too horrified to look anywhere in his direction but too stupid stupefied to think of anything else but the nearness of him.

Now, this could be the Venus shadow speaking, but… I remember that same stumbling innocence kicked off a lot of my best romances. Many ex-partners confessed they found my awkwardness disarming (if not adorable). It was such a sincere and trusting way to be, one said.

Another story: a very close and special friend of mine was feeling down once. Desperate to cheer him up, I freely, dumbly and gracelessly revealed that I used to have a crush on him. My god, I knew a lot less shame back then. With decent results, in my defense, because he was laughing within five minutes and we were a happy couple within the year.

I suppose I got to keep these memories because they stand right on the balance between fully embarrassing and oddly charming. Or maybe it wasn’t so bad to be so awkward if it made somebody happy. It might even have made somebody love me.

I picture this girlish college sophomore, with moonstruck eyes and a heart too open to be worn anywhere else but on her sleeve. And of all the versions of me I’ve ever been, I think she was the one that understood love best. She knew it firsthand, the whole depth and brilliance of it, because she was willing to embarrass herself for its cause.

I guess Jon Batiste was right. Something about that is pretty glorious.

“The Isolation Journals” started as a 30-day quarantine creativity project. It was created by the brilliant Suleika Jaouad for the challenging occasion that is COVID-19. A different journaling prompt landed in my inbox every day for the month of April 2020, each one from a different writer, artist, musician or thinker. As the global situation expanded, so too did the journaling project.

Today’s heartwarming prompt is from Grammy-nominated musician, TV personality, bandleader and musical director Jon Batiste.

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