Follow This and You’re Halfway In

Day 5 of the Awkward Moments Experiment.

[For 30 days I’ll be getting myself into awkward moments while benefiting others.]

September 27, 2011. 6:10pm.

For some reason I’ve never liked going to university clubs much.

However, I decided to overcome that.

I entered one of the Psychology club meetings. Everyone was sitting at the three long tables.

I decided to sit at a weird angle. No one started conversation with me.

For a few minutes, I listened to what others were saying.

The guy next to me was from the same city as me, so I introduced myself to him.

After asking about each other’s schools and where we came from, we ended up finding something incredibly awkward.

He was the ex of one of my good friends. That’s how small the world is.

That was pretty awkward. Others who overheard our discussion laughed in amusement as we discovered this.

After that we did a speed dating like objective except with fellow Psychology majors talking about our year in school, our favorite color, and our best scar story.

I ended up interacting one on one with 5 people who had all sorts of backgrounds. One was a mother and she told me about her son’s scar story and how her daughter was getting married. Another person told me he had to take spleen out because he skateboarded into a rail.


After the meeting ended, I saw a guy on the bus who came from that meeting. I decided to talk to him. We ended up talking for 15 minutes about Psychology, his background, my background, photography, and bikes.

All I said was, “So you’re from that meeting right?”

I made two new friends (the guy who came from my hometown and the guy on the bus.)


What you need to do is go out there and present yourself. If you’re sitting there in the corner being lonely and awkward, that’s okay. Once in a while, someone will save you.

Even if nobody does, you can go out and see how others interact. That’s the absolute least you can get out of it. The way to winning half the battle is to be present.

It Has to be You

This is the first ever guest post on my blog.

Niall Doherty was one of the first bloggers to welcome me when I started. Both of us like to push ourselves out of the comfort zone, so his guest post is fitting. Here’s Niall of Disrupting the Rabblement.

A couple of weeks ago, I was staying at a hostel in Ireland. As were a bunch of college kids. They came back to their rooms late one night and woke everyone up. They weren’t shouting or falling around drunk, but I was across the hall in a private room and their chatter reached me easily.

I lay there awake at 2:56am, listening to these pesky kids, frustrated, hoping they’d soon shut up and go to bed, so I could fall back asleep and get some much needed rest.

Then I remembered something I’d read a few days prior, about Julien’s experience at a hostel, and how he told a guy talking loudly on his cell phone late at night to zip it. His point:

Nobody else will ever say anything, ever. It has to be you.

Those words repeated themselves over and over in my mind as I lay there. A younger me would have resisted getting out of bed and confronting the offenders with a lame excuse: If I get up and face them, I’ll be all excited afterwards and won’t be able to sleep.

Fuck it.

I got out of bed, opened the door, and confronted them in the hallway, telling them to shut the hell up, that people were trying to sleep. And in all fairness to them, there wasn’t another peep after that.

But when I lay back down, as expected, my heart was beating like crazy. I couldn’t get back to sleep for another hour.

But it didn’t matter. Nobody else would have said anything. Everyone else who’d been so rudely disturbed would have lay there and waited for those kids to shut up, secretly frustrated.

It had to be me. Even if it meant lying awake for an hour after, waiting from the beats to drop. At least everyone else could go back to sleep.

The evening before that incident, I attended a Toastmasters meeting. A guy named Damien was giving his first speech to the club. It was entitled The Power of One, and he told of his experience battling the Christian Brothers in Ireland for more than a decade.

He’d been abused by them as a child, as had many of his classmates. In the forty years since he’d moved on from that class of 36, a dozen of his former buddies had committed suicide, and many more had gone on to live lives of poverty and/or crime.

For too many years, nobody said anything. At some point, Damien realized that it had to be him. And there he was, decades later, speaking up on behalf of his fallen and forgotten classmates, standing strong and telling their story, trying to right wrongs. He’d already made a huge positive difference, helped expose a lot of wrongdoing, and he’s still working at it.

So whether it’s something minor like telling a few kids to shut up late at night in a hostel, or fighting back on behalf of countless shattered childhoods, know that you must be the one to make a difference.

Because nobody else will ever say anything, ever. It has to be you.

Niall Doherty is the chief rabble rouser over at Disrupting the Rabblement, and a big-time advocate of thinking for yourself, living your dreams, and pissing off zombies. He embarks on a three-year trip around the world without flying starting on October 1st.

Fighting Cynicism (Or Why I Do Experiments)

“All I ask of you is one thing, and I’m asking this particularly of young people: please don’t be cynical. I hate cynicism- it’s my least favorite quality and it doesn’t lead anywhere. Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you’re kind, amazing things will happen.” – Conan O’Brien

A few people asked me, “Why do you want to create Awkward Moments? What’s the purpose?”


The problem:

I created five years (2006-2010) of extremely well-wired cynicism into my brain.

The cynicism ate me alive in the beginning of 2010 because my brain couldn’t turn off. It judged every moving thing. You know there’s a problem when you’re saying, “What a pathetic tree, just standing there, swaying with the wind.”

I had labels, judgments, and generalizations for everything much of the time.

I projected my cynicism unto others and ended up assuming they were thinking negatively about me. It was a feedback loop of self-destruction.

When you lack confidence, you end up becoming cynical to protect yourself from perceived harm. You’re trying to protect your own ego because it’s vulnerable.

The cynicism isolated me. I was sick of that.


The solution:

When I created this blog, I decided to see if people would react well if I talked to them.

-During Fall 2010, I talked to five random strangers to see how they would react to me talking to them. It didn’t feel so bad after all. In fact, it felt great. Even if it was incredibly awkward at times, I finally figured out that people aren’t out to get you!

-After learning about Rejection Therapy during Winter break, I got rejected everyday for 71 or so days. People were extremely polite. They wanted to talk because they were bored. I shared stories and energy with people. It was a humbling experience.

-Summer opened my mind to so many different bloggers going through all their challenges as well. I connected really well with them.

I opened my mind enough to stop judging people. Look what happened.

There has been so much connection with little downside. I’ve met people like Mark, Rhina, Abigail, Matt, Ken, Niall, Dena, and everyone else I didn’t mention because I opened up shop on this blog and gave them a shot.

In only 18 months, I went from keeping myself locked up to freeing myself to others.

I do things outside of my comfort zone to stop being cynical, welcome interaction, and to show everyone that going outside one’s own comfort zone can spice life up.

The Awkward Condom Line: Calm as a Hindu Cow

This is Day 4 of the Awkward Moments Experiment.

[Everyday for 30 Days I’ll attempt to do something awkward to me and hope it benefits others as well.]

I’ll write this in present-tense free-flow form to keep things interesting.

My university held its annual welcoming event on Friday.

September 23, 2011. 6:00PM

There were rides where people ride a simulated bull, slide down an inflated slide, and have a battle with sticks upon two pillars.

There were the multiple lines to spin the wheel to get freebies. The freebies included bags, frisbees, candy, t-shirts, and drinks.

On the other side there is a concert stage where clubs and other artists have their moment of fame to share with others.

The other corner contains a tournament for break dancing which holds an incredibly intense atmosphere.

Other tents have face-paint and Henna ready to be used on the willing.

Poker tables also hold their own friendly competition.

There are even more game booths that have carnival type games that remind me of my childhood like hitting down the three milk bottles with two balls.


I throw ball one and hit down two of the bottles. I throw ball two and hit the last bottle right off the table. I get my raffle ticket.

I wait in lines and end up receiving a free frisbee, a free bag, and some scented room freshener.



What do I do?

I walk around and notice all the behaviors and groups all around me.

I let myself go with the flow.

I kill off my self-conscience and keep walking.

Then it hits me. I contact everyone I know from the area.


I call my best friend to meet up with him and his girlfriend. We catch up for about 15 minutes chatting about their plans for the year as well as mine. We ask one another how our summers were.

I hand my raffle ticket to them because I don’t want it. I hope they win the $400 credit or plasma TV.


I text my friend who transferred here as well. She tells me to meet up with her and her friends in the corner of the event.


I bid my best friend and his girlfriend farewell and find my other friend. When I find her she’s with seven other folks.

Like Tyler Durden says, “Calm as a Hindu Cow.”

My friend introduces me to half of them. I suppose those are the half she is closer to.

The group atmosphere is made light because I go with the flow of the joke from my friend. “Oh she’s from our rival school Matt!”

I smile and say, “Oh is that right? Well that’s too bad. I can’t like you.” I keep smiling.

She smiles back and defends her old high school.

I could feel the whole atmosphere of the group. It’s calm and welcoming, especially because I feel the inner calm within myself.

I keep smiling and she offers her hand to me as a truce. I put my hand right there but don’t shake her hand back.

My friend gets tired of the slight tension I’m causing and decides to join the hands together. Truce.

After that, the seven split into other groups and I’m left with my friend and another guy.

I tell them a pick-up line that’s so twisted that I won’t share it here.

They laugh with a state of utter shock and smile back.

Then my friend asks me about what I’m trying to do on my blog.

I tell them that I’m doing awkward moments on purpose with good intentions.

I tell them a few examples.

I ask where the guy is from and we end up talking about the LA area a bit. After that, we go on our separate ways as they head back to their dorms.

I walk around and see a couple more people from the previous year. I say hi to them in passing and maintain the calm.

Then, I stay in line with one of them and one of her friends.


We’re in line for condoms.

I notice more offers from recruiting groups.

I notice that I’m around so many couples (it is a condom line after all.)

“So it goes.” as Vonnegut would say.

I finally arrrive at the beginning of the line and look at the condom brands. I turn around and finally see my favorite.


The Awkward Moment: I exclaim to those behind me, “Hey everyone! Pick durex! That’s the best brand you’ll ever experience!” (I hope they take my advice cause I’m not kidding either.)

Ten faces look at me blankly and confused. I turn around and walk on.


I texted a couple of my other friends who didn’t make it because they were away for the weekend. I saw an old family friend.

In addition, my libido was actually trying to wake up.

“Wait a second, the girls around me are actually somewhat attractive again? No way.”

I was finally letting myself to live.

I feel free.


I notice the one challenge I have left to conquer.

Everything else seems so simple when you’re this calm.


The fog is gone. The anxiety is gone.

It left me because I let it go.

Hopefully, I can do that more often.


I’m going home now but I want to find this feeling again.

I know this will be a good year.


As a reader, would you want to see more of this type of writing (at least throughout the Awkward Moments?) Let me know by leaving a comment!

The Awkward Conversation

This is Day 3 of the Awkward Moments Experiment.

[Everyday for 30 days, I’ll be doing something that’s awkward to me that also benefits others.]


September 22, 2011. 9:50AM

I was on the bus pondering about my final school year. There were students everywhere and I felt nervous and anxious. It’s a huge university, where 30000 students attend class.

(Note: I’m an introvert that reacts in an sensitive way to numerous stimuli and as time goes on in that stimuli, I settle in. It takes me about 30 minutes.)

There are millions of opportunities around me, as I’ve learned from my previous year.

The only question is, “Will I take those chances?”

As I was thinking these things, I noticed the people’s faces all around me subconsciously.

I walked to class and sat at the front area.

I couldn’t believe that I heard a full 80 minute lecture without caffeine. That’s a first.


After class, I recognized one of my old acquaintances from last year. I said hi to her and talked about both of our classes for a bit before we split up.

(That was light momentum.)


I walked towards the bus to go back to my apartment to grab lunch when I noticed one of the faces that I recognized from the bus ride in the morning.

So while both of us are walking back towards the bus:

I asked her, “Hi, aren’t you from my Psychology class? (I state the class number).”

She says, “Yeah.”

(Here’s the awkward twist: I didn’t really care so I waited 3-5 seconds between each reply.)

I say, “Oh cool. What do you think of the Professor?”

She says, “Yeah he’s cool. One of my roommates took his class before and he isn’t that bad.”

I say, “Cool. So is this your final year?”

She says, “Yeah, how bout you?”

I say, “Yeah same.”

Due to the 3-5 second wait time (and nothing else to talk about), she already pulled her iPhone out and was looking at it.

*In my mind, I laughed. I could’ve flirted with her or did something interesting to bring her back to the conversation (commented on her excessive blush makeup, shoved her, joked with her) but I wanted to start lightly on the first day of classes.

The talk ended there.

-I felt awkward enough having to wait to reply to her.
-To benefit her, I’ll probably find her in class again and ask to study with her.