My new job and life in California has put me in direct contact with at least a hundred new people in the span of a month. Most of them are people whose hands I’ve shook and who I have said hello to face-to-face.
The problem is, I cannot remember who they are.
I have taught about 10 of them Photoshop, and sat with around 25 others during various training sessions. I have given my creative ideas to many, and had some approach me for favors. I have personally interviewed at least 20 of them on camera, and have sent emails to almost all of them—some of them multiple times. I delivered a speech about Mt. Bohemia to about 15 of them, given in an animated way, while they circled around me. And I watched their speeches, delivered impromptu, in a class where we learned how to be persuasive speakers. I’ve hiked with some of them and dined with others, and I’ve even petted some of their dogs.
There have been marketing meetings (8 people) and social media sessions (5 people) and staff gatherings at work (4 people). There are 12 part-time graduate assistants also roaming my office space. I have three new roommates and I’ve met their friends and families.
In short, there are a lot of people to remember.
However, I find it puzzling that I can’t put names to faces in about 80% of the cases when I run into these people again. I can’t even place these people in my mind, as to where I met them and under what circumstances.
Do they think we’re besties? Will they reference our previous interaction? Is that smile because we know each other, or because we haven’t met yet and we both feel awkward?
I have no idea.
It’s the weirdest thing and it makes me feel really stupid inside, as though I developed a case of amnesia with each and every interaction I’ve had with someone new. But I can’t tell them that, so when I start talking to someone, I have to quickly figure out based on their actions, whether we are meeting or re-meeting, or if we’ve already met so many times that I have to pretend I already know them and there is no “meeting” required. Seriously.
I’ve been wondering for the past few weeks what is going on inside my head, and why this is becoming such a problem. Why does my brain feel so slushy when it comes to knowing who people are?
Half of the picture emerged the other day when I was, yet again, meeting someone new.
Here’s what happened:
I was walking with a friend who I knew well (one of the very few around here). We bumped into someone she knew. She introduced us.
“Evelyn, this is Ilkfjale. He’s a member of Yedaklkjfe and we had Pelisdke class together.”
I reached out my hand and shook his. “It’s really nice to meet you,” I said.
He repeated the greeting.
I was introduced to his friend, too, and I heard virtually the same thing and repeated the same actions.
Then I stood there and looked at them and realized I had no idea who I had just met. THEN I realized that this was typical of every single one of my interactions lately.
There’s a difference between being “bad with names,” and “not even trying to remember someone’s name.”
You never tell someone, “Sorry if I don’t remember your name. I never even try; I’m too lazy, and it’s not worth it because I’ll probably forget it anyway. Plus, chances are we’ll never run into each other again.”
Unfortunately, that has been my unspoken attitude, and it’s coming back to BITE me. This is a tiny community. I will definitely run into everyone again, especially if I stay at this job for any amount of time. I know because time is starting to happen, and I’m starting to run into everyone again.
It’s not something I’m proud to admit, and it’s not something I was doing consciously. But once I look back on it all, that’s the picture that has emerged. I have been an inconsiderate and rude person with a polite but shallow smile on my face for the past month. That is not a happy understanding.
At the beginning of this blog post, I wanted to chalk it up to readjustment, rationalizing, “What else can it be? I just got back from Peace Corps. Of course I can’t remember new people!” What kind of excuse is that? No excuse at all.
Then I thought, “Maybe it’s just a cycle in plain old life.” But.. what does that even mean? Nothing. It sounds good until you start to delve into it and realize there is nothing under the surface.
No, the true reason is I haven’t even made an attempt.
The good news is, now that I have found the problem, I can work towards solving it.
So if you’ve met me in the past month, I’m sorry, we’ll have to meet again. But if we meet in the future, I will do my utmost to remember who you are.
How are you at remembering new people? Do you try to remember them? What are your techniques for when you meet someone new? Please share in the comments section.
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