Meeting people is awkward.

I’m not talking about that business gathering where you had a conversational itinerary to follow. Those words were already planned.

I’m not talking about those moments where you meet someone for drinks, or perhaps for sport. That’s a one-time occurrence where you can rely on the “get-to-know-you” conversation.

I’m talking about that time you were actually sustaining yourself through people’s kindness. Strangers’ kindness.

I’m talking about this beloved activity of living with locals. When you have nothing to offer, they bring you into their homes and love you like their own. It doesn’t make logical sense. But it’s beautiful.

As humans, we have this inherent lack of confidence. This instinctual lack of trust.

Will we be able to have a meaningful conversation? Will I come across as funny, or simply immature? Will my habits and personality make this person uncomfortable in their own home?

I’ve found that, regardless of how long you’ve been talking with someone, meeting them in person for the first time is always a little weird. You already know you share much in common. You already know what kind of music they like, what they do for fun, what they believe, where they’re from, and how they pay their bills.

But you don’t actually know them. Because you haven’t sat through the awkward silences yet. You haven’t had that fifth glass of wine on the balcony at three o’clock in the morning. Yet.

I’ve learned that it takes about a week for me to grow reasonably comfortable with someone new. It’s weird in the beginning. They don’t want to offend you. You don’t want to make them uncomfortable. They’re afraid you’ll be bored. You’re afraid you’ll be demanding.

It’s all childish, really. I wish we, as humans, could just grow up and be real.

But it’s hard. Because society has taught us to shy away from speaking our mind. To run away from failure. To escape reality.

There’s a way around that confidence barrier, though. And it’s slightly uncomfortable. It involves exposing yourself. Baring your soul just a little bit, if you will.

It involves being real.

You’ve got to face the awkward moments. And you’ve got to be honest.

Apologize for making your new friend feel unwanted when you left their house early the other morning to go read on the beach. Sometimes you just want to spend some time near the water, ya’know?

Have a drink. Light up a cigarette. Ask the personal questions. Power through that awkward barrier. Put it behind you today so you can enjoy a stronger friendship tomorrow.

I wish we could be like the canines. They meet a fellow animal. They perform their sniffing ritual. And then they choose one of two paths: Love this new creature, or don’t. There’s no beating around the bush. How sincere. How simple.

I know human relationships will never be quite so pure. We will always hide. We will always wear our masks.

There’s a lesson here, though. The state of a situation being awkward is an effect. But what’s the cause?

In my mind, the cause is the fact that there’s a conversation that needs to be had. Maybe an apology must be made. Or perhaps a question needs to be asked.

Have that conversation. And embrace every moment of it.

It will be uncomfortable. But once you’re out of your comfort zone, my friends, that is where the magic happens.