Overthinker’s Friday Drinks

I’m still here, despite the inappropriately long break from blogging. I’ve been struggling to put together a proper routine, is all. I thought that achieving daily routine-perfection à la Paltrow would catapult me to the top of human race but I was so wrong: Mark Wahlberg ruined my well-laid plans by taking things to the next level.

Mark Wahlberg published his daily routine on Instagram in order to make the rest of the world look like slackers. He wakes up at 2:30am, has a half an hour prayer starting at 2:45am and then breakfast at 3:15, which consists of nothing less than steel oats, peanut butter, blueberries and eggs, followed by protein shake — Performance Inspired Nutrition Vanilla Latte Shake — three turkey burgers and five pieces of sweet potato. Then off to the gym for an hour and half of exercise. Back for post-workout brekkie at 5:30am. I remember seeing the daily tic-toc of an American politician about million years ago when he was in Europe for a congress. I was in awe at his waking up at 5:30am and then proceeding to exercise and having reading time while most of his European colleagues were still idly dipping their ​pains au chocolat in their cappuccinos in the hotel breakfast room. Conclusion: American military routines on civilians only work when one is actually American.

Since it’s September in the Capital of Europe, people are back from all corners of the continent and so are therentrée drinks. I took part in one edition this Friday. Given that Brussels is a banquet of networking events (there’s never a need to purchase alcoholic drinks or finger-food in this city – there’s always an event somewhere where these things are being served for free) and I should thus have plenty practise on the networking-front, for some reason they’ve never quite grown on me. To quote Hannah Gadsby, my favourite sound in the whole world is the sound of a teacup finding its place on a saucer. 

Maybe it was the summer break, who knows, but last Friday’s drinks kind of became the new benchmark for awkwardness. I did not know what to say to the merry people! I spent so much time mulling over what to say (Can I ask about work or is it lame? Did I already ask this colleague earlier at work what he did on his holiday? If I ask about her holiday, do I risk having to explain about my holiday? I actually have nothing to say to this person! Does “Busy in the office again, huh?” sound as stupid as it feels in my head? Can I ask for another cigarette or is it becoming rude?) that I ended up not saying anything much, and I can report to you that there are very few people who consider standing in awkward silence, drink in hand, to be comfortable. (While the daily routines of Americans clearly are a bit far-flung to my tastes, I could possibly learn a thing or two about small talk.) 

I am aware that I should probably just lighten up about this – it’s not like people expect cocktail chit-chat to be Brontë-sisters-deep analysis of anything. As it happens, mostly I’m just absolutely fresh out of things to say after a day in the office. I don’t like talking very much, which is a bit perverse given it’s kind of my profession. Or possibly precisely because of that. 

I used to train myself for social gatherings by RSVP:ing for networking receptions, then going alone and talking to people I didn’t know once there. It was useful shock therapy for an introvert like me. It was also exhausting. Going to events is only ever useful if there’s actual follow up with the new contacts. I felt like such a random paste-head at most gatherings that getting in touch with anyone afterwards was not really an option.

Then I read somewhere that introverts are actually very good networkers because they nurture the small circle of contacts they have, instead of manically collecting people’s business cards and being all “Oh I know everyone” and in the end not really knowing anyone. The key here really is keeping in touch with people already in one’s network so as to build meaningful contacts instead of just names in a Rolodex. I firmly want to believe in this theory, because I do get anxious about the whole “One must network and meet new people!  Like ALL THE TIME! One must know everybody in this universe to be relevant! Be your best self! Live, laugh, love!” –school of thought.

I have, since my self-inflicted shock-therapy, introduced some rules as regards these gatherings, and I will (generally speaking) only make an appearance should the event meet at least one of the following criteria:

– It is something that I have to do because of my work. Ideally there will be something that will be useful for my work (a contact, a presentation, an inspiration, anything).

– It is something that I want to do for myself (a contact, a presentation, an inspiration, anything)

– I know there to be some interesting people present.

– I know there to be some fun people present.

– I know a friend will be there and we’ll have dinner after and gossip about people in alphabetical order.

– All of the above, plus I am starving and the food is supposed to be very good and the venue is within walking distance.

There’s still time to get ready for the cruellest social season of all – that of Christmas drinks. Not because there’s anything wrong with a bit of mulled wine and assorted cheeses, but because it lasts for two bloody months. 

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