I like to be liked by those I like. I mean who doesn’t? But, what if I’m not? As a friend asked, am I willing to live with the discomfort of my own authenticity?

That’s a whole lot of angst, and question marks, for an opening paragraph. I am not above over thinking or aimlessly spinning down rabbit holes of self-doubt. These voices in my head clearly need to find themselves a new topic of conversation.

I don’t like walking through shopping malls. There are a variety of reasons for that, but a central one is because there’s a chance I might bump into someone I kind of know. The dreaded chit chat. Words that start nowhere and end up in the same place. It’s like Chinese food, it may satisfy in the short term, but I’m hungry again in no time.

However, call me up for coffee, and I am so down. Yesterday I met up with a guy who has been struggling in his business. Before we could get to a second cup, we were trading stories of disappointment and failure. We really hardly knew each other, but his vulnerability became a currency for meaningful exchange.

Last night it happened again. Over pizza with a group of old friends, one guy opened up with what’s going on for him – and all of a sudden everyone felt the permission to ‘go there’.

Knowing and being known is risky and difficult. My mind can work in seemingly oxymoronic ways as I worry about judgment, rejection, disappointment, and loneliness – and that isn’t even considering how others feel about me.

Sure, I can play the game and act out the part, but where does that leave me or those I’m with? Mall conversation.