When my friend returned from his mission (you know, that Mormon thing where they dress like accountants and learn how to say “Hello, my name is Elder Price and I would like to share with you the most amazing book,” in four different languages), we hadn’t heard a word from each other in over two years. He had, of course, sent his emails but punctuation. Seriously, man, I’ll read about your life when it involves periods. And, no, that’s not a feminism thing.
Of course, when I picked him up and we sat in the car for the first time together, we realized we had absolutely nothing to talk about. So the first thing my companion did was bring up the past. Actually the first thing he did was tell me I looked good then looked at me expectantly until I got it.
“Oh. You look good too.”
It was about a 20 minute silence.
But the past came up and we started chatting about memories I’d long repressed. We were much nicer to each other that first day back than we had ever been in our entire relationship, and only a few passive-aggressive quips were made. Sentimentalism I guess. Somehow we got onto the topic of admiration, in which my friend told me, “I love how you never care what other people thought of you.”
And I just laughed and laughed and laughed.
The truth was, I didn’t. I had a blind confidence in myself that, to me, proves ignorance is bliss. I was far more obnoxious, alienated myself more, but really did what I wanted. And I remember being happy. I remember actually sitting there thinking, “I can’t believe I feel this happy.”
I met conflict indignantly. Someone told me I was incapable of doing something, I proved them wrong. I was far better at making friends, much more productive, and could bulldoze even the toughest of teachers.
Too bad I was producing crap.
See, the problem with not giving a shit about what other people think is you don’t keep up appearances. I could see no merit in playing the game, and so would often turn in scribbled out paintings to contests, then feel like the reason I got third place was because I was “too weird” for those damn traditionalists.
College changed everything. I became more aware of the people around me, I became far more aware of how respect comes from appearances, and I realized how “quality” sometimes is just about playing the rules.
Of course the questions became which ones.
I lost my confidence, my certainty in my knowledge. My black and white mentality drained away, and I was left with questioning everything, all the time.
Plus, we had the added benefit of me realizing that I was an irrationally shy person.
Apparently when you grow up in a small town, you can be completely unaware that you hate strangers.
My confidence disappeared. It’s not that I didn’t see value in myself—on the contrary, I can be quite the narcissist—It was that I didn’t know how to portray my real self to others. There was so much room for misinterpretation (often which people did deliberately), so much room to show a small, less appealing side of myself at an imperative moment, that I shut down. I was getting sick of fighting, I was getting sick of putting in all this energy to create plays, books, art, and everything else I worked day and night on, just to have some stranger stand in my way because I accidentally said the wrong thing in front of him a year ago. And, as ridiculous as it sounds, that shit happened.
I developed my fear. It was all encompassing, exhausting to overcome, and every time I tried, I got little to no reward. It was—is—so much easier to just avoid the confrontation. I tucked away, started to only work on independent projects—things I never needed to depend on anyone else for, because, honestly, so many people would bail—and began to isolate myself.
So where does the hypocrisy come into play?
I dated my ex for four years. It was great, and he was a fantastic boyfriend. The reasons we broke up were just the “sum of its parts” sort of thing—a bunch of little things that added up and made me realize that what I wanted in life conflicted with what he did.
But, unfortunately, one of the main things came down to fear. He never had an adventurous nature, and I wanted to. I did, in fact, but it was often hard for me to take the first step, to take that risk, and to be with someone who enabled me to keep hiding, I realized I would never be able to overcome the safe-funk I had been in.
I was so irritated at the people around me who much preferred to accept their problems than to change them. Some of my classmates would often watch an issue evolving in front of them, but refused to act until it was too late to change anything. Only then could they get mad. Then they’d complain. They’d bitch and moan, but they would never act, never try to change anything.
After four years of dating, my ex still had the same complaints, the same problems. At times with the same exact people. His friends continued to screw him in the exact same manner for four years, and he had never done anything to fix it.
We rarely fought, but when we did, I learned there was no solution other than to not care. Or even if it had nothing to do with me, I couldn’t help him when he was hurt. He, on some level, liked being miserable. If I tried to fix the problem, he’d just seethe deeper into his mood. I often had the thought, “You’re not even trying to feel better.” I judged him for it. Anyone who didn’t try to make themselves happy couldn’t be helped.
You see where I’m going with this.
For the last couple of years, I allowed my social anxiety to control me. Now, I’ll be the first to slap any idiot who thinks social anxiety is solved by the Power of Positive Thinking, but I will say this: When I try, I can pass as relatively normal. When I try to function, I can.
It’s just so much easier not to bother.
I’ve been wanting to take more risks for the past few years. I had all of these goals and ambitions that I refused to even actually consider. They involved talking to people, making new friends, propositioning strangers… phone calls. Delving into the unknown with little ability to predict how it will turn out.
For the last few months, in which I was completely capable of breaching out, getting out of dodge, and doing the things I always thought I wanted to do, instead of acting, I just stopped fantasizing. My ambition dropped the moment I didn’t have a distant deadline to protect me. I became less productive than I have ever been since the age of twelve.
Now is the perfect time for me to make a decision. At the end of November, I’ll have no job. I have been slowly weaning myself off of the extra theatre work, so I’m under no obligation to any of the playhouses. I have my cat, but no one else I have to take into consideration. My friends have all moved away. I own no property or anything that requires maintenance. I am about as free as I’ll ever get.
And I want to move. I want to get out of dodge, meet new people, fresh faces. I want to take chase the things I care about. I want to trust that I actually want what I want, and go back to the high school days where I have no doubt I can get it.
I know that my biggest flaw is this fear, that any of the failure I’ve had in the past year is due to this fear more than anything else. Fear has made me make the worst decisions, prevented me from going after what I wanted, made me refuse opportunities that I really wanted, and embarrassed me more than anything else has.
I’m at a crossroads. I have to decide where I want to live, what I want to do with my day job, what kind of lifestyle I expect to have, and basically every other question you can have in your life. I am restricted to nothing, the world is my oyster.
So why am I so afraid?