Tuesday, June 14, 2016

How the tables have turned

If you had told me a year ago that I would be getting paid to teach someone how to socialize, I would have silently stared at you and turned red. For real.

Being the shy, introverted, quiet, private, silent kid has been my identity since birth. Literally, since birth. I didn't cry much, nor misbehave, nor act out. My grandmother only remembers one tantrum, and I never hit, screamed, bit, or harmed anything or anyone (aside from my brothers, but that was self-defense!) That changed as I got into my teen years, but that's another story. As far as my childhood, I was a golden kid. Not perfect by any means, but pretty close to it.

Into my teen years and young adult years, I was still pretty quiet. People sometimes thought I was being rude or snobby, others thought I was terrified of them. There were always people assuming they knew my personality and feelings based on my shyness. However, the reality was, I was just quiet. I didn't have anything I wanted to say. Besides, when I spoke or was spoken to, I was kind of uncomfortable and nervous. Not that THEY scared me, but my thoughts in response to them scared me. Most people have trouble understanding that.

Of course, each year, the expectations grow. People think you'll outgrow it or that you'll magically change. That you'll become the person they want you to be or expect you to be. It's just much safer, I suppose.

I didn't change, though. Maybe a little bit, but not in leaps and bounds. Thus, people worried and put it down. People made me feel bad about myself, or as though I should be ashamed of my quiet nature. They made me think I had to change my ways or I'd be doomed! For awhile that seemed about right. I had no friends, I was scared to talk to my family, and everyone else I met was pretty much out of the question. They didn't give me a chance and I didn't give them a chance. The difference being, I was so present in my own concerns, I didn't even notice or worry about them. Aside from knowing that I wanted to please others by giving them whatever they wanted, I didn't know how to relate to them or what would interest them. Nothing that came to my mind seemed worth saying. Emotional stuff was touchy, uncomfortable, and unfamiliar. Silly stuff was weird and unprofessional and inappropriate. This left me with nothing to work with.

That is, until I started just... going for it. Well, I guess it helped that people were starting to get curious. Curious about ME! The quiet, private, mysterious chick became a fascinating something or other. Those people who scared me were a little nervous about me, because they figured I had something great inside me that they couldn't understand or capture. They tried. They definitely tried to enter through every crack and turn up the focus on their microscopes, but nothing worked. That was then some of those people decided to be brave and work their way into my world. The more they did this, the more I dug into their worlds. We met in the middle and talk about things that were uncomfortable and touchy and unprofessional. Things we never spoke of before or ever again. Things that weren't important in the big picture! But in those moments, we bonded. After doing this enough times, I realized that we're all kind of throwing words out into a black hole and hoping someone receives them and decides to return some of their own.

It was still scary, and I still blush often. I think and re-think and overthink everything I do and say, but... people still stick around! Not everyone. Many people leave. Sometimes I have to leave. But, the ones with whom I stick and stick with me... they're kinda cool.

So, I've gone through a metamorphosis. I've learned a lot in my cocoon. Now I'm willing and ready to share it all with the world. There will be good days and there will be bad days, but in the end, I'm still the same ol' me, and that's gotta count for something! That seems to be good enough for the right people.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Learn to be Alone!

Every time someone posts on social media or whines that they spent the holidays alone or celebrated a birthday alone, the world freaks out. All heck breaks loose! Everyone and their mother wants to send gifts and money and hugs and firefighters.... Because if you're alone, the assumption is that society has rejected you. That you are unwanted, and that's a trend that will follow you for life. Being alone is a sign of your place in the hierarchy, and let's just say, you're not doing well at all.

Who are we when we are alone? We are entirely, completely, and truly ourselves. We are creative and innovative and weird and wild. If we boo and hiss each time a kid is left to entertain themselves or deal with isolation, we are killing all these magical alone moments. That child or teenagers will never know or appreciate time alone; it will be shameful and boring, instead.

Typically, I meet two kinds of people: the lone wolves who are always told they NEED more contact with people, and the socialites who cannot go a moment on their own. The latter is the type who goes into a deep depression if they are rejected, or have no one to invite to an event. They live off the carbon dioxide others exhale. The former can be just as bad or dangerous, I won't deny that. However, we all know too much isolation is bad. We know that spending 90% of your life in a basement or bedroom or alone in a cubicle will harm your well-being. You can read some pretty freaky and scary ideas on extreme isolation here:

Science Magazine even quotes that: 
The most socially isolated subjects had a 26% greater risk of dying

Which means, if you keep the company of others at all times, you may become immortal.
That sounds good to me!

In the end, though, they do point out that maybe isolation isn't the worst thing in the world. It's good to have people to count on in case things go badly, but... hey, maybe enjoying your own company is a good thing.

On the other hand, when it comes to being alone, most articles and research suggest that this is unbearable for a huge part of the population. Nearly every article offered steps one can take to become aware of one's own inability to be alone. They also offered tips and advice on how to slowly accustom oneself to it. Though, none seem to report on the effects of every jerk around you telling you not to be alone, and how to make THAT stop.

After all, if you get used to being alone, you'll be an outcast, which means you're less likely to buy into trends and bad habits, and, you know, all that good stuff that makes other people money!

Of course, no parent wants to see their child sitting alone day after day. No kid should experience rejection from all other kids. Not if they want to socialize, that is. But what about learning to embrace it when it does inevitably occur? If we constantly throw that option out, then when that child turns 40, and realizes he/she won't always be surrounded by adoring fans, that's when that individual will truly suffer.

When it comes to those "weird" kids who like to be alone, I think they should be considered lucky! That kid will learn to create and imagine and think. Not as a group or a part of a cult, but as an individual. Those types of children will know how to take nothing and make new things and find skills and hobbies to entertain themselves. They won't have to face the agony and torture of finding a date for every event and a friend to bring them to the bathroom or stress over where they will go each and every weekend.

Once upon a time, when you had a Sunday off work and nothing to do, it was highly recommended that you take that day to just rest and relax, and be alone (or exclusively with your family....) Nowadays, staying in on a weekend is deplorable. It's a waste of your life, and it makes you boring or sad. Having no Friday night plans is for nerds and people who work too much. If you don't go out, you're old and will miss everything. After all, if you don't go out, your friend is less likely to go out, and if your friend doesn't go out, he/she will be ALONE; with his/her self and his/her thoughts and his/her reality and flaws and fears. Nothing but pen, paper, musical instruments, pets, healthy eating and drinking options, books.... All those things we like to say we enjoy, but do we really? Or, should I say, do we make use of them as much as we claim? Do we take advantage of the fact that we are lucky enough to have things other than people to calm our nerves and soothe our souls? Not enough, I say. Not enough.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Anxiety, Anshmyety!

Anxiety. Freakin', deakin', gosh dang ANXIETY!  It's real and very present and super overwhelming.

When is anxiety just laziness? When is laziness just anxiety?

Let me start by saying, I have anxiety. I have always had anxiety. It's a hard thing to explain. I've tried, but unless you have it, you won't get it. Even if you do "get" it, what good is that? Does that really help, or does it just feel good for you to sympathize? A bit.

Thus, I'm not going to try yet again to share that experience and those feelings. Besides, they're my feelings, I don't want you to start delving into them and taking away something that I uniquely get. They're mine!

What might be fun to explore is the differentiation between anxiety and laziness. I've felt both. Sometimes I don't want to do something and I don't have to do something, so in order to defend my fragile ego from the outside world, I tell myself that I can't do it because of anxiety. This is not often the case, but every now and then... yeah. Which in itself is interesting since most people don't care what I do. The only reason I need to defend my actions is because I assume others will think poorly of me for quitting something, which really means that I will think poorly of myself for quitting something! That's another story for another time, though.

I want to share the fact that I've quit many things due to anxiety. The times I can't just "get over it" or "ignore it" or "bite the bullet".... I've quit jobs and schools and teams and friendships because I felt my entire world and everything in it would collapse if I continued doing this thing.

It's crazy. My mind decides a random situation is fight or flight, so it freaks out and tells me to ditch because I may have a breakdown if not. No matter how brave or confident or aware I am, there is a sense of grave danger. How ridiculous is that? What kind of cruel brain would permit such a thing? A slightly disordered and unwell one, I suppose.

Geez, though, the lies I've told to protect my shame. I felt weak and vulnerable and downright silly for letting these things control my life. Not to mention, the complete loss of privacy. If I had to miss a day of class or slow down my work schedule, I wasn't going to start telling my life story and explain how awful it is to start hyperventilating in public to my boss or co-worker. Not even my friends should have to hear about these things. I thought I was too independent and strong-willed for that. So, instead, I lied and the lies build and feel gross. It helped me escape an uncomfortable conversation, but it didn't feel good.

Now, I'm not a complete failure.... I've also won some of those battles. Sometimes I do fight. I've traveled the world alone. I've finished one college degree and am working on finishing another. I've done some incredible and brave things. I've also done mundane things: gone to work, made phone calls, gone to social events... despite, and in spite of vicious, terrifying, anxious thoughts.

It's certainly not impossible to win. However, it does depend on many factors. Where is my confidence and self-esteem? How is my energy, health, and my outside support? And, heck, is it worth the effort? Fighting anxiety is exhausting! It's not just a little voice telling you, "Nope. Stop. Naw. Don't do it."
It's actually a tank rolling towards you with a grenade launcher pointing at you that's ready to shoot. Someone pops their head up and says, "One more step and we might blast you."

You're looking right into the barrel of the launcher and you have to decide: is it worth it? Can I handle this? Maybe they're bluffing... maybe I'll survive...or... maybe not.

If you sit on the ground, you're not lazy. Still, you may never forgive yourself.

There's no way of knowing how others view me when my anxiety takes over. I have found a community of people who seem to understand and care, so whether they get it or not, they have my back. Understanding does exist, and the sooner you find those people, and your own way of coping and surviving the hour, the day, the week, the year, the better life will become. Until then, though, it's not easy. Even after then, it's a difficult and scary existence. So it is your job and my job and everyone's job to listen to people and respect people. That's all we can do, and it happens to be the best thing we can do!