I leave early. It’s just something I do. When it comes to large social events, rendezvous, and overall gatherings, I am most always late to arrive and quite often the first to leave. It’s not a grand exit or anything; in fact, it most closely resembles a sort of Irish Goodbye, if you will. I tell one of the people I came with and then scamper into the night, a mere Lyft separating me from the mecca. The mecca, of course, being my home—or somewhere in which I’m not experiencing physically, mentally, spiritually crippling anxiety. I don’t know where it comes from. I don’t know why it happens, but it does. In crowded, sizable social settings, I frequently experience bouts of debilitating anxiety—an anxiety so powerful not even the zenith of Xanax dosages could cure it. I’m with my friends (all three of them), surrounded by hordes of people, and it’s as though I need to fold myself inward—anatomical origami. I need to burrow under a substantial boulder in an abandoned forest and rock myself back into stability.
And, long story short, it sucks. I really hate it a whole bunch. Because I’m fine in smaller groups. Throw ten people in a house, and I’ll knock your socks clean off (or say many things aloud that most people filter out before uttering, but regardless). Small groups, I’m great, I’m in, let’s do this shit. Group takes an XL to a crowded bar, though, and strikes one, two, three, she’s out. Fascinating shit, eh?
So, yesterday, despite my best attempts at avoiding it, by the powers that be, I turned 25. Because 25 is a real age. At 25, people are popping babies out, like, on purpose. At 25, people have stable careers, mortgages, maybe a cat or two. Over here, my eggs are staying put, my career is a roller coaster, I live in a studio loft (it’s, like, really rad, though), and I stray far from those meowing rascals you people call pets. Long story short, I’m not entirely where I anticipated myself being at this age. And I’ve been gradually coming to terms with that in the past year or two. I’m good with it. But it still doesn’t make 25 look any more desirable.
Nevertheless, the sun rose and my days of 24 were thrown into the abyss. Kari, one of my best friends on this here planet, takes birthdays quite seriously, and as desperately as I didn’t want to turn the big 2-5, she was just as desperate to celebrate the milestone. She rallied a group of about ten of our friends together for a brief brunch extending from approximately 10:30am PDT (or around the time Notre Dame decided to burst my birthday—and bracket—bubble) to 3:30pm PDT. Seriously, we had a 5-hour brunch. She got me a cake, sang loudly to me in public, and overall just nailed that shit—a positively incredible morning and afternoon. Post-brunch, Kari and I headed back to her house for a few hours before the intent to regroup with our pals at their lovely abode. Furthermore, we had plans to go out that evening, so we needed to change and, more importantly, lay on her bed for an extended period of time and do nothing. So, those evening plans—this is where things go awry. You see, on the agenda was a regrouping of our smallish crew. Grilling, hanging out, real wild shit, you know? But ultimately, the idea was to relocate to a house party. A very large, very crowded house party.
I knew about it far in advance, so I’d had time to let it ruminate. When I got to Kari’s house, like clockwork, the anxiety poked its head through the door. “I should go home and get ready.” “I’ll just meet up with everyone later.” You know the drill. And, quite frankly, I know the drill. I know the drill very well. And usually I berate myself for it. It’s a real war zone in this here noggin of mine. I rip myself to absolute shreds for not being “normal.” For not functioning like a regular human being. For not being able to just sit-the-fuck down and chill out.
But not yesterday. Maybe it was the birthday, maybe it was the bottomless mimosas, who’s to say? But yesterday I cut myself a break. At 25 years of age, I am terrified of large, crowded social gatherings. And I probably will be at 30. And 50 and 63. And that’s okay. It has to be okay. You have to let yourself be okay; you have to let yourself be. I don’t know why I have this part of me, but I have it, and it’s not going away, so fuck it. Let it go.
And in quite a paradoxical turn of events, as soon as I let myself breathe for a second and not bemoan the horrors of my social anxiety, it passed. The racing heart, the nausea, the waves of fear. It was like as soon as I admitted it, I was free. Now, I get that this won’t be the case forever. I’ll still deal with the same old shit, but for one night, I was able to let it go. And it was one of the best nights I’ve had in a terribly long time.
So, I guess we’ve got a couple morals here. 1. Twenty-five isn’t as bad as I thought it would be—I mean, it could be 26, can you imagine? And 2. anxiety sucks. Sometimes, you gotta leave the party early—and that’s cool. And sometimes you get to close the place out—and that’s pretty cool, too.