What a Difference a Decade Makes

Meeting new people is HARD, y’all. So, when I find myself invited to a ladies night out where I will barely know anyone, I can’t find any reason not to go. So, I go. I meet some fun girls, I dance, I laugh, I have a great time. I know this probably doesn’t sound like a big deal, but by the time I get home and think about the night, all I can think is, who the fuck is that girl that just went out and had a great time with total strangers?!

I mentioned previously my move to Oregon when I was 19 and how terrible it turned out. I’ve also made no secret of the psychological fun I’ve dealt with in life, and social anxiety has been a pretty big part of that. At the time I didn’t use the term social anxiety, all I knew was most times a lot of things that seemed so easy for other people felt downright impossible for me. Small shit like going to the grocery store or going to class on my own without feeling inklings of dread. Doing those things with a group? No problem. Doing things with friends or family allowed me to feel protected from people’s judgements, but going at even the most mundane things in life solo often felt challenging. I can’t really pinpoint why it was so difficult, couldn’t then and I still can’t now, I just knew that anxious feeling frequently plagued me. It wasn’t an everyday occurrence, thank God, because if it was, it’s likely I would have turned into a full on hermit.It was just one of those things that would creep up and leave me feeling an insane lack of confidence in myself. And a lack of confidence in one’s self does nothing to improve those pesky social anxieties- a vicious cycle really.

When I was at my least confident, living in Oregon, I had a really nasty habit of comparing myself to other people. Friends I left back at CSU where making new friends, joining sororities and frats and other groups on campus, studying abroad, getting jobs at restaurants, all sorts of things that just seemed impossible to me because it meant putting yourself out there with new people. All these “normal” people just made it seem so easy and it frustrated the fuck out of me! That will never be me, I would think to myself.

Well, here I am, a decade later and that is me. I can’t say why or how, and I can’t say that’s me every day- some days I’m still terrified of putting myself out there and would rather just stay at home curled up with a good book, living vicariously through a character’s life, but most days I’m out there, going to ladies nights with new girls, making attempts at dating, starting a new job and actually engaging with coworkers. Hell, I even went to a foreign country BY MYSELF. Who is this girl and where did she come from?! Who knows! Over time I just noticed myself changing- taking risks, opening up to new people, trying new things, and, in general, just caring less if any of that made me subject to people’s judgements. My best guess is it was a mixture of time, age, wisdom, confidence, not giving a damn, and finally realizing no one is really taking the time to judge you because mostly, everyone’s too busy judging themselves that got me to where I am now. And it pains me to look back on that timid girl in her teens feeling so crippled with anxiety that she missed out on a lot of opportunities, but unless I find a DeLorean that serves as a time machine, there’s really nothing I can do about that except appreciate how far I’ve come and where I am now. Truly, what a difference a decade can make.

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