Final Frontier

The 20s are all about redefining your comfort zone. Everyone has those places and situations that knock you right on out of your safety net. You're nervous, anxious, and sometimes even a little (or a lot) scared. It's normal but it doesn't make it any less daunting. We face brand new things daily and immediately it becomes clear whether we're up for it or not. Knowing and understanding your discomfort are the keys to overcoming it. We're headed into uncharted territories. This is the final frontier. 
 
"As you move outside of your comfort zone, what was once the unknown and frightening becomes your new normal" Robin S. Sharma

Growing up is both exciting and scary at the same damn time. I like the adventure that it brings but the uncertainty I could probably do without. I can admit that I've spent the majority of my life trying to be in control of everything that happens around and/or to me. In a world where young people often have relatively little (depending on your perspective) influence over what they go through, it's been one of those things that I've held on tightly. I've become really good at doing it. It's why I've always seemed so put together, because somehow I managed to make sure everything was the way I wanted (no needed) it to be, to a certain extent. Even when things would come up I was equipped with knowing how to spin, finagle, or direct things to still remain manageable. One thing I know I've always been afraid of is a situation where I didn't know what to do, have an answer, or had some semblance of an idea of what would happen next. My comfort zone ends when things are beyond my reach. It's time I faced my final frontier.

This week is the infamous senior week. It's a week of reflection, last hurrahs, and honestly some rather gluttonous celebration. It's been an experience to say the least, one that I was bound for sooner or later. Tuesday night was the commencement ball at a local hotel that saw me taking a backseat on the social front while my friend Sam went forth. The night was solid standard fun complete with flowing drinks for everyone else and light hors d'oeuvres. More and more people showed up and soon I was back in the spot where I most often find myself, surrounded by people that I know and not feeling awkward. I had random people who I'd never spoken break my personal space bubble a few times but nothing I couldn't diffuse quickly. We hit the dance floor - hard - and shook it for hours on end. The music left something to be desired but did the trick. Being around people that I knew in passing, knew of, or hadn't seen since first year was a total blast from the past, but a novelty nonetheless. It was not one of those events that knocked me out of my comfort zone just one that left with my heightened awareness of paying attention to how I was showing up.

Wednesday was spent packing. It's so weird and kind of saddening that my whole life can be stuffed, boxed, and shipped. Evening fell and with it came the sunset cruise on Lake Champlain. It was immediately apparent to me as my classmates arrived that we had different ideas of what kind of shindig this was. The salmon pants, navy blue blazers, and boat shoes said it all. Apparently we were yachting on the Cape as opposed to circling some damn lake water on a school sanctioned outing. It was a pretty good time though. I am always interested to see how people from the different social circles I find myself in will mix but they usually go well. Obligatory sunset pictures, and nonstop flowing ginger ale made up my time on the boat before hitting the dance floor. The longer we were on there the drunker people came with a chair going overboard, people lighting cigars indoors, and punching out a ceiling panel. Needless to say hitting land was a welcome happening. From there I had the choice of going to chill with my friend Abby or my friend Katie (we'd all been in the same seminar class this semester), and I chose the latter because hunger called. After a failed attempt at some tacos, we settled for sandwiches on Church Street. The night was a little too young, so Sam and I huffed it back home to change and rest before heading down for a night I won't soon forget. The final frontier mission was impending.

When you get to be one of those people that others often associate with naiveté, goodness (sobriety), and frankly no-fun, it's no surprise that people are shocked to see you out of that context. Downtown we descended and into a pub/bar (are they the same thing?) to meet up with Abby and Katie with Lauren, Connor, and others in tow. It was loud, sticky, and smelled of beer but there were open seats and we sat, hung out, and I observed (like a true journalist). I saw so many throwback characters there that I hadn't seen in years (as if college is that long). I watched the way people drank, touched one another's faces, whispered in ears, greeted with hugs, sat on laps, and leaned on one another. It was like this organic subculture (or maybe it was a primary one). Everyone around me finished their drinks and it was off to the infamous "Sputies" to finish out the night.

Descending into the pounding bass, crowd of gyrating bodies, and tinge of hard liquor was a little overwhelming. People amassed together like something out of a dystopian future sci-fi post nuclear war grooving (offbeat), drinks in hand, and sweat everywhere. It was like Britney Spears, and Ke$ha had an orgy in a dimly lit bar. But there I was, nervous beyond compare but ready to take the plunge. Into the crowd we went and soon I was on a platform getting down to over-remixed songs. I danced like nobody was watching, smiled until I couldn't anymore, and let go for a little bit to enjoy where I was. I was okay. I was surrounded by people that cared about me. I was going to be fine. It wasn't so bad after all. When I was over the whole roasting oven feeling, having other guys use me for support as their dance partners climbed them like trees, and others should me rudely I hit the bar for some soda and took a seat. There I was pinteresting, liking instagram pictures, and live-tweeting the whole experience like a true millennial. I had done it and I was proud of myself. I may have felt out of my element but the first time is always the hardest. I did have some good conversations with people from the past, random strangers, and even a bartender - apparently I have an approachable face. Sam and I walked back up the hill that is Burlington, and called it a night. Final frontier, conquered.

What I hope for the future is that going out will not be necessarily make me feel so uncomfortable. I wonder what it is about the whole thing that is so jarring to me. Maybe it's being surrounded by people who look nothing like me. Maybe it's their rowdy yelling of 80s rock ballads, the incessantly flowing beer, or the sloppy handsy-ness. I always feel out of place, like I've happened upon some secret gathering that I wasn't invited to. It's like an end of week ritual that only the select few are worthy to partake in. I understand that some (or most) of those doubts come from my own head and heart. Me being substance free and abstinent definitely contributes to that. I'm always too sober for the recklessness I want to work through them. I can hear the lingering effects of social justice overload. Maybe it's the vulgarity with which people are addressing each other, the underlying tension that could break into something less than benign at any moment, the blurring of the parameters for consent when alcohol is involved - I don't know. All of it just makes me uneasy. Is that normal? For me not really, I guess I was just used to being an insider (or at least pretending to be) in most situations. There's always room to learn and another frontier to conquer. Night life, you're up next. You're my final frontier (oh and dating, but one thing at a time).
 
My blog post question for the day is ... what is some place that took to you out of your comfort zone? For someone who enjoys being social (to a certain extent) sometimes I'm just not in to it at all.

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