"The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them." Ernest Hemingway
There are people that love going out, and there those that absolutely hate it. I'm somewhere towards the middle of those two extremes. I have this tumultuous relationship with going out, with trusting other people, and with being able to relax enough to actually enjoy myself. I'm uptight. I like things to be planned - complete with an itinerary. I flail against spontaneity. Maybe it's because I'm an introvert, partially controlling, or inherently wary. Maybe it's because I've never felt welcome/included in spaces where rowdy young people reveled. Maybe because my biggest worry is about getting into trouble, especially with law enforcement, and being on high alert at all times. Who knows, it's probably a mixture of all three and more. Either way, there are so many factors that derail my attempts to thrive in the vibrancy of the young adult social landscape. I'm closed off, anxious, and hyper-vigilant. I want to be free. I want to not have to care so much, for once. I want to be careless, reckless, and fearless. I want to be comfortable but adventurous. I want to be able to enjoy the company, environment and experience that my peers do. I want that sense of normalcy for myself.
Going out for me is about trust. Do I trust you? Are you dependable, will you stay with me, can you be present? For me to venture out into the world, the place where I feel most unsafe, unsure, and unprepared, means that I'm putting my trust in you to be my guide, guard, and guarantee. Are you committed to ushering me around, or are you okay with leaving me in exchange for someone else, romantic or otherwise? Am I disposable or an afterthought. Are you being considerate of my needs or wants - and sharing yours with me as well. Are we communicating effectively, and saying what we need to say. Are our limits clear? Do we know how to take care of own another? Are we being true to ourselves?
Embracing ambiguity is a lifelong practice. It's not knowing what's coming next and not just being okay with that but actually relishing in the uncertainty. Going with the flow, being there, engaging, and bringing your full self instead of holding back, checking out, and distancing yourself from the people that are right there with you. It's relinquishing control and letting your night be dictated by the world and its inhabitants. Let go. Let loose. Let yourself enjoy where you are. It's like being tethered to a bungee cord. There's no way to know what that exhilaration feels like unless you freefall, and even then, the danger is temporary. You cannot move forward if you're grounded where you are. You have to jump. You have to cringe, panic, and feel awkward. You have to lean into your fear to push through it.
I'm still figuring out how to navigate social spaces. I'm awkward, a little odd, and kinda quirky in the most unequivocally eccentric ways. It takes me a while to warm up, to find a groove or rather a topic/point of entry into a conversation. I often go right into those nominally taboo topics of politics, religion, and social issues. I like dialogue. I gain different perspectives and a chance to connect with another person by talking with them about something substantive. I'm perpetually ready for an intellectual discussion or to wallow in the low-hanging fruit of pop culture, memes, and social media trends. I get uncomfortable when people speak too close too me, when people touch me without asking, or when people seem to express romantic interest in me. I don't know what to do with my hands - ever. I look visibly uncomfortable even though I'm legitimately trying to look casual, relaxed, and content but failing miserably. I'm thinking too much about how other people are experiencing me, if I'm likable, or if others are noticing my lack of fitting in. I'm worried about killing the mood, taking up too much space, or other people being concerned about me not having fun. I'm on edge, my heart is racing, and usually it's too loud for me to have the meaningful conversations that calm me down. I'm surrounded by people but simultaneously alone. I'm here but don't know if people notice me, want me, or need me here. I'm out but still feel closed in.
My parents have never wished me well in going out. They have never uttered the words "have fun" or "enjoy yourself." For the duration of my life it has always been a stern admonishment of "be careful." Never amiable, almost always in anguish. I think they'd rather have me home where they keep me safe. I understand their worries and wish they could have peace but their children are all over the place, but they just want us to be safe. Those words linger in the air. They make my ears ring. They play over and over in my head. Whenever I get that feeling of "I shouldn't be here" or "this place is not for me" - that's the thought process going through my head. I'm still trying to reconcile the yearn to be without fear with the harsh reality that I do have much to be mindful of. It may not necessarily warrant fear, and fear is not a way to live but caution is crucial for me to stay alive. Woah, I think I just sorted out the root cause of my my bouts of social anxiousness.
People watching is one of my favorite pastimes. There's something remarkably fascinating about observing people interact. People are both confusingly complicated and pointedly simple. It's in spending time on the sidelines just watching away that I have learned so much. I get to scope out the room, figure out where I might make my play to participate, and find my moment. I get to read people, figure out their moods/emotions, and come to understand the different dynamics in play. There are times when I wait too long and can't seem to find my way in, or when I feel locked out of the action. I'm on the periphery meandering around the outskirts of where all the fun is. Maybe the fun is not meant for me. Maybe I'm not allowed to partake in it. Maybe it's off-limits to me. I don't know what holds me back. Some of my nervousness is valid because there have been times where I've been excluded, but some of it is also a distorted reality and assumptions being made as to how people will interact with me (if at all.) Some of that trepidation is unfounded, and I'm still learning to let people surprise me, hopefully for the better. That openness to being embraced means that I have to reciprocate. I have to let people in, let them welcome me, and let put themselves on display instead of the backstories I've constructed for them and their going out.
Much of my time spent going out is in my own head thinking about both who and where I am. In a crowd of loud people, jam packed, all having their own unique experiences I'm wandering the halls of my mind thinking about anything and everything. Sometimes I'm lost in my own thoughts, and other times I'm having this cognitive dissonant moment of self-separation syndrome where I'm out of my body but conversing with myself about my surroundings in that moment. It's like I'm me, but looking at me from outside of me. Maybe I can't believer where I am, who I'm with, or what I'm doing. Then again the experience could be so alien and jarring for me that I slip out of reality and into this surrealism that doesn't quite make sense. I'm a work in progress. I'm figuring it out as I go. I'm finding what works for me. I'm testing my boundaries, reassessing, and recalculating to move on. All I can do is challenge myself more to be bold, to be courageous, and to be genuine when going out. X