I never did grow up
Feels like I never willMy friends are all adultsI'm still a teenage girl
I've always been better on paper. by which I mean to say, I've always been able to gather my thoughts and say what I need to say by writing it down, rather than saying it out loud to someone in the moment. I guess this makes sense, you have time to think and edit, self-censor and generally make a nice, air-brushed version of yourself or events. But I try to reject these safeties of the medium, to be as honest with myself, any readers or listeners, as possible. It feels like it's the only time I get it right. As so often, in person, I feel like I get it wrong.
I am shy. This is a difficult concept for those that know me to understand, yet anyone who has seen me in a social situation where I have to talk to new people can see it. Last month I went to my friends' baby shower and I was the only one there who didn't know anyone else except the expectant parents. I knew this would be a difficult event for me to attend. I talked to myself, prepared. The father-to-be, my friend for some years now, knew it would be awkward for me as well. I just don't do well with small talk or the unknown. As I parked the car, I literally almost had a panic attack. I started to shake a little and breathe harder. I yelled at myself for being so silly. It was just meeting people. But this is what social anxiety of the shy is. And even if you know me as the outgoing loudmouth, spouting her opinions as fact, the truth remains that deep inside I am often a ball of nerves and insecurity.
In this way, I feel often times like a split personality. Among friends, I am me. Honest, brash, someone who thinks she is far funnier than she is, and kind. But around strangers and occasionally acquaintances, I am stand-offish, quiet, removed from the fray and always on the offensive, a bitch. Outside of my comfort zone I feel like I am in a social war of sorts, always preparing for the side-look, the critique, the misconstrued words that tell me I am not welcome here, that I don't belong. Mostly because I often feel, in those situations, that I do not.
But the thing I have found, through a series of tough run-ins, is that it is a self-fullfilling prophecy. In my effort to seem effortless I am awkward and intense and rough around all the edges. I am the opposite of who I feel like I am. I am the opposite of the way I know my friends see me and this is beyond frustrating because I don't know how to stop it.
The why it happens is clear. At 33 when I should have things figured out, when I attempt to hold myself up as some role model for children day in and day out, the reality is that I still have a lot of work to do. I recently had a falling out with one of my friends. And there are a lot of reasons why, but one was that she felt I was constantly criticizing her. I hate that she felt this way. I hate that what I said or how I (involuntarily) rolled my eyes made her feel less than. I work really hard to put good out in the world and it just crushes me when I think I haven't.
This isn't the first time that I have heard people tell me they think I am judging them. And the ironic part is that I just flat out am not. I am far harder on myself than those around me. But I forget, subsumed as I am with my own shit, that they hear me critique myself or a Kardashian (not Khloe though, she is amazing) and naturally think I must be thinking that about them as well. I struggle to not sound sarcastic at every turn and often fail to sound sincere even in my most honest moments.
Learning to become an adult is difficult work. We are shaped by our formative experiences far more than we would like to admit, and I am no exception. I am haunted by them. The things people have said to me, the way I have been treated by those that were supposed to care about me are always in the forefront of my mind instead of tucked safely in my subconscious where they can only do harm in dreams. I take comfort in the everyday, the routine, the control of the known and, in the past, I have tried to stay there.
In the last two years I have worked to change. I saw things in myself that I didn't like. The way I saw the world and the way I approached it was all wrong. I did the work and things got better and I think I thought that might fix other things that are, well, harder to fix. I am learning that I was wrong.
I write to define myself. The stories that I read at shows help me hold a mirror up to myself and show me how I am living my life, mark the mis-steps, celebrate the clarifying. In the telling of stories, we remind ourselves that things are not always happening to us, but that we are active participants in the process. Sometimes I don't think I am very good participant in my own life. But now that I've written it down, I can begin to see the next place to start.