I swear I did not set out to come up with a blog post title that coincidentally is the same title of a well-known Taylor Swift song. Though I can’t seem to stop listening to Getaway Car lately… but that’s a story for another time.
It’s easy to deem that I can think myself into positivity. Self-help books, TED talks, motivational podcasts. I’ve dabbled here and there in those waters but have never sunk my whole body in. I can’t say any of it is the right fit for me. There was a point in the past I had like 5 different books on combating social anxiety and I would read and try to invest time in doing their in-book exercises. I gave up after a time. For laziness? For impatience? For fear of changes, failure, and a repeated repetition of airing out those painful feelings on paper and lying awake at 1 a.m. scrolling on my phone, desperately invested in a distraction to stop the nonstop niggle of my avoidant mind? Yeah.
I recently told a friend that I haven’t felt right in my mind since forever. I don’t know who I am without social anxiety on my shoulder, pushing me to avoid what is perceived as danger. My reactions, however genuine they are, seem to be largely based on that.
I’ve had an excessive amount of bad days in the last few months. So many days where getting out of bed is a challenge because all I have are negative thoughts and so many mornings where I don’t even talk to anyone unless I have to. That’s nothing new. The problem is I can’t tell anymore if what I have is an existential life issue or a mental health life issue and if anything I do will improve my state of being. It’s like no matter where I go, the canvas of my life is dripping with black paint at the corners.
I was in Barcelona back in October 2019. A dreamy world away from home in New York and somehow wrong found a way to creep in. I can blame many things, like that I was on a limited budget of 100 euros (roughly 110 U.S. dollars which is not a lot for 8 days where almost every meal had to be store-bought or restaurant bought food since one of the Airbnbs I stayed in didn’t allow cooking), being sleep deprived (due to neighbors who were noisy through the nights, plus I was insomniac), eating poorly (as much as Barcelona was wonderful for walking and sightseeing, the seafood and tapa dishes were not to my tastes), and by far the biggest factor was traveling with my two aunts who constantly depended on me for cellular data and street navigation for everywhere we went. So excuse me if it felt like I wasn’t only trying to keep my own anxiety in check for 8 days but also having to constantly absorb other people’s anxiety too.
You could say I am still a little embittered by the experience although I spent most of it pretending I was just tired to mask the mood swings. I suppose it wasn’t all bad. I got to visit Europe for the first time ever. Besides Barcelona, I briefly visited Nice (in France), Cannes, and Monaco. I got to wear one of my dresses that was perfect for the hot summer weather too. A change in scenery can do wonders for mental health, but what was too much for me were my traveling companions. That was my first time traveling with so closely with either of them and it felt like it was just too close for comfort, especially since I had to share the same room AND bed with one of my aunts. There was no privacy.
Now would be a good time as any to mention the trip to Europe was one I joined at the spur of the moment. My aunts planned in advance to go together and they repeatedly invited me. In fact, I only accepted the invitation about a week before they were set to leave. They had a similar trip in 2018 that I declined. This time I jumped at the chance to leave home because I was tired of being afraid and quite honestly I had nothing else going on. I didn’t feel ready for it. But I did it. The trip to Europe seems like a distant memory now. The longer the memories sat as the months flew by with the world moving on and on, the more detached and stranger-like I felt turning the recollections in my mind, as if it was not me but another nervous girl who went abroad to get her feet wet. At the very least, the trip taught me what I don’t want in a vacation next time I decide to go somewhere overseas.
I’ve said before that I don’t do well being idle. I find a distraction, sometimes what feels like mindless drivel that takes me out of reality for a bit, or I just get stuck by shutting down from the outside world. I don’t recall the last time I really watched the news (unless I count one day a week ago when a fire broke out in an apartment complex on my street). Everything slows down like the speed I am moving at takes so much out of me. The effort it takes in doing stuff pivots back and forth from a necessary obligation I make myself do when I don’t really want to or thinking about “doing it later” if I can worm my way into procrastinating if I can help it.
I find shortcuts. My hair gets greasy every 2 days and there is a tiredness about showering every day that some days I just settle for changing my undergarments, outer clothes, and washing my hair in the sink. For a while, I washed all my clothes by hand with soap which is a habit I started in Barcelona (because one of the Airbnbs didn’t have a laundry machine). As strange as it seems, having that as a personal chore took me out of my body and I could forget myself for a bit.
I don’t know if going back to college is the personal boost I need to jumpstart my life. It’s more stress and anxiety, much like the trip to Europe was, except it will be for a longer period of time than just 8 days. You didn’t read wrong; yes, I applied for college and got in. This is obviously not my first time around that block, as I previously studied for 2 years in the past and earned my associate’s degree, so I will count as a student in my third year (also known as a junior) at my new school for the Spring 2020 term. My decision to pursue college was done quietly and without fanfare. I only really told a few select people while I was waiting for my application results.
My feelings about reentering college are mixed. I won’t be a freshman due to already having some experience of what it’s like to be on a campus and the hustle of juggling several classes at once per semester. That’s good, but I am several years out of my depth with essay writing, not to mention I am a little self-conscious of my age. As a freshman then, I was just too scared of people. So socially awkward and ingrained in my routines that I often took the same staircase to class or stood at the same wall outside the classroom. One time I walked into the cafeteria and practically ran out, too overwhelmed by the sight of so many people loitering about. The same thing happened when I attempted to locate a school club I was interested in joining, but once I saw all the people inside, I continued walking as if I never intended to go in. I’ve grown out of that and a fair amount of it was due to a lot of pretending. There are still things that ring true even now, though. Like not knowing how to navigate a conversation with someone I just met even if I want to be friends with the person. Or how often I need to be EARLY to something because I get nervous entering a full room. Or my loathing for roll call or those awful first day icebreakers. There is no way to be fully ready for it.