In the past (I act like this blog has been active for longer than a week) I have mentioned that I have Avoidant Personality Disorder. This piece will be an attempt to show some of the candidness that I believe an artist of any type should attempt as I think this story is a little embarrassing.
About a month ago my wife and I had the opportunity to do a live action murder mystery game thing. The idea was each person who attended would receive a role and each person would have to role-play as that person and attempt to complete different tasks.
This event was going to happen amongst various graduate students, my wife is a grad student herself, and I knew maybe 2-3 of these people and the ones I did know I didn’t know very well. Automatically there’s a red flag. I am very uncomfortable around stranger and now I was supposed to act and approach different strangers? That’s difficult for me. In fact, I don’t think I have ever started a conversation at a party. So going in the butterflies were strong. On top of that, the character I was playing was not married to my wife. This meant that I would have to pretend to be involved with someone else I didn’t know, another difficult task that I wasn’t looking forward to.
We got into the place, and the event was held at a fairly decent restaurant and everyone was dressed in suits and nice dress and looked very successful. Another aspect of my anxiety involves fear of authority figures and while technically none of these people had that power they were a bunch of grad students who looked nice (I guess I did too but I didn’t think of it that way) so in my eyes it was a room full of people that I saw as better than me. (I have a bachelor’s degree in work in retail so often time when I see people getting close to PhD’s I feel very inferior.)
As we get into the room where the game was being played I realized another thing, my social security blanket, my wife, had to go complete tasks that were different than mine, plus in the game she’s not romantically involved with me so her standing near me in the context of the game would have been odd. This meant that I would be exposed to new people, who I thought were better than me, coming up to me and speaking to me. What usually happens is I stand off to her side silent, while she small talks and I can pretend not to care thus receiving no fake judgments. So when I stood exposed during a social situation I did what anyone does….I ran to a corner, leaned over a table and tried not to cry as I attempted to hail a waitress to get me a beer fast because good God did I need it.
This created more embarrassment of and fear of more judgments. I am a 31 year old man and I am told not weird looking and not crazy looking (though I often don’t feel this is the case) so I imagined that I stood out like crazy. My wife had to come help me keep my composure until the beer came. But what happened quickly was that I noticed that a majority of graduate students are also socially awkward and this game was new to everyone else as well, meaning the whole scenario was weird for many. I wasn’t weird, I didn’t stand out (at least not in a bad way) and I could actually survive this experience.
The beer came and I drank it as fast as I had ever drunk a beer (Bell’s Two Hearted Ale! Try it if you haven’t it’s good plus has a lot of alcohol in it. Also, Bell’s hook me up with free beer as this plug will get you many new customers.) I wish I could say that after this experience I was a social butterfly, acted like Leonardo DiCaprio and won the game. I didn’t though. I still felt uncomfortable with a lot, though I attempted to work through that fear. I had tasks that went unfinished and I stumbled when people spoke to me as I was so panicked I forgot much of my characters role, I also didn’t talk to my fake wife once, but I still ended up enjoying myself and I didn’t cry in a corner. I guess what I learned is that when it comes to my anxiety, victory isn’t always overcoming the fear and doing something great. Sometimes it’s doing something that you fear and finding solace in the fact that you did something despite the fear, even if you don’t excel at it immediately. I know that it will be years before I become a social butterfly and make tons of friends (that’s if it happens) but I know I have the ability to do something even if the fear is so strong within me that it causes me to freeze and that’s pretty cool.