I have an irrational fear of meeting new people. And I've had it for as long as I can remember.
I remember being in Kindergarten and my mom asking me if I wanted her to drive me to school on the first day. I remember telling her no and marching my happy little 5 year old self out the front door and down the driveway. I walked to the end of the street and rounded the corner. There, at the bus stop, were about 15 kids. Big kids. Sixth graders. I stopped dead in my tracks and stood there for what felt like a 10 second eternity and then sprinted back to the house and told my mom that I changed my mind: I wanted an escort.
Seventh grade was similar. I had moved across country that summer and was starting a new school in a new state and had yet to make any friends. My mom helped me find my homeroom before school started and I made her stand there with me until class started because I was afraid of the other kids. I'm not sure what I thought they were going to do, but I was shaking.
I never went to parties in high school because they were outside my comfort zone. I never went to any dances (except Junior prom) for the same reason.
Even after high school, parties made me feel self conscious and awkward. The idea of going to college and living in a dorm terrified me, so I didn't go.
I was afraid to go to a bar when I turned 21 because I had (obviously) never been to one and I had no idea how to act there.
Of course, in all of the above situations, once I crossed the starting line I realized that things weren't nearly as bad as I had made them out to be in my head and everything always proceeded smoothly from that point on.
It isn't normal. Some people feel awkward in new situations, but this paralyzing fear isn't experienced by many people. Head shrinkers call it "social anxiety." Call it whatever you want, it makes it very difficult to function at times, especially when you're stubborn enough to refuse medication because the medication makes you feel numb.
Things have gotten a lot better over the last year. Roy has helped me to become comfortable in my own skin and helped me realize that people like me. I'm a genuinely nice person and I'm smart. (Hear that? It's my horn tooting itself.) I know that I don't give myself credit where credit is due.
I'm getting better at meeting new people and experiencing new situations without any anxiety leading up to the event and, in some cases, I've found myself getting excited!
Tomorrow I start a new job and I can already feel some of the old anxiety creeping back.
I left my old company on Friday after 5 and a half years. In those 5 and a half years, my job was my rock. I started when I was barely 19 years old. That job has seen me have a baby, go through a terribly emotional marriage, get divorced, go through an emotional healing process, and (in the last year) fall in love, get married, have another baby and finally find true happiness.
The last year of my life has been the most peaceful since graduating high school. There were times, prior to that, when I literally felt as if a hurricane and come sweeping through my life and nothing was as it had been the day before. I would walk into work and instantly forget everything. It was 8 hours of emotion free bliss. When I could count on nothing else, I could count on the reassuring repetition that waited for me everyday after I clocked in.
I gave up that reassurance on Friday. It's time to leave that all behind. All the bad memories that I supressed while I worked all those years. All the days I came to work and had to be the best because it was the only place that I felt appreciated. It's time to move on.
Tomorrow I walk into a new building for the first time. In the book that is my life, the prologue has come to a close. It's time to start Chapter One. A clean slate that hasn't been scarred by my past. A blank page waiting to be written on.
But, I can't help the anxiety. It's there. And it's worse than ever because I haven't felt it for so long. However, I have a new strategy. Tomorrow I am determined to not suppress these thoughts and feelings. I am determined to embrace them and push through them.
Determined to talk to people and make the first attempt at friendship. Determined to show who I am and what I'm made of.
This is me.
And I'm scared.