I have long felt that I have social anxiety of some sort or another. And I have been meaning to write about it for a while. When I was a little kid, I was the one my family sent to get directions or information. I would talk to anyone, anytime. They say I was excessively cute.
Then something changed. My teens sent me on a life track that left the beaten path behind. In many ways I have been very lucky. I am fifty-two and the only 9 to 5 job I have ever had was working in an office during the summer when I was sixteen years old.
My memories of those two months revolve around martini lunches at the Lone Star Café (there was no such thing as getting carded in the seventies) purchased by my boss who then complained when I fell asleep while sorting invoices in the afternoon.
I didn’t make it through high school where so much socializing and skills of that nature are developed and I didn’t go to college where most people learn how to co-exist with others. The friends my brother and sister made in college remain their best friends today.
The friends I have all tend to be uncomfortable weirdos like myself.
After that summer of what might be called fun, all of my labor has been part time, journeyman type of work such as being a carpenter or a waiter or a yoga teacher. All jobs that have a transient nature that allow for social control of the environment.
My creative pursuits provided me with the same controls: photography, directing theater, teaching yoga. I’m on one side of the room comfortably in control while everyone else is on the other side chatting away.
My wife read me something someone wrote yesterday, and I paraphrase, about being comfortable in front of 500 people or one on one, while anything in between was hell on earth.
Welcome to my world.
When I went in search of the actual parameters of social anxiety I don’t fully fit the mold (I am more likely a run of the mill introvert). There seems to be a big fear of being judged connected to the diagnoses as well as a raft of accompanying physical sensations that don’t connect to my experience.
But whatever it is that I’ve got my poor wife bears the brunt of it: I either beg out of almost all social situations or approach them with a singular dread that is no fun to be around. I feel for her as I suck the air out of the room when she suggests us going to a party or some such event.
On the other side how lucky can I be that I have work, neurotic as it might be, providing me with social interaction that I am comfortable with? As long as it is in the yoga room and I am in control.