It’s my birthday month, so that means in addition to demanding a chocolate cake that I will refuse to share, it’s time for my annual “This Year I’m Going to Change” existential crisis. Every year I imagine a magical version of myself with none of my…let’s call them “quirks” instead of “neuroses,” shall we?
This mythical Jessie doesn’t panic at the thought of traveling alone. She is strong and independent! Nor does she have a meltdown when her plans change unexpectedly. She is breezy and easy-going! She’s certainly not crying in the corner, hating herself because her brain feels like a swarm of bees. She’s fine! It’s allllll fine.
But I regret to inform you (me?) that we will be skipping the existential crisis portion of the birthday ritual this year.
Why? There are many reasons.
All true! Except maybe the “too busy” part. I’m terrible at a lot of things, but relaxing is NOT one of them.
But there are many, many things wrong with me and while I don’t exactly LOVE these qualities, I’m finally at the age where I can accept this is just how I am:
anxiety out the wazoo
Ah, the most popular millstone around everyone’s neck: anxiety! Who isn’t anxious, right? It took me way too long to figure out what having anxiety actually meant. Somehow it never added up that my odd little things were…you know, diagnosable. I just thought I was a weirdo.
Let me give you an example: I overthink everything. Like, to the point where I can take the smallest event—like carrying a slightly-too-full cup of hot coffee— and psych myself out so much that I literally cannot do it. I get so worried about spilling the hot coffee and burning myself that my hand will start shaking and I physically cannot carry it.
That’s insane! I am insane.
And going to any sort of social function sends my brain into panic mode: “Should we eat before we go or will there be food? Will there be alcohol? What kind of monsters don’t serve alcohol?! Will we be standing or sitting? Because then I’ll know whether to wear heels or flats. What should I wear? Will I be overdressed if I wear a dress? Will I be underdressed if I wear jeans? What’s the parking situation? It better not be on the street because I hate parallel parking. Unless I get there early and can just slide in. But I don’t want to be too early…”
My brain never stops, folks. It. Never. Stops.
awkward but not in a cute way
This is not Hollywood’s idea of awkward, people. Let’s just get that straight. I’m not the quirky yet beautiful heroine adorably tripping and falling while somehow managing to look glowy and perfect.
I’m just…like, I don’t know what to do with my body. Do I let my arms hang? Do I put them on my hips? If I meet a person, when is it appropriate to hug and when should you just wave? Or is waving stupid? Do I shake hands? Do people still shake hands? And don’t get me started on high fives and fist bumps. I want to find the bro (you just know it was a bro) who started the high five/fist bump genre and throw him in the Pit of Despair à la The Princess Bride.
And my awkwardness isn’t limited to body movements. Because while I am folksy when meeting new people, I am NOT a smooth conversationalist.
Allow me to explain. Folksiness gets me through a conversation with the cashier at the grocery store. Because that is a very short interaction with a defined beginning and end. It is over when my groceries are bagged and I can walk away. No pressure, therefore I’m cool as all get-out.
However. Put me in, say, a room full of coworkers for a long meeting where I end up sitting next to someone I don’t know: disaster. What do I talk about? We’re stuck in this room for 2 hours. He works in a completely different department and I don’t even know his job title, because I’m a writer and I don’t know what other jobs are. I just assume it’s all accounting?? What do other people do? I have no idea! My mind will literally go blank. I know people say that but I’m not exaggerating: all thoughts, intelligence, quips, memories, etc. are GONE. It’s like looking at a blank TV screen only it’s my brain. Then I panic and say something only a completely brain-dead person would say, like “This room holds a lot of chairs.” WHAT? That’s not a thing! Meanwhile I want to die and so does he and why can’t all humans come equipped with a cyanide tooth like in the movies?
super self-consciousness is my superpower
To the surprise of no one reading this memoir of a truly disastrous human being, I sometimes (frequently) feel self-conscious, a term I will use instead of “shy” because that is a ridiculous way to describe a grown-ass adult. Say the phrase, “Aww, she’s just shy!” and do you picture a middle-aged woman nervously speaking in front of other adults?
OF COURSE NOT. You picture an adorable 4-year-old who doesn’t want to go onstage for her preschool Christmas pageant.
Jerry Seinfeld once joked that “according to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.”
I’m here to verify that this is not a joke, because I would literally drop dead on the spot if I had to give a eulogy. Just shove aside whoever is in the coffin so I can join ’em.
I hate speaking in front of people. It doesn’t even have to be a large group. I don’t even have to be speaking! Just seeing heads swivel in my direction and all attention focused on me is cause for a heart attack. Take the awkwardness scenario from earlier and magnify it about 93736 times. If my awkwardness was a person, it would be the size of the Incredible Hulk.
I could go on. And I have gone on for an unforgivably long time. Well, guess what. It’s my birthday and if I can’t narcissistically drone on about how I’m a special little snowflake, when else can I do it?
This year instead of vowing to change my entire personality, I’m going to try to learn to live with it. Let’s face it, if I haven’t changed in my 46 years on Earth it’s probably not going to happen.
Just don’t ask me to make a speech because I will haunt you after I drop dead, you murderer.
Happy Birthday to me. Stay weird, folks.