After a summer of (mostly) joyous abandonment, it’s time for fall. And while half of my Facebook feed talks of new classes and returning to campus, I set out on a whole other adventure. Arriving in New York City was a surreal experience, probably enhanced from the all-nighter I pulled at SONH Sunday night. It still doesn’t feel completely real.
Still, the facts are: I am applying to jobs left and right, I’m in the process of applying for a small studio in the Upper East Side, I’ve started dance classes and showing up to the regular and irregular dance events, and I’ve reconnected with an old friend from middle school.
Question: So why do I feel like I’m constantly fighting off panic attacks?
Answer: Well, that’s easy. I thought you were going to ask harder questions.
The panic you feel comes from all of the instability in your life. You don’t have a job (yet). You don’t have that amazingly cute, if a bit out of the way, studio (yet). You don’t have a reliable circle of friends (yet).
But that’s okay!
Step One: Realize Instant Gratification is Rare
First of all, it’s been a little over a week. Seven plus a few more days. It takes at least six months to a year to start feeling comfortable in a new environment. Sometimes even longer. And, as you might expect, New York City is more difficult than most cities to settle down in.
Life is not like the movies or the YA novels or a teen movie made in the 1980s where you sit next to your best friend forever in the first class. You’re going to hang out with people that, for whatever reason, you just don’t click with. You might even jump around social circles for a while, just trying to find your niche.
But you’ll find it, sometimes where you least expect it. A good rule of thumb is to just find activities that interest you and you will find like minded people.
Step Two: Say “Yes” A Lot
Nothing’s going to happen if you don’t force yourself to move forward. Unless you’re one of the luck 0.0001% of the world that has everything dropped into their lap, you’re going to have to put yourself out there. That means being vulnerable to some extent. That means doing things that may or may not be outside of your comfort zone.
Put yourself in a position where people notice and interact with you. Go out! Meet people! Volunteer! Take even the smallest opportunity. And don’t just stick with what feels safe to you. Don’t talk yourself out of something because you “were feeling tired any way” or “they seem like they have enough people”. Go for it.
Don’t wait around for handouts. Don’t use “well, they didn’t ask me” as an excuse. If you see a bunch of people making plans to go see a movie, it’s okay to be like “Oh my gosh, I’ve been dying to see that! Mind if I tag along?”
What it takes to join most groups is just to be present and let them get to know you.
Step Three: Admit That It’s Not Going to Be Easy
You’re going to trip all over yourself. You’re going to fail. It’s not going to be all sunshine and rainbows. BUT. This is important. Any time it gets rough, and it’s going to get rough, you will get through it. That time will end. Nothing is permanent.
Step Four: Breath
You’re going to be okay. Remember that.
Step Five: Own It
A Note On Social Anxiety:
I know many people, including myself, who suffer from differing levels of social anxiety. And I know that it’s nothing to sneeze at. And very few things are more frustrating than someone telling you to “get over it”.
However, at some point, if it frequently becomes your excuse for not changing something in your life that makes you unhappy, then you need to do something about it. And whether that is powering through and deciding not to listen to those anxieties that make you want to hide under the covers or getting professional help. There is nothing wrong with admitting you need help. It does not make you any less of a person. And whether you choose to go to a friend or a professional, both of which are valid options, you need to be the one to make the decision.
This can be its own series of blog entries, and maybe one day it will, but I just wanted to say that part of overcoming anxiety is holding yourself accountable and recognizing when its holding you back.