It has slowly occurred to me over the past couple of weeks how careful I have been this past year. I have set boundaries for myself that are really designed to make sure that I’m always presenting myself in “the best” light (one that I have deemed appropriate of a 26-year-old).
My coteacher told me the other day that I think too much about what other people think of me. This was because we hadn’t been getting along and I told her I was concerned that this would make the vice principal dislike me (and therefore all Americans and blacks, my mind continued).
My coteacher told me that we were at a busy high school and people had better things to do than worry about me (my coteacher is very direct).
In a way, I guess this is what going abroad is for. It’s to remove you from everything that was familiar and place you square in front of your one true common denominator: you. You are your common denominator, and there’s no arguing that in a place where nothing is the same as it was before. If I’m having similar types of problems (or achievements!) then they stem from me and facts is facts.
But back to being careful.
Last year I had some experiences that just made me feel like I was making an ass of myself entirely too much to be 25 years old, and so I began to set a lot of boundaries for myself so that I wouldn’t do that.
And without commenting on whether or not that’s “good” or “bad,” I will say that it has helped me to achieve my goal of not making an ass of myself.
But it has also contributed to me developing a trepidation toward “loosening up,” really loosening up. Because even when I’m hanging out and having fun, I’m still very much trying to maintain a level of control so that things don’t get out of hand.
Is this just regular ol’ growing up?
Last weekend I went to Seoul, and I wanted to spend only Friday night there. I wanted to come home Saturday night and do my regular ol bullshit of staying up until 5 am watching TV on the internet and laying around and whatnot.
Well, things ended up playing out in such a manner that I stayed in Seoul (with my friends) on Saturday night too, and at first I was inexplicably sad. And then I thought to myself “what’s the harm in staying another night, really? Yeah you’ll spend money you didn’t mean to and you’ll be tired…..but so what? Loosen up.” And that was the first time I realized how tense I’ve been for the past year (I had a great night btw).
I’ve started drinking again, and last night I was at a wine bar and I was drunk. As my friend C put it, “I can tell you’re drunk because you haven’t reapplied your lipstick” (I had just bought some $40 Chanel red lipstick, heaven help me). And I insisted I wasn’t drunk as a drunk person must.
And then this guy in our friend group turns to me and say something like “You just noticed me.” And I was confused, but not confused. I knew what he meant, but it was surprising to hear it said out loud.
And I feigned noncomprehension and insisted that I’d been talking with, of and to him the entire night, but I still knew what he meant, which is hard to articulate, but it’s the difference between looking and seeing I guess.
And he said “well maybe you’re just more discreet when you’re sober,” and it hit me. Yet another area where I’ve been so tense, so afraid to take a risk, so afraid of getting rejected or making an ass of myself. I’m so afraid to get caught even noticing a guy, for this crippling fear of rejection and humiliation and of course making an ass of myself.
What is the balance? How do I open up and show the true me without fear of people’s (or my own) judgement, yet also conduct myself with the decorum that suggests that I’m 26, not 19?
Or am I already doing that and just thinking too much?