About a year ago, I remember very clearly thinking to myself that I would be alone forever. I was married and had plenty of family, so I quickly added melodramatic to the list of things I hated about myself. I had just gone through a really terrible friendship breakup after a huge bout of depression. I tried apologizing for crying and for hating the world and for voicing all of that out loud, but it fell on deaf ears. I can’t say I blame her. I understood and sometimes still feel like I’m a lot to handle. To me, the split was just further evidence of my inability to do anything right. So I wallowed.
Isolation does weird things to us. When Zach would leave me at home for the day while he went off to work, I had no buffer for the terrible thoughts bouncing around my brain. Over and over again I would just remind myself of my own wrongness. Of my inability to fix anything or to be any better. Two months passed this way before I started asking myself if I could really survive this way. Looking at decades ahead of me of being surrounded by loneliness seemed unbearable. Since I had already promised Zach that I would never punch my own ticket early, I decided I needed to find people. Since most of the time I was still pretty sick and in general not great company, I decided online was the safest place.
My emergence back into the world came in slow bouts. I had developed crippling social anxiety, and the ability to just shut the phone or the computer off and walk away was appealing to me. Supernatural had just come into my life for the first time after an incredibly dense binge of 12 seasons in about a month. When I got caught up to current I ventured onto the Reddit live episode discussions to just mouth off about whatever was happening and mention things I noticed. I don’t know how to explain the change that wrought in me other than to say those upvotes were like a lifeline to a world I thought had forgotten about me. The external validation of people thinking I was funny just reminded me that once upon a time I truly believed I was delightful.
Then came the Instagram thing. I say it like that because that’s definitely how I thought about it. I had written in the past about my mental health issues on another blog, so posting and being vulnerable about my life came naturally to me. So I started just journaling my life to people and finding connections. I was still mostly stuck at home, still mostly not doing much. But I was being connected to a few strangers who didn’t find me repulsive. It was more external validation speaking to my lovability and likeability. Hadn’t someone said once that I was charismatic? I started attaching better words like those to myself. I started writing this website with the hope that maybe what I said wasn’t pointless.
I started dropping Zach off at work and getting out of the house for a couple of hours at a time. The rolling hills in the west side of Austin became my driving route. I would roll the windows down and just let the sun and the wind connect with my skin. Soon the drives turned from aimless to coffee shop runs. I would write on my novel and not really interact with anyone, but I was talking to the people who wrung up my order and they seemed to find me just fine. A few of them even started to remember me as the routes became more cemented. I got a part time job for a little while, interacting with women in a boutique and talking about fashion with the buffer of employee and customer made it easier for me. “I have to talk to you, it’s my job and I’m sorry but I’ll try and make this painless for us.” The job didn’t work out. I was still me. I still had an immune and neurological disorder that made it pretty much impossible to keep a regular schedule. I’m not mad that I tried it though. I needed the reminder that it has never been a lack of will on my part keeping me out of the mainstream.
From there the things just started adding on a little at a time. I booked a few short films and met more people. My instagram was picking up in popularity so I could talk to more people. I took a couple of acting classes. More and more often I soaked in the warm and fuzzy feelings of making someone laugh or connecting to someone about something you thought was a shameful secret. One day a girl name Alana messaged me and we went to get breakfast. Now we pretty much stay in constant contact and hang out a couple of times a week. There were more women I met after that. And a few gay boys, too. You know I love you Caleb and Colby. There were more gigs and classes and hip hop dancing. I opened up to the world a little at a time, allowing myself to accept the reality of my own worthiness. As I let more people in with a policy of 100% honesty, I felt free of the shame that hangs around illness and restarting your life. I don’t want to hide from this city or these people anymore. I’m not afraid of them the way I was when all I knew were rejection and the confines of our old apartment.
Now I seek people and places and events out. I am finding more artists and jewelers and stylists and creatives to be part of my world. I’m letting all of those dormant interests have free reign in a life that is curated around one idea: You deserve to be happy. I’m crying right now as I feel that truth reverberate within me. We can’t let people in until and unless we feel we deserve them. They’ll never know us if there are parts we insist on hiding away. My people now are totally in on the messier parts of my life. All of the judgment I was afraid of never appeared. The right people don’t need you to be anyone but who you are. I wish I had known that earlier than at twenty-five years old, but at the same time I’m not sure I was ready for this kind of contentment even a year ago.
My point is in all of this, that you have people out there who will find you brilliant and worthy. I don’t know if you’ll find them on Reddit or at a hockey rink or on your Instagram. But I know without a doubt that they exist. The hard truth is that they can’t find you if you don’t take the risk of being known. Vulnerability is scary. But isn’t the idea of spending the rest of your life alone much more terrifying? Maybe you don’t need plans every night of the week like I like to have. But you need people. One person or two or twenty or fifty. I don’t know- in the volumes we’re all different. However, our need for community is universal. My challenge to you today is to take the first step toward finding your people. Join a group. Go to a networking event. Comment on someone’s post. Your people exist. Now go find them.