As a sophomore in college, I realized that my college experience needed a glow-up. Freshman year, all I did was go to class, go to the cafeteria and go back to my bed. Growing up, I used to be open to meeting new people and making new friends all the time. Now, socializing with my peers is probably my worst nightmare.

When I was diagnosed with anxiety at 16, I thought that it only extended to my apprehension of the things around me and how I processed them mentally. It never occurred to me that if left unchecked, my anxiety could translate into my social life as well. 

This year, I planned on opening myself up to the practice of socializing with others and possibly creating some long-lasting friendships in the process. Needless to say, that plan has failed. About a week ago, I was about to approach a stranger and say hello, only to be met with this unwavering feeling of fear and sickness.

Sometimes, I get extremely emotional when I think about my lack of socialization and what that means for my future. Will I ever have friends? Will I ever date anyone again? Will I ever get married? 

All of these events tend to begin with the basic interaction of introducing yourself and striking up conversation, which is something that is not in my multifaceted skill set at this point in time. Some would say that I’m overreacting or that the skill of being social will come, but my question doesn’t lie with if I’ll ever be social, but when?

Personally, I would prefer that it arrive and develop before I’m old, ugly, on bed rest and dying from some neurodegenerative disease. My therapist said that she thinks the only way that I’ll ever be social is if I try to talk to different people, but as I mentioned earlier, I tried that and it horribly failed. I informed her and she instructed me to try again. God knows I didn’t want to do that.

After pondering how I would get myself in a position where socializing was at least slightly comfortable, I found a relatively perfect solution: work. I’ve been working at The Vermilion for about a year and a half now and I really haven’t gotten to know many of my coworkers beyond the occasional hello or office talk.

So, lately, I’ve been making a conscious effort to be in the office more often and spend time striking up interesting conversations with my peers there. So far, I’d say I’ve done fairly well. I even went to lunch/dinner with two of them the other day (Shoutout to Ava and Sarah). I can honestly say that eating with them was one of my most fun moments of this school year so far.

I don’t know if I could call myself a social butterfly just yet, but this past week has shown me that I am more than capable of putting myself out there. I do still get worried about the possibility of being rejected, disappointing people and even making someone hate me, but those are possibilities that aren’t going away. People are going to have their own opinions of me, whether I like it or not.

Keeping that in mind, I try to remember that not everyone will want to be my friend, partner, etc., even if that’s what I would prefer them to be. This thought, though scary and not helpful when it comes to overcoming my anxiety, is a fact of life. The sooner I accept and become comfortable with that fact, the better off my journey to finding my forever people will be.