To crave connection with others is only natural, in most cases, and such connection also happens naturally, for many people. Social relationships form every day, strengthen over time, and may weaken or break, leading to new ones — a glorified cycle. However, many of us, myself included, struggle to continually form relationships and socialize, especially during adolescence, a time in which teenagers and young adults are constantly comparing their lives, experiences, and friends to those around them. I’m here to report firsthand that even the most outspoken and extroverted of humans have difficulty in this area, struggling with FOMO, jealously, and loneliness. The wows and woes of my social existence are below for the taking — enjoy, fellow awkward humans.
I’m an only child, born to two very social parents, and growing up, I was more accustomed to family barbecues, dinner parties, and movie nights than slumber parties with my peers. My parents surrounded our family with great people with whom I have fond memories, but even better were the experiences we had (and continue to have) in our little group. If I’m being honest, I have always been more comfortable around adults than people my own age, and was probably most social with my peers in a “typical” way in elementary school, and have been following my own path since — by a combination of choice and circumstance. By middle school, my quirks and anxiety had begun to separate me from the big friend groups and major events — though I was still quite active with certain school friends and especially my music and theatre groups.
It wasn’t until high school, after my anxiety level had peaked (for the time being), and my school situation changed that I really began to compare myself to other peers and their friends — a habit I’ve still yet to fully break. My social circles did not revolve around classmates or sports teams or clubs; rather through a variety of activities and channels that I found more comfortable and to my liking. I found my closest friend and confidant early on in high school, and we still remain as such to this day, and somehow surrounded myself with a motley crew of diversely interesting and fun people, and, looking back now, I am so, so grateful to have had the relationships I did, and the ones I have now.
Thus, my measure of sociability is not like most college sophomores. I do not live on campus nor have a specific friend group, I do not attend parties or even gatherings often, I am involved in no group chats, and I would much rather spend Friday nights eating ice cream in bed and watching whichever show I happen to be bingeing than going out with a loud group of girls and getting thoroughly wasted. I spend much more time with my parents than most teenagers (and will probably continue to do so into my twenties and beyond), but not because I have no other options — because I genuinely like them as people.
As a result of, or maybe just in tandem with, my limited social calendar, I read books and watch television and movies extensively. These are pastimes from which I benefit by, yes, entertaining myself, enriching my knowledge of pop culture and other (more important) matters, but I also believe that I have found solace in these characters and their journeys. Not only do they distract and comfort me in times of anxiety and loneliness, but they have also helped me to stop comparing myself to both the fictional and real worlds around me. This does not mean though, that I can’t still learn and grow from them; while Hogwarts, Stars Hollow, Capeside, Sunnydale, Pawnee, fictionalized versions of NYC, and beyond do not exist, and I can’t expect my social life to be as unified and picture-perfect as that of the ensemble cast of a sitcom, this very realization was and remains important for me to swallow — and wholly applies to the real world as well. Comparing my life, social and otherwise, to those around me is fruitless and altogether unhelpful — yet I do it anyway, as I expect most of us do at one point or another. I often find myself wishing I had a group to hang out with at the drop of a text, or a place to spend the weekend besides my couch — for which I blame myself and my sometimes crippling anxiety, a repetitive cycle which is altogether unproductive, and only leaves me feeling lonely and sometimes empty.
Social media, of course, exacerbates these feelings, yet I remain active on all major platforms, looking on as people I know both vaguely and intimately seemingly conquer the social world. As a result, I feel the need to constantly document anything I do that I deem interesting and post it for…what? My own satisfaction? To show others that, yes, I do have some semblance of a life? They certainly care a hell of a lot less than I do. It’s a mind game, I believe, that some of us win more successfully than others, but real life is not reflected there.
Real life is the laughs shared over lunch, the long meaningful conversations, the time spent catching up over coffee, the family dinners, the long-standing traditions — all of which I fortunately have in spades (or at least, enough for me).
Feeling like a fulfilled social creature is Tetris, y’all. Some of us may seem better at it than others, but really, who’s to judge? I had quite a roundabout, often abnormal social life, and may find myself wishing for more, but I try not to let it make me any less grateful for the people and experiences I do have, which can be an uphill battle. But for my own sake, as I grow and face new challenges as an extroverted yet anxious human, it’s one I’m willing to fight.
And besides, if all else fails, at least I have the comforting and vaguely annoying presence of my persistent cats to keep me company.
my fickle friend Cookie