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The Anxiety Diaries: Expanding The Comfort Zone

I recently left a new job because of how it was triggering my anxiety. That’s one thing we learn; anxiety – or whatever mental health issue ails us – can strike at any time and is often indiscriminate in its building affectations. There were so many little areas that heightened my already anxious and somewhat personality: the high cost of travel in-between gigs, personally purchasing items, and being trotted out for solo shows having no idea how to do them or what they entail. As I told a few people who helped me through this ordeal, I am more than willing to explore areas outside of my comfort zone – as an artist this is especially true – but also recgonizing that I need to do it on my own terms.

Enter Editorial Magazine. The Montreal-based work describes itself as “an independently run publication of art and fashion” that prints a new issue every quarter. Both the editor-in-chief and managing editor are ladies I went to high school. What does this have to do with my social anxiety you ask? I recently recieved on social media to attend the Toronto launch of their 18th issue. I was invited by another high school acquaintance who has a made a career as a photographer in Toronto. I had not seen any of these folks in over a decade.

I decided to go for a number of reasons. I could say hi to people from my past and try to “catch up”, I could new contacts and connections which could prove useful in my writing and theatrical work and have a better sense of community, and because I’m used to going to shows alone – predominantly music – it was not something completely out of the ordinary. As you can probably guess, I was a nervous wreck.

I had arrived about two hours after the event started due to work. I had not anticipated the event to have such a club-like atmosphere. By the time I set foot into Luanda house, most of the presentations seemed to be over and the party had transformed into a dance fest. Being at an event by yourself where you don’t know anybody can already be a nerve-wracking experience. Having social anxiety on top of that only amplifies what your mind is thinking. It is more than simply nerves, it is about magnified thoughts. Your brain is self-critical before your body has even done the thing it is self-criticizing. Interestingly enough, once my body experiences something new once, or finds itself in a new environment, every subsequent event in the space is generally okay.

My anxiety often renders itself as social awkwardness, which can garner a few bizarre looks from people. If it is in a bar or club setting, this often means turning to alcohol for help. This does not mean us anxiety-freaks are crazy alcoholics, rather having a beer or two is a calming mechanism that helps us relax our otherwise hyperactive synapses. This is par for the course.

I was two beers in before I was able to walk up and say hello to someone who had become a stranger since I graduated high school in 2006. Like 99% of all social meetings, it went perfectly fine, because of course it did. Given that she was the host of said, she quickly introduced me to whomever she was standing with before disappearing into the crowd, leaving me to return to being my awkward self coupled with even worse white boy dance moves. At least anxiety doesn’t change that.

That was my only social interaction of that event as I left a short while later, stopping at Tim Horton’s before catching an Uber home, not an uncomfortable experience. I guess I would look at it as an accomplishment. As my friend once told me “no matter how much you accomplish today, it is enough”. Yes. Yes it is.

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