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End of summer, 2016. I was on the way to this live show event with my “friends” at Counter Culture, the new venue in my small little town, Saginaw, Michigan. When we get there, I automatically realize how lame I look compared to everyone else, start to feel self-conscious, out of place. It definitely was not my scene and I barely knew any of the bands there too. The room is absolutely PACKED with people, to the point where the main concert room is spilling into the lobby and outside. The room is LOUD, my ears ringing. More and more people are piling in, I start to panic. I look around, searching for my friends—familiar faces in the crowd. I see them far away, across the room, submerged between a sea of bodies. They laugh, dance, together, unaware of my existence. How could they so easily forget that I was there? How could they be so blissfully ignorant of the fact that I wasn’t even with them anymore?
My anxiety was beginning to take hold of me to the point where I was completely frozen in place, unable to move at all. I’m all the way on the other side of the room, all alone, my so-called friends having a blast without me. I can’t even bring myself to inch any further towards them because I’m literally petrified. The weight of the crowd pushes me further and further back into the smallest corner of the room, where I’m stuck and can’t make my way out. I shut down inside of myself as I’m struggling to fight back tears, trying hard as I can not to have an emotional breakdown in front of all these people. I start to pray, BEGGING God to help me hold it together, to PLEASE not let me make a complete idiot of myself in front of a room full of people.
I take a deep breath, an attempt to regain my composure, to calm myself down. I try to distract myself from the situation by staring at all the art plastered on the venue walls; it helps for a moment. Minutes later, I see my friends resurface beside me, asking why I’m all the way over here. I ask myself if it’s worth even saying, if they’ll even care or understand. I try to explain anyways, hoping no one notices the blatant irritation in my voice. “You left me here, all by myself, not even noticing my absence… and my anxiety is so cripplingly high that I can’t even bring myself to move through this swarm of people because I’m so terrified.” They all seemed so shocked, said that they honestly had no clue that I was experiencing all of this. It made me feel a little better, having them show me a bit of sympathy and understanding. But did they truly understand? I’d soon find out.
After the confrontation, all my friends and I pushed through the crowd and headed to the Scottish Inn, a little local bar right next door, to take a break from all the concert noise. It was occupied by an older crowd of regulars and you could tell they were really annoyed that a bunch of crazy young kids had started to encroach upon their territory since the new venue opened. I could feel the tension in the air. Even worse, my friends were still ignoring me, even though we were together again. We were all sitting in a straight row at the bar, and I was at the very end, disconnected from everyone else. It was like everything we had just discussed didn’t even matter. So, my solution? Order three drinks immediately and forget I was there right along with them. If only they were strong enough to work…
When we did finally make our way back to the concert, I was semi-relieved, knowing that I had already gotten the difficult conversation with my friends over with, hoping that that what happened in the bar was just a stupid drunken coincidence, that it was all in my head and my anxiety was out to get me all over again. But soon enough, my friends were across the room again without me, even knowing perfectly well the situation I was in. Fed up, I decided I didn’t even care anymore, I couldn’t stand being there any longer, looking across the room at the people who abandoned me, who I thought were my friends. I stormed outside, cursing them beneath my breath when the best thing that could have ever happened in that moment occurred. One of the members of the band everyone loved was standing outside when I got there and could sense my frustration. He just so happened to have a nice, fat joint hidden in his front pocket that he lit up and proceeded to smoke with me while we talked of our anxieties. BOY DID I EVER NEED THAT. For the first time that night I could relax. I could let myself breathe. I could forget about my stupid friends and enjoy the company of someone who actually cared, my new acquaintance, and the light at the end of this exceedingly dark situation.
Though highly traumatizing, I certainly learned a lot from this horrifying experience. Sometimes, the people you expect to be there for you just simply won’t be. They might not even know how to be there for you even if they do want to. But, there are also times where you find a friend in the most unexpected people, and it’s those moments in life I’ve learned to cherish the most. I’ve learned that it’s okay to walk away from situations that bring discomfort, okay to walk away from people who bring discomfort, and who don’t comfort you when you need it most. A lot of people in the world, even the ones who are closest to us, aren’t going to understand or be aware of what we’re going through, so sometimes it’s best to make sure we’re aware of ourselves, to know when something is just too much for us to handle, and when to walk away. Just like grass can grow through concrete, sometimes our weakness gives life to our greatest strengths.