20s Girl

by Jane Moneypenny

When I was 22, I laughed at my friends worried about dating and thought, “It’s not like I’m 24.”

When I was 24, I stood next to my best friend as she got married and watched my most of my high school class head in that direction and thought, “I’m so young. I’m not behind at all; in fact, I’m right on time. I’m not 26 yet.”

When I was 26, I swore off relationships and focused on being single, hooking up with bad choices, my career and traveling and thought, “It’s not like I’m 28. What’s the worry?”

Now, at 28, I look up after throwing myself into hobbies, traveling and really “finding myself” to discover that, apparently, I’m supposed to be trying harder to date and setting higher standards. After all, I’m not 26 anymore. Then again, I’m not 30 yet.

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The party felt claustrophobic. That’s what the entire weekend felt like. I’ve never been scared of enclosed spaces; if anything, I relish in the privacy and intimacy of them. But for the first time I felt closed-in a nodded quickly to the crowd and escaped into the guest room.

I was in Houston for a pre-season football game. On paper, it had promises of a fun and much-needed escape from the stresses of work and wedding bridezillas. The couple I was staying with was throwing an engagement party for another couple (this is what couples do, I’ve learned). I didn’t know the engaged couple well, so I headed for the guest room when I arrived, feeling a sudden panic and social anxiety flooding me. The apartment was filled with happy drunken couples (most of which I didn’t know, which just causes more anxiety).

I was frozen and unable to go back outside to greet the few people I knew or introduce myself to those I didn’t. Since I was a child, social anxiety has invaded my life. 98% of the people that know and meet me never see that side due to meeting me in setting I’m already comfortable in. In those situations that I’m new, I feel an all-consuming panic that sometimes makes me freeze up and hide.

The rest of the weekend was spent surrounded by couples, including sitting next to Mr. Forehead Kisser on a second date at the game. I felt like I was standing outside of some foreign country that saw inhabited couples (speaking of, read Lauren Oliver’s Delirum. Great fascinating read; ignore the cover). After a lunch with more couples, I fled back to Austin, the land of singledom and no pressure.

With that, I can say I definitely made the right choice to move here exactly 3 years ago Thursday. Austin is keeping me weird.

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