Editor’s Epilogue: i want to talk to you, i’m just scared

Every so often, in the least egocentric way possible, I feel like life is harder for me than it is for a lot of people. That’s disregarding the more complicated parts of my identity that shape my experiences, such as being a first-gen college student and the massive hulking weight it imposes, being a woman and the additional societal weight that imposes, family stuff (much too big of a can of worms to say much more) and then being Black on top of all of that. 

Somehow, rather than all the much larger issues that face me and the world at large (there are too many to list), the fear and anxiety I feel interacting with other people still feels like the most pressing issue facing society right now. 

Sorry to the very important and, of course, very pressing real-world problems. I’ll refocus after I finish self-reflecting. Cool?

Sometimes I feel like I can only speak and/or make friends when I’m in a situation where I’m forced to do so. It’s easy when I literally cannot escape the people around me, but when I’m at a party or in a classroom full of people I’ve never met, I lose my edge and immediately turn in on myself. That pesky little brain of mine forces me to overthink every intake of breath, every sigh, every laugh, every infinitesimal head movement until I feel like I’ve ruined every social encounter I’ve ever had and I find myself scurrying after my friends so I’m not forced to make conversation and inevitably put my foot in my mouth.

Don’t get me wrong, I have my moments — usually while I’m inebriated — but it’s just so incredibly frustrating how easily it seems to come to other people. I’ll see my friends make conversation with anybody — a bartender, a person sitting near us in a cafe, a random student in their class — and watch in awe. 

In all my social interactions, I’m measuring myself up against others. Am I laughing too much? Too loud? Am I talking enough or not at all? Do I seem too eager? Too interested? Not interested enough? It can all just feel so exhausting that sometimes I’ll end up not speaking at all. I wish it was easier — I try to pretend it’s easier. I can’t count the mornings I’ve woken up promising myself that I’d try harder, be more open, less cagey, not keep so much to myself. And nearly every time I find myself doing more of the same — sitting away from my peers, not speaking up when people are talking about something I care about or even not raising my hand in class because I’m too nervous to share my answers with the whole class. 

But, here’s the thing, I wasn’t shy when I was a kid. I didn’t care about taking up space. I went on stage with my dad once at a club he was performing at and grabbed the mic to perform while he held me in front of a crowd. I’d wave at strangers, smile at them and it was all so painfully easy. I can’t remember what the precise turning point was, but I can tell you this much:  Self-awareness is soooooo overrated. As someone constantly noticing even the tiniest action they’re making at any given moment, I desperately wish I was able to skip that part of the human experience. I wouldn’t have to worry about any of this if I could. Even now, I’m wondering if what I’m saying makes sense, if it matters or if I should just scratch the whole thing. 

Part of me wants to blame it on the digital era and the insane amount of visibility we place on ourselves from such a young age. I remember when I first got my Instagram account around the age of 11. I posted a picture of a Bubba Gump cup that lit up and quickly became one of my prized possessions, yet now I can’t imagine posting a picture that in any way detracts from my carefully curated and crafted enigmatic internet persona. 

Somehow, this unprecedented amount of access we now have into each other’s lives — which should make communicating easier — has made it infinitely more difficult. We should probably close out our TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter accounts, but then how would we know far too much and simultaneously too little about people who aren’t even a part of our lives anymore?

Talking should be easy. It’s precisely what makes humans so special. Our amazing, diverse, complicated, elaborate means of communication is incredible, but it can also be so awfully, terrifyingly, surprisingly hard. So, if you see me in a class and I seem aloof, thorny (like a cactus as I was told once), cold or withdrawn, I promise I do want to talk to you. I’m just scared. 

“Editors’ Epilogue” is a rotating column featuring a new Daily Trojan editor in each installment and their personal experiences of living in what seems to be an irrepressible dumpster fire of a world.