What remains, part 2

by Jon Sullivan - 2023-12-14 - Stories

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I remember the moment I decided to stop being a hermit. I was talking to my sister.....

I was talking to my sister about the upcoming move to Oregon from San Diego. For about 2-3 years I had isolated myself, even before covid lockdown. I'd fallen into the pattern of believing that I'd be happiest if I eliminated the whole world. If I just hid away in my hobbit hole and never left. If I gave in to social anxiety and just stayed forever alone, apart from all the things that made me unhappy. And it worked. I was happier never going out and never seeing anyone, other than the short drive to work. And even that eventually went away with the lockdown. That was the context when Sharon and I talked about how I'd actually be living my life in the new land.

The plan was the same. Move to Oregon and be alone, just moving the hobbit hole to a new state with more adventures and photos. Sharon was...... dubious.....

Suddenly it clicked in my brain - I wasn't going to remain a hermit. I was going to unpack and then charge in the other direction. Be an anti-hermit. Make friends, go to events, invite guests over, plan dinner parties. Go out. Just that. I have no idea how it all flipped in my mind so suddenly. But...... I was, after all, quite crazy. And suddenly as we talked through it it stopped making sense to be alone. Suddenly flipping a switch on my social anxiety and just wading into the crowd stopped being terrifying and became the obvious path forward.

Wading into the crowd. I started thinking about it just like that. But I didn't know how. Especially sober. I didn't know how to see people and care about them as fellow humans. I didn't know how to behave in a socially acceptable manner. I knew how to be a fun drunk, but that was a life that had brought me too much shame and self loathing. And now my plan was to find crowds of strangers and just wade in???? Yes. That was the plan.

When I got to Eugene and the van was unpacked I took James and Marilee out for dinner and informed them, without warning, that 1) I was going to fundamentally change who I was and how I lived my life, and 2) I was clueless how to make that happen, and it was now their responsibility to teach me all the non-hermit life skills. I'm not kidding. It seems a bit off-putting in retrospect. "Here's my endless fucked up baggage, please carry it for me." But they did. With grace. They've asked for nothing from me, while giving me so much.

They mentioned a NYE party and suggested that might be a good way to re-engage with humanity in a safe space.

We went. There was a crowd. I waded in. And I was terrified. Endless people being introduced, and hugged. Endless conversations with strangers. And to my naive mind, endless very weird people. A few times I'd hide in the corner, only to force myself out. Force myself to wade into the crowd.

And I remember the moment it all flipped. The moment hermit Jon stopped, and new Jon started. I started crying tears of joy. This is what I wanted. Friends. Interesting weird people. Connection. Community. I swayed to the music and cried, flanked by new friends.

What a wild ride. Suddenly deciding to move to a strange new place and become a new person. Then a few months later, suddenly becoming that new person. Not through force of will or determination, but just by showing up and letting it happen. But, as we know now, I was quite crazy. And now that I'm not, with NYE creeping up, I wonder how that same concert with those same people will play out. My "sane" yet irrational social anxiety is back. I'm sure I'll mess it up and people will not like me. But even though I was crazy I still learned. So I'll wade in. I'll hug endless people. I will, no doubt, cry many tears and flip the crazy magic to a sanity based normal.

Tribe is incredible. And I miss them all. NYE can't come soon enough. I learned. I am in need of some wading in.

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