Wednesday, August 12, 2020
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Engineering my Anxieties

By Jessica Resendez

All my life, I’ve been scared to try  new things. For some reason, new environments and people scare the living crap out of me. I literally have internal meltdowns that cap me from initiating normal conversations with people. If you put me in a room full of people I have little in common with, I will guarantee you a display of full-on  awkwardness. Why I decided to attend the Art and Engineering Showcase by myself this last Monday was beyond me. I’m a literary journalism major for Pete’s sake; but there I went.

My understanding of the showcase was that it would be a room full of engineers revealing all their hidden talents. Since I enjoy anything that has to do with creativity, I convinced myself to stop being a hermit and go out to meet some interesting people. It was the one mission of this night.

On the bus ride there, my internal conflict played out like every corny monologue on those cheesy 90s sitcoms. The devil on my left warned, “You’re going to regret this. Just go home, it’ll be safer there. And there’s Netflix”. But my angel side wasn’t having it. It was like, “Don’t be a weenie! You got this!”

Trying to avoid the fact that my conscious just called me a weenie, I was determined to face my own fears. I was going to march into that conference room, introduce myself to someone new and become lifelong friends with some unknown person.

The minute I walked in, I was approached by some sweet girl offering me a card to enter into some sort of Disneyland raffle. Perfect opportunity, right? Wrong. Instead of saying “Why yes, thank you! How’s your night going?” I froze like a raspberry Otter Pop.

Somehow, I managed to squeeze out a meek “Thank you!” and made my way to the refreshments table for some pizza. Trying to be modest, I took about four slices and found my seat near center stage.

After my first embarrassing feat of the night, there was nothing a little pizza and some entertainment couldn’t do to calm my nerves. The show began, and I finally started to relax as the lights dimmed. Some people rushed into the empty seats beside me, but at this point I was too full to freak out over anything.

Plenty of bands, singers and beatboxers pleased the crowd that night. I thought the engineers would be showcasing their own talents, but it actually turned out to be a display of different students from multiple majors.. Overall, the crowd seemed pretty interactive, and I appreciated that. At one point, a performer asked the girls in the audience to raise their hands if they thought they were pretty. Of course, being so shy, I wasn’t about to raise my hand first. Then I looked around, and saw that almost every girl in the audience was raising their hand in response. I was so inspired by their confidence and intelligence that eventually I thought, “You know what, yeah, I’m a pretty girl too.” My hand shot up after that, and I felt one with the rest of these intelligent and beautiful girls.

It wasn’t until later in the show that I’d finally let go of all my inhibitions though. A beatboxer came on stage and orchestrated three portions of the crowd to imitate instrumental sounds at his command. My side of the room was instructed to make a deep “ugh” sound, and though I hesitated at first, my momentum picked up with everybody else. Together, we sounded like a synchronized beat machine, and I caught myself nodding my head as if I was Dr. Dre himself. I probably looked more like a delirious chimp with a neck problem, but it didn’t matter at this point because it was so liberating to get in touch with my goofy side for once.

The thing is, even though I forced myself to do something I normally hate doing, I’m glad I did it. Sure, I hardly made an effort to do what I set out to do (establish new relationships), but at least I got out there and challenged myself to try something new. The best part is I actually had some fun!

Now, I’m not going to sit here and say that my social anxiety is completely cured (far from it), but I will say that it’s a start. Sometimes the bigger picture needs to be broken down into smaller pieces. Honestly, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.