I am a grandma in a 24-year-old’s body.
When I was 19, I used to tell my friends, “I feel like my inner age is about 35.” I have never really wanted to go out to clubs or stay out late. I hate crowds and tons of people touching me. I will sit on anything resembling a seat if I’m forced to stand for more than 10 minutes. Loud environments make me anxious. Wearing heels to stand for hours is a form of torture. Staying up til 2 am means I will be sleeping for the entire next day. And yet, I used to do it all the time.
“Why would you do something if you didn’t want to?” you might ask.
To Fit In
When I started college, I truly felt like there was something wrong with me. It was as if drinking and staying out late was a requirement to graduate. I felt like if I wasn’t going out three nights a week, it meant I was failing at college. I thought if I didn’t go out, I wouldn’t make friends, people wouldn’t want to hang out with me, people would think I was a loser or depressed (p.s. I was) and not want to be around me. I wanted people to think I was doing well in college, having fun, making friends, etc., and going out was a big part of that. Because going to parties is what you do in college. Leaving at 10 pm to start your night was how things were done. Crazy drunk stories where what you came to college for. These are “the best for years of your life” after all.
So I did it. I dressed up in short skirts and heels and walked across campus to loud parties full of strangers and drank cheap booze out of plastic cups. I went with friends and genuinely enjoyed their company, but a majority of the time it was so loud and I was so anxious, I would just curl up inside myself. I’d quietly tag along so I could say I went. I remember relishing the time of night when my friends would be ready to go home. Getting pizza, putting on big sweats, and hanging out at home together was always the best part of the night.
Don’t get me wrong, sometimes I had a ton of fun. Football tailgates were my perfect situation because you drink outside and get to go home and nap in the middle of the afternoon. I also enjoyed my fair share of nights. I bonded with people who became my best friends on the dance floors, singing along to our favorite songs. But that just wasn’t the majority of my experience
I don’t know if it’s anxiety, depression, being an introvert, just being lazy/scared/shy, but I dreaded going out. I always felt so insecure, tired, and alone. All of the stress it induced made me withdraw in myself and become, tbh, cranky. I was up to my eyes in negative feelings, so I was always just so on edge. If someone elbowed me or said one more thing to stress me out, I’d snap. Even just the expression on my face was enough to make people think I was a bitch (hello RBF). I honestly understand why people felt that way, I was battling an intense war in my head, have 0 poker face, and was being kind of rude.
I hate that I made people feel like I didn’t want to talk to them or didn’t like them – but it just comes with the territory. I just didn’t feel good. Shoutout to my wonderful, incredible friends who never stopped invited me to do things with them, put up with my crankiness, and saw through all of it to appreciate who I really am. You the real MVPs.
I don’t want to go, but I want to be invited.
When I did decide to stay in, I would have a second of relief before I was racked with anxiety. I felt guilty. I’d think, “What is wrong with you? Why can’t you just have fun? All your friends are out having fun. No one is going to want to be friends with you anymore. They’re going to stop asking you to come. Then you’ll be left out and alone. Why can’t you just be normal?”
As I grew up, I got better at staying in (which meant I’d go out one night instead of two or three and allow myself to go home if I made it to midnight). I still struggled with the feeling of being different, an outsider, alone, and like I’d lose all my friends. But I grew to like myself and my alone time more. And if we’re being completely honest, when I started dating Sean I knew that I would always have him, so it made the fear of losing all my friends a little less scary. Humans are wired for connection and our biggest fear is being alone, so knowing I wouldn’t be entirely alone helped.
The year after I graduated college, I tried to go out a few times. Sean was living across the country, and I was lonely af. I went to a really sleazy bar in my new town and, surprise surprise, hated it. I wanted to hang out with the people I came with, but I didn’t want to be in a room full of random strangers, mostly guys, who would grope me. I’d been pretending to enjoy this scene for four years, and it was exhausting.
So I just stopped going.
And people stopped inviting me.
And I enjoyed my weekends a lot more.
Sure I felt extremely lonely sometimes. Yes, I looked at pictures of my friends going out and felt lame or even left out because I wasn’t invited. But I also didn’t feel on the edge of a panic attack all night and got to enjoy the feeling of giving myself what I actually wanted.
Now, I literally never go out to bars or parties. The most “going out” I do is a sports bar/restaurant down the road to have a few beers while I sit comfortably at a table with no one invading my personal space. I leave when I want and go to bed early.
Sometimes when I’m laying on my couch scrolling social media, I feel that ugly, familiar stomach drop of insecurity. “Their life is so much more fun than mine. Why don’t I do stuff like that?”, I think. But then I remember a) I probably would be miserable if I was there and b) I’m happy right where I am. My life is incredibly fun, it just doesn’t look like the “fun” so many people my age are having or expected to have.
You’re Not Alone
It’s okay to be happy with a calm life. It’s okay to want to stay in every single night. It’s okay to enjoy sweatpants and your couch more than drinks and parties. It’s okay to love going to parties. It’s okay to be happy doing whatever makes you happy.
When I posted this picture on Instagram, I saw just how many people feel the exact same. But I didn’t know that for so much of my life. For a long time, I felt completely alone in this. And even if someone tells you they feel the same way, it doesn’t really sink in. No one really gets to the core of the agony/insecurity you feel. At most, people joke that they’re “so lazy” or how much they love sleep.
You have to learn to accept yourself for who you are. You have to shove off the expectations of society, throw caution to the wind, and say “well even if I end up completely alone, at least I’ll be true to myself.” You have to decide to put value in what you want over what other people want.
These are your first steps. Your old friend, insecurity, will still chime in sometimes to make you feel like you should be busier/more fun/drink more/have more friends/take more trips. You just have to remind yourself — “it’s okay to be happy with a calm life.”