When it comes to knowing what’s best for me, I have a handful of principles to share: define your own fun, develop a gratitude practice, define core values, and realize that no one can make your best decision. This got lengthy, so I made it a mini-series.
Part 1: Define Your Own Fun
Let’s begin with a story
I’d been listening to a new band constantly when I struck up a conversation with a friend/coworker about them. He said they were actually coming to town to play live, and the tickets were super cheap, and he & his friends were planning on going, and I should totally come with them!
My immediate reaction was “Nah… not my thing.” I knew myself well enough prior to this to know that I have a very low tolerance for high amount of stimulation in the form of noises, lights, and crowds. I always found it to be a bit of a dirty little secret in college because we were undoubtedly one of the best football teams in the country and people paid hundreds of dollars to get into the stadium to watch games, but I quietly turned down my $10 student ticket in favor of staying at home or, at most, tailgating on the nearby quad. For one of my favorite concerts I ever attended, I skipped the two openers in favor of sitting at bar sipping champagne, so when Demi Lovato hit the stage, I was ready in several ways. Still, at the end of the night, I was exhausted. So knowing this about myself caused me to hesitate on the offer at first, but then I started trying to find a way to make it happen.
- I definitely liked the band. I genuinely enjoyed the music and had been listening to them nonstop for weeks.
- I liked the person who asked me to join them. We had similar interests, worked together, generally got along well. I had also interacted with his girlfriend a few times and liked her, too.
- It was a low cost investment, at about a $35 ticket, and the venue was within a 15 minute drive of my house. Generally low risk.
And, I felt like this was something that I should do. I have often been convinced that I’m not very good at being a teenager or being a college student or being a twenty-something, but here was the chance to do a very real young person thing: attend a concert with friends.
Crying at a picnic table
But then… I ended up sitting at a picnic table by myself crying into the phone asking someone to come pick me up. Before the band I went to see even got on stage.
Let me back up a bit. The beginning of the evening was fine; I met some nice people and had some good conversation. When we arrived at the concert venue, however, I was suddenly surrounded by a whole lot of people. And it was hot. And I was starting to feel the pre-game drinks. And then I realized the amount of *ahem* activities happening around that were recreational and probably harmless, but also not legal and not my thing. Thus started the discomfort.
I somehow missed the fact that there were like 37 bands before the one I was mostly interested in, and I’m a 9:30 bedtime kinda girl, so at 10:30, when some other random band with loud music and flashing lights was still happening, with no end in sight, I could feel the panic rising in my throat.
I walked to the concession area and got a water and a snack. I sat at a picnic table and tried to casually scroll through my phone. When that didn’t calm me down, I called my boyfriend “just to chat” and he promptly knew that I wasn’t okay. I kept trying to push through it, insisting that I wanted to stay, quietly crying tears of vodka & anxiety into my overpriced pretzel. Finally, I relented and asked him to come get me.
I texted my friend on my way out to explain that I needed to leave and he met me and was so gracious, mostly just worried about me, which I appreciated. I made it home safely, and eventually the anxiety lessened. I washed my make up off, changed out of my cutesy clothes, and called it a night.
The Shame Storm
I felt like such a colossal failure. I felt that I had disappointed the friend who invited me, or worse yet, embarrassed him. I felt immense shame that I just couldn’t do the thing that literally everyone else was enjoying. What was wrong with me?
I have finally made peace with this when I told this story to a friend and she said “Oh, I am totally the same way. You see that ‘going out’ stuff on Instagram all the time, which creates this illusion that that’s what everyone is doing, but really, it’s that the ‘staying home’ stuff is less photogenic, so people don’t post that as much.” So the “literally everyone else” piece from before wasn’t true at all; maybe everyone in my line of sight at the time was enjoying themselves, but there were a whole lot of people not at that concert who were having a lovely evening also.
I wasn’t a weirdo; I just needed to understand and accept my definition of “fun” and put boundaries around things that I did not find to be fun. And that is totally okay. I think that it’s fun to watch free webinars on how to market online courses, despite that not having any direct relationship to my life (yet!). No one else has to validate that fun for me. I enjoy it, and that makes it a good use of my time. Make your own definition of fun and live it judgment-free.