Weird Things that Bug New Yorkers

New Yorkers get a bad rap for being unfriendly people. But it’s not that. It’s that because we have a higher population, the odds for more assholes-per-square-inch increase, because, math. And then the rest of us New Yorkers have to deal with the more-assholes-per-square-inch ourselves, so we become accustomed to encountering and dealing with them, and then we believe they’re everywhere here too, which creates a spiraling domino effect that results in the “New York State of Mind.” And if the following things bug you, then congratulations; you’ve officially evolved to an authentic New York State of Mind. ūüôā

1. When someone sits directly next to you on a virtually empty train or bus.

New Yorkers are used to people always being around at any given moment, but when it’s not rush hour or a busy period, we grab that moment of solitude and hold on tight.

SidebySide

There is a rule: You do NOT sit next to someone if there’s an available seat NOT sitting next to someone. You¬†do NOT enter¬†the train and sit at the closest available seat next to someone, just because it’s close! You scan the aisle, take a leisurely stroll¬†through the moving car, core engaged (because this will help your subway surfing skills) and pick a nice empty space keeping up the yin/yang of passenger-empty seat-passenger-empty seat. You ONLY break this balance if there is no other option. And if you DO break the balance, and there ARE other options, then yes, those strange waves of vengeful resentment you might be feeling are absolutely directed at you.

2. When someone walks parallel on the sidewalk at the same speed as you.

You’re not friends. You’re not acquainted. And yet, you may as well be holding hands with them. And then you try to speed up, and then they kind of speed up too, and then the awkward level rises…and then the anger level rises cause it’s awkward. And then you need to cross the street because the angry awkwardness is overwhelming you.

AwkwardWalkingPenguin

And then you need to hope they aren’t also crossing the street too. Which leads to…

3. Coincidentally walking the same route as another person.

I’m sure in small towns, you both would giggle and make a joke about how one’s stalking the other, or even strike up some small talk about where you both are going. But in New York, if you’re playing the “Pass That Person” game on the street, but then you both end up waiting at the curb side-by-side for the Walk signal to turn, cross the same street, both turn right, stop at the same bodega for only one thing so you both pay quickly and leave at the same time, and then turn LEFT together (this happened on my walk to the gym this morning, I kid you not) and cruise up the next block trying to act like you don’t realize the other person is still there, or suspecting that they were paid to keep tabs on you…

I don’t like it.

4. Speeding up to cut me off and then immediately walking slowly.

This is most agonizing on stairs. Like if you’re exiting the train and you want to ninja-rush up in double-time, but someone darts in front of you, then proceeds to lumber their way up at an excruciating pace. WHY DID YOU CUT ME OFF THEN? Why was it so important to cut me off so that you could walk slowly?

Your hurried MOVEMENTS do not mean you are progressing quickly.

And then when you try to scurry around them, a barrage of people come trailing down on the other side. Then you and the rest of the line are stuck matching the pace of the lumberer for the whole walk up. And I telepathically communicate to the people behind me, “I would have done better for you.”

5. Sidewalk-spreading.

I chalk this up to some sort of Narcissus complex. You, strolling down the street like you don’t have to get to work, or like it’s not raining really hard, with your arms outstretched (mentally). And maybe your right-hand man is right beside you, but only kind-of sort-of, because you both have to stretch out to make sure you’re taking up the entirety of the sidewalk, and yell your comments to one another across the space in “conversation” as you both saunter your way, making it highly difficult for anyone to zip around you from either side. It’s a declaration. A declaration that you are not aware of anything going on around you.

6. Those who stand on the left side of the escalator.

My very own boyfriend, who is not from New York, told me that outside of the city, the notion that there is a standing side on the escalator AND a walking side is unheard of.

I mean, I get it. Technically, I guess the entire concept of an escalator is so you DON’T have to walk up it at all. You stand and check your phone and have a chat, feet firmly planted as it delivers you to your final destination. But goddammit, this is a city of movers. And if i’m on an escalator, it’s because I have somewhere to be. And in New York, escalators are advanced stairs. And if someone forgets the rule of the standing side and the walking side…well, you could say “Excuse me,” I suppose, and hope they hear you (I have a low voice). BUT HOW DO THEY NOT KNOW THE CODE?? The I-don’t-feel-like-walking people are lining up on the right for a reason. If you’re not, then you’re an obstruction. And I might have to break out the nonchalant bravado and bypass the escalator for the stairs because you’re choosing to be an obstruction.

Ever tried to beat the escalator riders by showing them you can use your legs on the stairs and making it to the top before them?

Ever done it at the Exchange Place Light Rail station in Jersey City?

ExchangeStairs.jpg

My bravado really took a toll on my lungs that time.

Not everyone has a New York State of Mind. The OGs are now outnumbered.

~Tael (OG New Yorker)

Yes, I Still Play Pokemon GO

No, I did not leave the app behind in 2016 with everyone else who jumped off the bandwagon. Why? I’m not a bandwagoner.

The questioning of why those who still enjoy Pokemon GO continue to do so after its popularity declined with “the masses” last year currently tops my list of MOST. ANNOYING. QUESTIONS…

Mostly because…this is what you’re actually asking:

A. Why aren’t we all quitters like you who didn’t simultaneously drink the Kool-Aid and give up at the same time?
B. Why did we all not follow the prescribed time limit that society set and mindlessly follow the rest of the robotic world who dictates what’s popular?
C. Why do I actually enjoy walking? An incredibly healthy and natural thing for your body to do and a great way to stay fit and active?

I would say sorry I didn’t follow the time-limit that the world-gods bestowed upon the sheep that flocked together and stopped playing just cause others left, but I don’t even want to apologize sarcastically for participating in something that takes dedication and keeps me active.

The simple fact is, there are the casuals and there are the hardcores. It was awesome that when the game was first introduced, people from all walks of life participated. I’d be playing alongside gentlemen in business suits, grade schoolers in soccer uniforms, and hot-dog vendors in aprons, all tossing Pokeballs at Psyducks on the screen. It’s quite the achievement to be able to bring together such vastly different demographics, and I give the game props for that.

At some point, the popularity died down, most likely with the coming of winter. The cold season is not exactly conducive to long walks by the pier and chilling in open-air parks by a lure.

But there’s another ridiculously obvious reason the GO-Bandwagoners/Questioners won’t talk about.

IT ACTUALLY INVOLVES WALKING. Which is like…EXERCISE. Which like…MOST PEOPLE DON’T LIKE TO DO!!

In order to rise to the top in this game, you have to WALK. And since statistics confirm that over 50% of America is overweight, it’s probably not a top activity of choice. You don’t see this so much in New York because we’re already a city of walkers. We were walking since before it was cool to do so in an app game; before the Fitbit craze and all that. Pokemon GO simply gave me something to occupy my mind/time WHILE walking; it made a game of it. But I’m fairly certain at least half the people who outgrew interest did so because they realized that in order to be good at it, you couldn’t do it from your couch.

In order to hatch eggs, catch rare Pokemon, battle gyms, acquire the means to power up, BAG THOSE LEGENDARIES, you must walk. You can cheat and be a spoofer, but for the most part the general public is not that tech-savvy, and also, sometimes you get caught, and also, it’s lazy.

PoGOFit

I’d rather play it the right way and be fit af.

If you want to be REALLY good at the game, then you have to walk MORE than the average person. Is it tiring? Duh, it’s exercise. If it’s not tiring, you’re not doing it right. Sometimes your feet hurt. Because it’s walking. And when the masses found out you actually had to WORK somewhat to master this game, well…that’s where the hardcores and casuals get separated.

They probably don’t go to the gym either.

I inadvertently lost 8 pounds last summer playing this damn game. (My gains! *Cries*) I’ve walked over 500 miles in Pokemon GO. Have the GO-Questioners walked over 500 miles NOT playing it? Do they even game outside of this app? Because despite the game’s appeal to everyone, including the non-gaming community, gamers have been Pokemoning it up since Red and Blue. We came into the game already knowing the strengths and weaknesses, that Ground prevails against Lightning, and Dark pwns Psychic and the Poke-Great-Ultra ball stepladder and the evolutions to everything.

Before Pokemon GO, I played Just Dance for cardio for a good 4 versions. ¬†I no longer play, but I would never question those who still stay up to date on the latest releases, because I’ve heard so many stories of Just Dancers shedding pounds just from that game alone. Dancing is fun! And that game can be damn difficult. Not quite in the same league as DDR (and I still worship the ground DDRers stomp on) but still an enjoyable way to get a workout in. Classic. By the logic that we should all stop playing something just because it isn’t popular anymore, there’d be no love for retro gaming, pinball arcades, people would forget Sonic games were once MASTERPIECES, and NES minis wouldn’t be scalped for exorbitant prices. :/

If you think Pokemon GO is played out, and want to ignore the collective of hardcore players in the shadows (Pokemon GO fest, although a failure, sold out in mere HOURS, so SOMEBODY thinks it’s still popular) that’s cool. Ya’ll can stay on the bandwagon with the rest of the sheep, ready to graze on the next big thing society tells you to. In the meantime, the rest of us will be over here getting fit af.

~Tael

 

The Non-Instagram Parts of Fitness

Fitspiration and #BodyGoals are everywhere. Some authentic, some Photoshopped. All waxed, polished, enhanced with make-up and flaws removed with hair perfectly straightened (seriously, who doesn’t tie their hair up while working out?). The glamorous part of fitness is plastered all over Instagram. Color-coordinated workout ensembles at $129.99 an outfit, toned and airbrushed tushies nestling Brazilian-cut thongs, and spreads of fruit platters, photogenic and supposedly low-calorie chocolate desserts, and delicious-LOOKING green-smoothies that MUST be healthy because an Instagram fitness model posted it (FYI, I’ve had a real kale/veggie/fruit smoothie blended for me by my bestie with no additives or sugar; it was a horrific green sludge that I struggled to choke down).

But when the average I’m-gonna-start-going-to-the-gym-it’s-my-new-years-resolution gal begins a fitness journey, she’ll encounter some things you won’t find on social media. I certainly wasn’t ready for or expecting the following:

1) You can outgrow your wardrobe.

If you’re looking to build muscle mass (as opposed to losing weight, which, actually, everyone should aim for because even for those aiming to lose weight, ideally you should be gaining muscle mass) you want those GAINS. But this means you might go up a size in your clothes. Sounds counter-intuitive, huh? I remember when I learned the truth about “toning.” It’s kind of a myth. You must build muscle in order to “tone.” There’s no other way. You might think, oh, i’m just replacing fat with muscle, but muscle is stronger and denser than fat (and it also lays on top of it), so while sliding slender, jiggly thighs into those tight skinny jeans was once easy, forcing that same denim over thicker muscle becomes more of a challenge. I had never experienced my thighs rubbing together before in shorts (thigh gaps are stupid anyway). I had to buy all new jeans or else risk discomfort and chronic yeast infections. :/

2) DOMS HURTS.

I remember good ol’ Joe Mango from my last job, who religiously woke up at 4:20am (this time means nothing to him, it’s a total coincidence) four days a week to visit the gym before work. Sometimes I’d see him walk slowly down the long hallway to and from the kitchen, with a slightly pronounced pimp-swagger. Now I know the reason. If you’re strength-training your legs, approximately 24 hours later, that Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness kicks in and YOU FEEL IT. Sitting hurts. Standing up from sitting hurts. Walking after standing up from sitting for a prolonged period of time HURTS. You may have to start off with a duck-waddle to get the right momentum going. You eventually forget the hurt if you keep moving, but movement after a time of rest makes your muscles remember, and that memory is brutal and can last for days. #PainzisGainz

3) You will want to eat all the time. And little salad diets won’t cut it.

Not knocking salads (actually, yes I am, I hate those things lol). But, especially the next 24 hours after your gym session, a voracious appetite will visit you that’ll make you want to devour a whole pizza. Which you could, but probably wouldn’t want that to be the meal of choice after a gym session, ey? Note: I have an odd relationship with pizza.¬†

Good ol’ Joe Mango and fellow muscle-ridden lifter bro Vadim were the human garbage disposals of our old department. Anything we didn’t want, or couldn’t finish, was handed to them to be swiftly decimated. Leftover Chinese? Catch guys. Half-eaten muffin? Here ya go. Spare California rolls or miso soup/salad that came automatically with the lunch special? Delivered to them on a side plate. They never declined our offers. Sometimes they’d battle to the death over our scraps (j/k, j/k, they were gentlemen about it). Once I started gymming, I understood. You gain a Godzilla appetite that must be satiated immediately with something filling. Your body craves protein and hearty repasts; you naturally crave a higher caloric-intake to keep up with your routine and what you’re burning off. And since you NEED those extra calories, including carbs, if you’re strength-training, dieting isn’t an ideal option. The better option is to switch up what you eat so you can consume more of it. #CaloricSurplusisGainz

4) You will stress about working out if you’ve gotten a fresh new tattoo.

I’ll be the first to admit I was raised by a mother who exhibits extreme symptoms of paranoia often, and some of that paranoia surfaces in myself as a result. When I get a new tattoo, I don’t want to move my arm, I don’t wanna flex, I don’t wanna lean on it, sleep on it, bump it, breathe on it. Hell, some sites even caution you to avoid HOT, SWEATY SEX, just for the initial healing process, and they’re right, you can ignore some sensual pangs for a lil’ bit to avoid ruining something you’re etching on your skin for life. Going to the gym with a new tat feels akin to bringing a new baby with you. The gym is filled with bacteria, sweat, potential for infection, what if the weight knocks against it, what if it gets rubbed while I squat, what if I stretch my joint too far and it breaks the scabbing before it’s ready to come off, IS IT POSSIBLE FOR IT TO GET STRETCHED WITH MY STRETCHING, let me check it every 5 minutes to look for signs of ruination but it’s already scabby and peely anyway so if I’ve fucked it up then I won’t know until A MONTH LATER AFTER HEALING’S COMPLETE ANYWAYAHHHHHH.

Extreme paranoia makes me push back my workout sessions 1-2 weeks during the tattoo healing phase.

And also sex.

Social media doesn’t show the whole process. So the next time you’re scrolling through Instagram and pause at that *highly-likely* Photo-shopped model gazing wistfully off a Victorian terrace with a gorgeous tropical island backdrop on her tip-toes like it’s casual but it’s not really cause she’s posing, wearing a designer cropped sweatshirt and cheeky panties with zero cellulite and a practically concave belly, remember the truth behind the glamour.

If it’s natural (or as natural as one can get what with social media’s filters and teeth-brightener/wrinkle-reducing/stretch-mark removing apps and what-not) she likely goes through one of these. And if it’s not natural and simply #adobegains then…these don’t apply.

But shhh…it’s a secret. <.<

~Tael

Mix Hoodies With Black

I tend to have some pretty down-to-earth conversations about racial truths with one of my cousins, who is like a brother to me. They’re never serious, debate-like, haughty, “woke” ones; just some “Damn, shit’s really like this, huh,” ones.

One lovely experience that reinforced the scaffolding of our own invisible prejudice occurred during a trip to Atlantic City for my birthday a few years back that I’ve shared on Facebook before. It was late and dark and the ATM I needed was the drive-thru kind in an empty secluded lot. My cousin instantly put the fear in our party’s hearts by mentioning how one could easily get robbed here. He does this. Like when we went to see “Get Out” on opening night and he said he hoped no white supremacist would come shoot up our theater in protest of the movie. T_T’ Had me looking at white boys with backpacks who couldn’t sit still and the exit routes for half the movie, praying.

The ATM wasn’t constructed in a way where the car could get close; we rolled down the window and I slung half my body out, engaging my core to access the screen and withdraw as quickly as I could. OF COURSE, at that very moment, a black guy with a hoodie enters the lot and seems to make a beeline for our car. Stuck hanging out the window, waiting for the machine to process the withdrawal, while everyone else is giving commentary, “He’s coming closer!” “Did he just pull out a ski-mask?” “LOCK THE DOORS!!” I panic, terrified and fully believing I’m about to get buck-fiftied for my meager checking account balance. I’m not sure if I made it to the part where I actually got the money. I may have just jettisoned myself back into the car and screamed “DRIVE, JUST DRIVE,” without completing the transaction.

Dude walked right past us.

Was our fear justified?

If you were walking down a block at night and saw a group of Black teenagers clustered outside of the projects, would you cross the street to avoid…”something?”

I don’t. Not anymore. I don’t because what am I afraid of? Why should I be afraid to walk past a group of my own race at night? At most, as a woman, to avoid catcalling, but I’d rather show solidarity. When I confidently pass them, they either quiet down or throw out a greeting. I acknowledge them back as fellow humans and keep it moving and the “big, scary moment” is over. I don’t want to fear my own people. If it was a group of White men in suits, there wouldn’t even be a situation up for discussion, my cousin says. Or if it was a group of Asian men.
What if they were wearing hoodies?

“What about Spanish men?” I ask.
“Probably not. A bunch of light-skinned guys don’t look as threatening.”
What if they’re wearing hoodies?
“But your skin is the darkest of all; would you be afraid to walk past a group of you?”

There is not a clear cut answer.

“What if it were Black men in suits?”

Then it probably wouldn’t be an issue either. Everyone loved Men In Black.

What if they were Black but wearing glasses, skater gear, a Nintendo shirt…blahblahblahblahnothoodies, why do what they’re wearing hold so much weight? Why do we trust clothes before people?

I don’t want that ingrained fear that was instilled in me growing up. I’m Black and I wear hoodies. To fear another Black-in-a-hoodie seems silly. I want to break that fear. And so I walk past them, fearless and without judgment. Because we are all people, and we deserve that much. Most especially from our own.

~Tael

The Zen of Twitter

I’m proud to say that I’m not a Twitter snob.

You know the type.

They generally have a rather large follower-to-following ratio and openly brag about how they don’t do “Follow-4-Follow.” Then they get publicly insulted when someone stops following them because it wasn’t reciprocated, but why are you really upset? Because you thought you were some kind of celebrity and how could that loser with only 212 followers possibly unfollow YOU? You, with your clearly higher Twitter-cred?

Peasant.

It brings the questions to light: Are you on social media to make friends and connect with like-minded individuals? Or are you simply here to continue the popularity code that most hope to leave behind once they graduate school? Or perhaps you’re out here solely to attain celebrity status and bask in it?

You’ll encounter many who’ll say they don’t care about followers (usually those who have the most followers actually; aren’t they so humble?) For me, the concern doesn’t lie so much with the follower count, so much as the stasis.

Let me explain the Zen of Twitter. It’s the concept of balance (ninjas are all about balance). When you follow someone, you are doing so to somehow “benefit” from this new connection, whether it’s following a brand for updates on sales or new releases, following a celebrity to satiate your fandom, or following someone with a similar point of view who maybe makes insightful comments or gives you a daily dose of laughter whom you become friends with. If they follow you back, you’ve immediately gained something as they’ve completed the “link” and balance is achieved. If, after this, you try to talk to them and they ignore all your @s, that balance is disrupted and you decide if just having them remain as a dead-follower-weight is worth it for your “ratio.”

If they don’t follow you back, there’s really absolutely no obligation to remain following them unless you REALLY dig what they’re posting and you’re gaining from it. It’s their picture and posts that will be showing up on your feed, so you need to decide if you really want them to be there. And the unfollowed shouldn’t be angry if they didn’t complete the link in the first place.

I primarily follow the gaming community on Twitter because I don’t like my feed filled with dumb shit like “Lose weight instantly using this method,” or an innundation of narcissistic selfies (they always find their way in though). I want cute characters, hilarious gaming memes, geek culture, and cats. Anyone not familiar with the gaming community on social media would be surprised at the number of snobs in our own! You’d think that we’d all want to follow each other out of solidarity because we’re posting about the same topics, and not only if we’re currently into the same game, or #TeamNintendo. But also only if we have a wall dedicated to our collection worthy of a #SundayShelves. Even though we follow all the same people. And communicate in the same conversations. And have even played each other online. XD

But the truth is, it’s your Twitter account. And someone following you just because they want to hear your thoughts contained in a 140 character tweet is pretty awesome and should be appreciated. But you are free to follow or unfollow whomever you want to maintain your balance and ensure you’re benefiting from the deal. Unless you’re purposely unfollowing someone you’ve been cool with and had great conversations for awhile with no explanation whatsoever.

Then you’re just a jerk.

As a non-snob, heres a list of those I’m not likely to follow back on Twitter:

-In your face Bible thumpers
-Sexy_gurls_l00king4_gud-time
-GROWYOURFOLLOWERSINSTANTLY
-Feed cloggers who post mundane statuses every 5 minutes (I have literally seen “Bout to walk down these stairs” as a post)
-Strictly solicitors (Posting to promote your mixtape/YouTube Channel/Twitch is fine. Posting to promote your mixtape/YouTubeChannel/Twitch 10 times a day and constantly begging for support and Auto-Dming to help you reach 1000 subs is not, unless you’re reciprocating something to keep that balance
-Those who post strictly in another language, like arabic, cause I dunno what the hell you’re saying

Everyone else is generally good. Keep up the Zen.

~Tael

You Can Touch My Hair

I’ve heard it around the Internet how offensive it is to touch a Black woman’s hair. And maybe I’m feeling kind of left out that no one’s making requests for mine. Then I second-guess myself and wonder: Maybe they have been. Maybe they have, and it’s such a non-issue for me that it’s eroded from my memory.

My cultural collective says I should be enraged and offended if this happens. That it’s supposed to be some subtle form of micro-aggressive racism and I should feel objectified since I’ve had to overcome so much amidst the war against natural Black hair. But I’ve willingly tossed my locks into others’ hands so they can feel how lightweight they are. I’m a proud dreadhead and I’m proud of how far my own have progressed. And one thing I love about having them, is that I frequently receive compliments on them from across the race spectrum, from Black to Asian to Italian, from those I’ve worked with, to passersby on the street, to randoms at a service counter.

And I appreciate that.

I remember the turning point when I decided to lock up for good. It was after watching Floetry’s Say Yes music video.

Dreads are a vibe. A mood. I soaked up that vibe and ejected it out through my scalp and never looked back. I embrace my hair the same way I embrace questions about it. The only one I ever find mildly irritating is “Do you think you’ll keep them?” As if they’re some kind of throwaway hairstyle or fashion statement. Or a pet you’ll grow tired of. This question usually comes, surprisingly, from the Black community. As if I haven’t been cultivating a thriving garden of life on my head for the past 11 years.

But when those of varying races and nationalities find my hair impressive, and stop me on the street to let me know, I appreciate that. And if they say “Dude, I love your hair. Do you mind…” and reach out hesitantly with curiosity, because they’re afraid to finish the question and they fear some perceived inevitable wrath, I’ll whip some locks straight into their outstretched hand and say “Feel em!” The same way I would with a curious toddler who enhances their knowledge of the world through touch. I want you to be interested. Yes, we wash them, although not everyday (but most Black hair isn’t washed every day anyway). Yes, there might be a little lint stuck in there. No, not everyone chooses to let them grow into a tangled mass with little maintenance. Yes, at this point, if I wash my hair in the shower my dreads fall into my butt-crack. And yes, I also sometimes grab a bunch and hold them between my nose and upper lip like a mustache. It feels good.

I want to enlighten you if you’re interested in my hair. And as long as you don’t secretly cut them off from a seat behind me on the subway, we good.

You can touch my hair. Just ask first.

~Tael

P.S. If I get to know you, and you have an afro, I’m gonna ask to touch it. Because it’s an afro.

The Vilification of Shyness

I come from a family of acceptance and varied personalities across the spectrum. The outgoing, the charismatic, the loud and boisterous, the low-toned pipe-ups, the never-smile-for-photos, the Let’s-Take-40-Photos-at-the-Same-Angle-and-Only-Slightly-Mix-Up-The-People, the ones who avoid the center of attention like the plague. We’ve got it all. Maybe I was raised in a bubble. The New York one, I’ll get to in a later post, but the acceptance bubble. Because the real world is not as graciously accepting of the unfamiliar.

Assimilating into the world from beneath the comforting blanket of your family, one constant mind-boggler has been that there are many who treat shyness and introverted natures with disdain. Perhaps they don’t understand them; perhaps it doesn’t exist in their own families; perhaps it seems very Columbine-esque to them and they fear we’ll murder them in their sleep. Growing up, we brought many friends and lovers into the family, and half of them were introverts. They were shy, spoke quietly (and duh, why shouldn’t they be, they were just meeting us) and we respected this and surrounded them with our raucous laughter and love and never made them feel a certain way if they didn’t speak enough or remained on the sidelines.

Leaving my own family though, I’ve encountered the opposite throughout life. I’ve had people tell me my shyness and habit of keeping to myself has come off as rude, intimidating, and arrogant. When in the world did this happen? When did a lower voice and less speech and more social observation make you a villain? Sure, in grade school, it was more likely to make you a pariah, until you matured and realized not everyone is a social butterfly with a big mouth.

At family gatherings and events, you might have found me huddled in a quiet corner with a book on the outskirts. An only child until the age of 15, I learned early to be comfortable with silence and isolation. My comfort zone was in solitary. My mom constantly answered questions toward me for me, might have realized that wasn’t the best move, and once took me to a church function where she plopped me in a group of kids I didn’t know and demanded I make friends before walking away. I immediately burst into tears from the pressure. Middle school I was pretty friendless. I clung to what little social interaction was offered to me, played Gameboy in the yard, tried not to hide out in bathroom stalls at lunch, and dreaded when the teachers gave us the opportunity to choose our own groups for projects. High school I developed sweaty palms from the social anxiety, frequently wore gloves to hide this fact, and prayed I wouldn’t be questioned when I went to shake someone’s hand or I left damp palm-prints on the science tabletops.

Eventually, you encounter people in this world that don’t care if you veer away from social situations and probably even understand it (I would think it to be fairly easily relatable). But you also continue to encounter ones that still look down on it, as I did recently. And I’ll likely continue to encounter it the older I get, because not everyone is accepting to your personality, whether you’re in their face with it or not, and not everyone is willing to see the deeper you past your reserved layer. In our society, where partying and raucous antics are considered the epitome of a good time, if you deviate from this, you must be ready to defend yourself. Because if you hide on the outskirts and don’t drink as much, your motives will be questioned. Because if your anxiety gets the best of you at the wrong time, and you seek solace in isolation to recover, you lose worth in their eyes.

Thoughts

The ninja lifestyle can be misunderstood by most. But I am not lonely to continue its path. If you’ve ever been judged by your shyness, find me.

~Tael