If you look for me at a concert, you won’t have trouble finding me. I’m the person who seems to be split in half. Maybe the hips sway a little or the feet stomp the rhythm, or at the very least one foot taps. But from the waist up? My arms are usually clamped in a cross-armed stance around my middle. Or, if I’m feeling the desire to dance but lack the coordination, I may perhaps clasp my hands in front of me like a person who just found out they have arms and don’t know what to do with them.
So if you were at the Wizard Rock event in Holly Springs, NC last night, you probably saw me. I was also the one who had so much fun watching the people around me getting into the music that I’d start out standing up by the stage and find myself at the end of a song standing at the back of the crowd (a crowd of college students, eight-year-olds, bemused parents, head-banging librarians, Ren-Fest-garbed adults, and wrock “groupies” sporting various Potter-monikered band shirts).
Debbie, and her two friends (Alisha? And a guy whose name I forget) were kind enough to come stand by me, and at the end of each song would say, “Come back up here!” while kindly rolling their eyes at my weird concert habits.
People say you really have a bit of all the houses in you. So I identify myself as a Ravenclaw, but there’s a part of me that’s ambitious like Slytherin, hardworking like Hufflepuff, and brave like Gryffindor. So they say. But recently I’ve been having a harder and harder time finding my Gryffindor.
I allow fear to have a massive foothold in my life. Some things are little things: like the fear that would keep me from waving my arms at a wrock concert, even if I look like a deranged windmill impersonator. Or the fear that kept me from wanting to post videos on my YouTube channel that featured my face and my voice in real time, not edited or altered somehow to hide my true appearance and (to my mind) annoying conversational habits.
But there are bigger fears. I am 23 years old now, which when I was ten would have meant to me that I’d be married, living in a house somewhere, and maybe expecting a baby. That’s just what all the 23-year-olds I knew thirteen years ago were doing. Either that, or I’d be invested in some amazing career and totally know what I was doing with my life. Yeah, neither of those happened.
More recently, here are some things I know about myself: I get jobs at retailers because I am deathly afraid of trying to go into some other career. I rank a fear of job interviews probably above a fear of death, just because death is universal and comes to us all, but not everyone knows the panicky, massive-fail feeling of not knowing what to say, of looking as awkward as you feel in the office-worthy attire, or of having a resume where the blank spaces on the page say more about me than any accomplishment I’ve listed.
I hate living in Waxhaw, NC. I don’t like living near Charlotte. I would love to live in London, but an American substitute for me would probably be New York or Austin, Texas. But when I think about moving to a strange, large city without knowing anyone there, I choke. I know three or four people, at least, who quit their jobs (even in this economy!) and moved to a new place not knowing anyone there, and who, within a few weeks had established a job and a pleasantly workable life without anything tragic happening. Even if I tried to move and found myself broke and utterly failing (a huge likelihood, my fear tells me), I have parents who love me and who would welcome me back home with open arms while I sort out the mess of my life and try to get things back in working order. Even so, my fear wins. I stay.
I do not want to be a librarian. At least, that’s not the top of my list. I don’t know what I want to be, but right now I do know this: I applied to grad school for library science because (1) it would give me something to tell people when they ask me about the future and look at me with the I-feel-sorry-for-you-but-am-trying-to-hide-it expression in their eyes. (2) It’s only 1-2 years, and an inexpensive program, so I won’t be in debt forever. (3) I like books and I like the fact that libraries have clear-cut, defined hours and are automatically off on national holidays. But it really feels like settling. It feels like half-assery and fakeness. Compromise.
I am most afraid that what I loved to do once has left me, and that I am no longer in any position to call myself a storyteller. I fear that there really isn’t any reason for me to be alive, but I fear even more the zombie-ish, unquestioning-positivity that results from taking the doctor-prescribed meds that keep this fear at bay. Most of all I fear that this is my life from here on out: alone, a failure, with friends mostly on screens, with other friends in person who like to drink wine or rail about their recent exes but who, otherwise, are happy to live a life as bland as mine has become. I’m afraid that acceptance and spinelessness have become entirely who I am.
That’s a tough boggart to laugh at.