What I love about being an adult: I can decide where I want to go, when, with whom, how long I want to stay and most importantly, IF I want to go anywhere at all. What I hate about being an adult: all of the above.
As the product of divorce and therefore someone who grew up in two households, adhering to two sets of values, rules, have-to's and must-not's, I often felt conflicted when it came to...everything.
For example, my Mother has always been of the belief you have fifteen minutes to be late everywhere. Nothing is 'set in stone', you don't HAVE to do anything you don't want to (unless it was something SHE wanted me to do) and North is wherever I'm facing...right?
My Father on the other hand, alav hashslom (Yiddish for 'may he rest in peace'), took commitment very seriously...well, except his and my mother's marriage. Never mind, doesn't matter, anyway, he always stressed the importance of following through with your word. Although this is usually a great principle to live by, in my case there was never any wiggle room when it came to changing my mind about going somewhere. Everything was set in stone, as though I etched my name in it each time I said, "Sure, I'll go."
So, when he passed away eight years ago (when I was twenty), I stopped showing up; I stopped going to friends' birthday gatherings, casual BBQ's and I stopped returning calls. I would RSVP 'yes' for this thing or that and then not show up. I'd show up somewhere, stay for a few minutes and then walk out the door, without even saying goodbye. Not only did I forfeit being a bridesmaid in at least four of my dear friends' weddings, I didn't even go to the wedding. I did this for a very, very long time. Yes, part of this was a symptom of my complete and utter grief, part of it was my not feeling good with my body image, while some of it, I admit, was simply because now I could. I've since forgiven myself for all these things, but I still know what it’s like to not want to go to somewhere.
For example: I got an invite to attend a Masa Israel and B'nai B'rith Charity Shabbat Dinner last night. The charity was for The Bagel Brgaide: who feeds bagels & Schmear to hungry children in the San Fernando Valley.
The friend I was going with cancelled on me and I seriously considered canceling also. I mean, I didn’t know anyone--except the friend who invited me and who I committed to that I was going-- and they’re all Jewish and I haven’t done ANYTHING Jewish since my Bat Mitzvah and even then it was really for the cash, which is a different story, and I was afraid of being judged (a Jew’s favorite hobby) and exiled and that I wouldn’t make any friends...but I went anyway. I got over myself and just showed up. And I had a lovely time. Of course, seventeen blog posts could (and probably will) be written about last night's shenanigans, but we have to discuss one point at a time, k?
The point is, I totally get having the freedom to say yes, no, maybe, yes THEN no, no THEN yes. But here's the thing. We HAVE to honor our commitments. Here are some helpful tips for doing this, when you've already said YES and are having second thoughts because you feel insecure:
1) You're going. No questions or arguments. Be your own parent and tell yourself that sometimes we need to do things that make us uncomfortable because we DON'T always know what's best for us. Our inner-parent does, though.
2) Show Up On Time. Contrary to what my Mother believes, you do not have fifteen minutes to be late...especially among new friends. Even if you're attending a super-casual gathering in someone's backyard, it's important to set a standard for yourself that also honors your host(s) as well as other guests.
3) Don't Be Afraid to Get Your Bearings before diving in and making conversation with strangers. ALSO...It's OKAY to let a human being at the party know that you're feeling a little ____ (insert feeling about being among strangers). In fact, that's a great way to connect with humans and then they aren't strangers anymore, are they? And lastly, if you're not 100% comfortable introducing yourself, ask the host (or the person you already know there) to introduce you to some folks. It sounds like something your Mom did for you at birthday parties, but guess what, we all still need an advocate. Contrary to popular belief, we are not meant to stand completely alone and fend for ourselves. But when we're adults, we do need to ask for that kind of support, which is totally fine.
4) Mentally Pull Yourself Aside at certain points if you need to and tell yourself, "You're doing a great job at being yourself. I'm so proud of you and I'm glad you're here. Are you good? Did you have enough to eat?" Remember, YOU are your best (perhaps Jewish) parent, as an adult. I mean, your inner-parent is the reason you're even there, yea? Let them support you.
5) Use Your Intuition (NOT FEAR) to Decide When to Leave. Because humans are sensitive and easily frightened creatures, we sometimes make choices based on fear/insecurity and mistake it for our intuition. If you are in the presence of friends, strangers, family, your co-workers, etc. and thoughts such as, f*ck this, I'm leaving. This party sucks. These people are lame. No one gets me... pop into your head, that's when your ego is telling you lies and trying to protect you. You don't need protection; you will feel when it's time to go, I promise. Your social stamina and your external surroundings will start to wind down organically and with ease (MOST of the time). And THAT is when it's time to leave. *Also, if you're feeling particularly anxious, etc., feel free to set a mental timer, prior to arriving. Example: Let's evaluate how I'm doing at 9:15pm. If I want to leave then, that's fine. If not, also fine.
6) Thank Your Host(s) and tell them you're so glad you came. Because you are. You honored your commitment. You did it!
I mean, when all is said and done, only good can come from putting ourselves out there, in new places, with new people. Think of it this way; every time you follow through on your word, a child in the San Fernando Valley enjoys a bagel & schmear. It's the ultimate mitzvah.
Shalom Aleichem and Happy Committing!
Definition of Terms/Links
- Shalom Aleichem- Peace be upon you
- Mitzvah- A good deed/charitable act
- Schmear- a smear or spread on a bagel/bread such as Lox, cream cheese etc.
- B'nai B'rith International- the oldest Jewish service organization in the world
- Masa Israel- offers over 200 study, internship, and volunteer opportunities all over Israel lasting between five and twelve months