While the part of culinary exploration that I love more than anything is seeing how food brings people together, this whole social eating thing sometimes backfires. As a whole, I’m a social person. But in my dresser drawer of strange quirks and diagnoses is the fact that I struggle with social anxiety on a constant basis. Those two don’t really mesh well. Sometimes I get through very public situations by having a task; photographing an event, for example. The moment I don’t know what to say in a conversation, I simply blurt out, “I’ve got to go take more pictures,” and leave. (I used this trick during homecoming dances in high school, as well, to get out of dancing with my dates.)
Most times, though, I soldier through and wake up in the middle of the night in a panic, replaying every conversation I had the previous evening in my head, ridiculing myself for how dumb I sounded at the time. Counseling sessions and close friends have taught me that I need to start being nice to myself. That, and this: people aren’t thinking about me nearly as often as I think they are. Nonetheless, these pre-dawn panics are difficult to stop, and leave me exhausted in every way.