05 June, 2010

Analyzing Anxiety

I tried out a brand new Open Stage this week, on a recommendation. Usually, in these cases, I'd think, "hey, that sounds cool", but when it came time to actually get out of the house and try something new, I'd take the easy road and stay where it's comfortable. But since I'm trying not to encourage my reclusion, any reason to get out is a good one. And even though I had noone to accompany me on this new adventure (traveling new lands alone increases my self-consciousness and thus my anxiety, compared to traveling with a known companion/friend), I still went for it.

The Open Stage was nice. The demographic was young, as had been described to me, and the girl to guy ratio was actually approaching one, for once (not quite there, but close, and that's significant). Ultimately, though, I chickened out on actually performing. We could talk about all the little reasons that resulted in that eventual outcome, but the bottom line is that I was uncomfortable in unfamiliar surroundings, and without having anyone I know to gently nudge me, I was more comfortable taking a seat and watching the action than stepping up front and drawing attention to myself. Even so, having got out there was a good experience for me. But now the question comes up: should I go again?

Firstly, are there any reasons for me to go again? Certainly. Let us count them:

1. It's an excuse for me to get out of the house and interact (even if passively) with people, which is something I need to become more comfortable doing.

2. If I do start performing there (which is an inevitability if I keep going back), I can get both a) more experience performing in front of an audience, and b) more exposure as a person and especially as a musician.

3. There are girls there.

To anyone else, barring a significant schedule conflict or a simple lack of a strong desire to go out performing at Open Stages (I actually do want to perform for people, I just wish I could do it more confidently - and practice/experience is probably the only thing that will help), the above would be reason enough to go back. But in my special case, there are any number of nagging thoughts in the back of my head that make me wary of going out into the world again (and regularly). Let's take a look at them.

1. I'll gloss over the actual getting-out-the-door difficulty, simply because it's something I'm not interested in talking about here.

2. Going out regularly means using the car regularly. Why is this a problem? Firstly, it's not my car. And what if it breaks down? I don't carry a cell phone (or have much desire to). It is getting old, after all. Also, gas is expensive. I may not have to pay for it myself, but if I don't, that's just more guilt about spending somebody else's money.

3. Speaking of money, going out into the world inevitably means spending money. Whether it's food, shopping, or admission to some form of entertainment, the world revolves around spending money. Most people make money, so they can afford to spend it - for them it's merely a balancing act. I don't have an income, and my savings are getting slim. I can't afford to drop a few bucks at every stop. A drink here, a book there, a movie over there. And I feel guilty going places and not spending any money. Like at a coffee shop. If I'm not a paying customer, I tend to feel like I'm loitering.

4. Just the thought of sitting in that coffee house, as nice a place as it is, and as nice as the people are, makes me uncomfortable. It's not their fault, it's because I'm not a very social person. I'd be comfortable if I, like them, were chatting amicably with a friend or a friendly acquaintance, but I'm a stranger there. Of course, that might change if I get to know people (and if they get to know me), but the "getting to know" process invariably involves a stage of unfamiliar awkwardness which I'm afraid of.

5. Even if people do love me and my ability to play the guitar, I will inevitably (have you noticed how much doom-and-gloom is inevitable?) have to face explaining to them that I'm not as good as I sound, and I actually can't play lead for them because I don't know how to improvise, and my whole act is essentially a convincing farce. And even if I were to fool myself and try to stretch out, I'd inevitably (see?) find myself in that uncomfortable, self-conscious position of knowing that I don't know what I'm doing, and that it doesn't sound good (or at least isn't making me feel good, which, after all, is what really matters).

6. If this is as good an excuse to get out of the house as I need, there are any number of other excuses. So, I should be going out of the house all the time. Every day, perhaps. But of course, that amplifies all the existing problems above. The more I go out, the more the problems of going out are enhanced. Perhaps, with the further experience of going out, I'll become more comfortable going out, but there's still the matter of money. Even if any reason is a good enough reason to go out, I can't afford to let any reason be a good enough reason to spend some money. And to avoid spending money, it's so much easier to stay inside. The irony is that I can't earn a living if I don't get out, but I can't go out until I'm earning a living.

So anyway. Reason to go back every week: it's a good idea. Reason not to: it's too scary and too much effort and I won't feel comfortable, and I might as well stay at home and practice rather than waste time listening to other [non-professionals] play.

1 comment:

  1. Believe it or not, (doubt you will) -- going to new places and hanging out alone scares me, too. But I do it.

    Even when I'd rather go with someone else.

    I remember a time I went to a concert with you (house party?) and we stood off to the side by the amps and a beer pong table, I just hung around you the entire time, and then when you went off somewhere, I just sat there alone not talking to anyone. Happens more than you'd think...