I'm very excited to share with you that today is the launch of Millennial Monthly! Millennial Monthly shares original content from amazing women with topics related to millennial life, slow living, and values based living. Today is our first post! August kicks off with freelance writer and artist Larell Scardelli. You can find Larell on her website lalalarell.weebly.com/ and on social media at @lalalarell and @fat.fig. Fat Fig is where you can find more of her wonderful illustrations! ~Brooke
I live a very quiet life for a 24-year-old. Still cozy in my childhood bedroom, my days consist of part-time work at a local florist, or sitting in a sundress on my patio freelance writing. I appreciate my life’s pace despite looking forward to my own apartment and a full-time publishing job. I can take a break and watch the House Wrens build this season’s nest, prune my vegetable garden, or walk barefoot through the backyard to visit my cat resting under his favorite Alaskan Pine. At night in my room, I turn on my salt lamp and flow. Some nights that means drawing, some writing, others reading or doing yoga. My social life looks similar, that is to say, it doesn’t often include lipstick or drinks.
Right now I’m comfortable living a slow life, but the thought of visiting my college roommate in NYC for the weekend had me giddy. We hadn’t spent much time alone since graduation and I was grateful to get out of the house. So much so I packed heals and the only designer item I own—a low-cut, dark-hued jumper. (I guess I still have that “anything can happen in the city” attitude even having lived next to it all my life.) But this is how it usually goes. I’ll make plans to “go out” with friends or family, imagine having fun, then shut down when the time comes. I can’t tell you how many times my girlfriends pulled me out of my dorm room to go to a party. Then I’d loosen up with a few drinks and end up having fun. But now, after taking about two years off from drinking alcohol to holistically heal my adult-onset acne, I wasn’t sure how the weekend would go.
See my family loves to drink. I grew up thinking it wasn’t a big deal. In fact, I grew up thinking it was cool. Then in college I didn’t give much thought to waking up with a huge headache or acting a little crazy. I found my limit (the hard way) and stayed there. And even though I knew drinking wasn’t my favorite activity, I still did it. You could call it peer pressure. To me it was more like selective listening. I wrote off my relationship with alcohol completely after graduation and it shook some people out of my inner circle (that’s a whole other story though). Without a doctor’s note, I think my social life would have winded down to look the same. Sober. Honest. I found things that filled me to the tippy-top with love and creativity. I studied Reiki and yoga, earning certificates in both. Opened up my own little illustration side business. This to me was cool.
On Friday night Emily and I walked around the Lower West Side after seeing a comedy show. Bars were spilling with laughing people. Everyone was doing their own thing and, from my vantage point, loving it. Me? I felt uncomfortable, self-conscious, and confused. I kept my head down and didn’t make eye contact with anyone. When someone tried to start up a passing conversation I pretended not to hear them. This behavior compared to my usual spunky, silly, can-talk-to-anyone-about-their-life personality. We stopped in a bar to hear some live R&B and Em ordered a drink while I stayed stiff in the crowd. My favorite songs came and went and all I could manage was a subtle sway. I felt like everyone was watching me and I was worried I’d do something embarrassing. Is this what being young and sober is like? I thought.
The next morning we visited Café Lalo for brunch (You Got Mail, anyone?). Over eggs and tea, I decided to tell her what was going through my mind the night before. She was stunned. “Whoa, that sounds exhausting,” she said. “You’re the last person I would guess to feel that way.” It was admittingly a hard leap for her to make. In our tiny, close-knit school I was outgoing at bars, plus I indulged in gin and tonics helping free me of this stifling discomfort. I ordered a croissant and she asked questions. “It sounds like,” she paused and tilted her head to the side. “Social anxiety.” It could have been the huge open windows I was facing or the warmth of my green Sencha, but my shoulders released and my chest opened up. The word fit perfectly into the shape of my discomfort. I said out loud for the first time with a sense of relief, “Damn. I have social anxiety!”
Naturally, it got me thinking: how many people have an underlying sense of anxiety without alcohol? Is that really why we drink? While Em was in the bathroom I did a quick Google search and came across an article highlighting cognitive behavioral coping techniques. Skimming, I found one part particularly interesting. It said avoiding the activity you’re anxious about gives power to your fear. Basically, every time I avoided going out I was programming my mind to think nightlife definitively equals anxiety because when I stayed home I didn’t feel anxious. Sounded a lot like me. I chewed on this thought while we spent the rest of the day giggling our way through a street fair. Saturday night slowly approaching.
That evening we indulged in some serious girl time. Picture takeout Chinese, Sex and the City, and sweatpants. Also, picture my designer jumper hanging on the closet door. “I really want you to try that on,” Emily said from under her turquoise knit blanket. “Mmm maybe next time I get up,” I replied and we both broke into laughter. We were miles away from dressing up. True, I could have easily stayed on that couch and avoided going out altogether, all the pieces were there, but I wanted to tinker with this fear of mine. We agreed to remain within walking distance of the apartment and after turning on some lights and music the experiment was in motion. “Are you going to drink?” asked Em from the bathroom. “I think one glass of wine,” I answered honestly. The truth? I was pretty excited. I slipped into the jumper per Emily’s request. “It fits you perfectly, and it’s beautiful, but this feels more like a goal outfit,” she concluded. I hung it back up in agreement. When I feel more comfortable going out, I’ll wear you, I said mentally.
As we walked up to the first bar I felt my personality drain into the sidewalk. It looked crowded and drunk, and horrible. I told Emily—we kept walking. She suggested a neighborhood bar with fewer people where we climbed into two corner seats and ordered our glasses of wine. I was still excited but feeling cautious. We scanned the room to find a table full of what looked like old frat friends, a few people eating, and a drunk couple that made me miss getting a drink with my college sweetheart. The environment was clearly harmless but I walked Em through all of my anxious thoughts. A half a glass in and I felt myself teetering on the line of tipsy. One glass and I felt like I could take on that first bar we passed. Felt like I could walk in and start up conversations like my usual self. Was this my answer?
Here are a few thoughts still I don’t have answers for. If I drink a glass of wine to feel comfortable am I really working on healing my anxiety? Am I being my true self? Honoring my feelings? Is it really so bad I don’t enjoy nightlife? Is this something I need to put effort into healing within myself? There are plenty of people who enjoy a sober life. Whose evenings look quiet like my own. But then again, I do miss the taste of wine. Of pulling up a chair to the home-cooked meal my boyfriend made us with a glass of red. Even going out for a casual drink with him or a friend. Now that my acne is clear, I feel less pressure to remain strict (though I know I can’t go overboard). Where is my line?
The night ended with two and a half glasses of Pinot Grigio, a 50 Cent song, and friendly banter. I felt accomplished. Sunday morning I unhooked my jumper from her closet door and folded it, feeling like my goal wasn’t too far away. Now, back home, I’m lying on my bed with a full glass of lemon water and a few lit candles. Crickets are snapping outside my suburban window. I have some thinking to do, for sure. I’ll be a little easier on myself when it comes to enjoying the occasional drink with dinner. That’s a boundary I am certain I can handle. It feels true for me. Maybe one day I will work to throwing on a sassy outfit and dancing to live R&B sober. My resistance doesn’t lie with facing my anxiety; it lies with needing a crutch to do so. And, who knows, this could be one of those healings I need to play with in real time, like in a few weeks when Emily and I have sleep over plans. For now, I know a little but more about myself than I did before. To me that’s something to toast.