I’ve been living in the city just over a year now after a life spent largely in small towns in Central Maine.
There are many differences between where I was and where I am now, some of them obvious. For example, Eastern Seaboard roads are quite narrow in a way that roads here in the Midwest are not. The ethnic mix of the population is certainly different here. The suburbs are loud in a way that “home” never was, full of noises of yard work, cars, children playing, all sounds that tend to dissipate in the larger interstices where people are more thinly dispersed.
But I realized yesterday, for the first time consciously, that there are larger forces at work here, changing my environment, my self-perception, my life.
City people are brave in a way that the folks back home never were. Whether you like it or not, there are people everywhere here. When I leave my house to feed the compost pile, even through the back door, I routinely come in contact with at least a few people, neighbor children playing or the guy next door trimming his bushes. Going to get the mail, I’ll routinely see a car or two, a handful of people on the street, maybe a pedestrian strolling by, in the window of a mere minute.
You get over any fear you have of other people really damn fast.
Now, I’m not saying everyone back in Central Maine is full of social anxiety or at least moderate discomfort around strangers, but the general tone was different, and as a sensitive person I responded to that and soaked up that nervous energy. My mother in particular is extremely suspicious and fearful of other people. When a crime happened, a murder, a burglary, etc, it was a big deal, and those around me would fret. Here, we shrug. Read what happened. Move on with our lives. Here, being overly worried about or fixated on that kind of thing is a symptom of anxiety, not the expected norm. Shit happens. You do what you can, take precautions to lessen your odds – but you don’t spend your life worrying that something bad will happen to you.
You live without fear. Your brain sorts out the pragmatics, handles the perfunctory caution, and your heart floats on. If something happens, you’ll deal with it then. But not a moment sooner.
Complicating this, I’m sure, is that the vast majority of the people I know out here are kinksters and on the scene, and if there ever was a braver, more adventuresome bunch, I haven’t met them.
Speaking with my mother on the phone these days, it’s often like she’s speaking to me in another language, the language of fear, doubt. These days, I’m sticking to the language of bravery, beauty.
My former social anxiety has virtually disappeared. I feel empowered, free. I have zero regrets.