I hate when people say, "I don't have anxiety," because: of course you do. Literally everyone has anxiety. Except maybe sociopaths. I don't actually know enough about sociopaths to confirm that, beyond what I learn from Dateline. And working for small business owners.
If you've ever opened an avocado, you have experienced anxiety. Is it going to be all hard, and smell like Kleenex? Is it going to have brown spots and basically ruin my life, because I was counting on guacamole? How do I get the pit out? Are we slicing this thing horizontally or vertically? Oh, God, what if this knife goes straight through the skin and stabs my palm? How am I even going to drive myself to the ER with stabby, bleeding avocado hand? I'm sure they see avocado wounds, like, all the time, but you just know those nurses are sick of everyone's stupid knife decisions. My point is: don't tell me you're not anxious unless you buy store-bought guacamole.
That's not to suggest that a pervasive anxiety disorder is the same thing as, say, feeling nervous during your PAP smear because you're trying not to fart on your gynecologist's face. I am well aware of the difference between flatulence jitters and frequent, debilitating panic attacks. But why do we treat any level of anxiety like it's some sort of character defect? Why do some folks try so damn hard to pretend like they're immune to feeling afraid?
I think it's time to admit the fact that sometimes, life is bigger than your heart can bear, and you're occasionally going to experience an emotion because of that. Sometimes, you're just minding your own business, and some rat bastard stabs your sweet avocado mind with his rat bastard-y serrated blade, and that shit fucking hurts.
And when that happens, guess what:
It is okay to say, "Ouch."
Every single one of us, even the stabbiest avocado stabbers, has anxiety about something. People may act like they're above feeling fearful, but usually the ones who are most deeply committed to the image of mental toughness are the most terrified avocados among us.
I wish someone had taught me this when I was a kid.
It would have saved me a whole lot of soul-sucking energy trying to figure out what was wrong with me. (Spoiler alert: plenty of things. But that's what makes me interesting.) Back in the 80s (oh, God, that is painful to write out loud), bullying was still just a fact of adolescence, so it was always problematic that I was so sensitive about it.
From 5th grade through high school, everything was a potential crime against popularity, and we all knew it was better to be invisible than to get caught being different. If you existed in a pod of young people, sooner or later you would find yourself on the receiving end of someone's scathing criticism, and you were expected to accept that this was just a normal part of being a kid. Your hair, your weight, your clothes, your hobbies, what you brought for lunch– nothing was off-limits. "Sticks and stones," the adults would say. Words shouldn't hurt, because fists are worse.
There were, of course, some really lovely grownups who understood what it was like to be bothered by being the target. But most of them would lament that you weren't getting walloped by a belt, so you just needed to develop a thicker skin. "Schools can't even spank you guys anymore," they'd say. "You've got it so good." Ask anyone whose parents bought their jeans from Fleet Farm, though, and they'd tell you they'd prefer the paddle.
Anyway, the thing that I wish they had told me, back then, was that the angst I felt, about not fitting in, was what all of the other kids felt, too. Every single one of them. Maybe some of them seemed like they didn't, because they were the ones dishing out the assholery. But underneath the Abercrombie & Fitch logos, each and every one of those kids was the same nervous, insecure, trembling little human, who just wanted to feel like they belonged somewhere.
And no matter how it comes out, how it looks from the outside, that need to feel like you're understood– that's the thing that we all have in common. That's what drives the feeling that we aren't good enough, or smart enough, or thin enough. What we do with that feeling matters, of course. Shared longing for a sense of connection doesn't give anyone tacit permission to be cruel. But it does make a whole lot of human behavior make sense, to me.
So, can we maybe just try to be okay with the fact that anxiety is a perfectly normal, healthy response to the world around us? And just, I don't know... Stop treating each other like the only acceptable feelings are the toxically-positive ones? Because, I gotta be honest. I know a lot of people with deliciously complex, sensitive avocado hearts, and they're some of the bravest people I have ever met.