Day 39 of self-isolation.
Today is my 37th birthday, and I must admit that the current situation of social distancing and self-quarantine gives me some emotional reprieve — especially on this day.
Let me preface that I’m an INFJ.
Outwardly, I may appear as a very social person, but inside my own head, I like being alone and truly dislike having attention drawn onto me. I’ve noticed when I make something I’m proud of and seeking attention, no one cares — but when I’m being myself, I feel unwanted attention is brought onto me. For instance, when I’m in a social situation (particularly one where I have no control over the environment and not hosting), I remain withdrawn and quiet in order to not draw criticism or judgement. My friends like to tease me a lot, and if I talk I get made fun of; if I’m quiet, people wonder what’s wrong. It’s a dumb situation, and hence — as a sensitive guy — I like being alone.
By nature, despite whatever anyone fucking says, I’m a very shy individual. I’ve grown up very withdrawn, attached to my parents’ side at the parties they go to. Throughout elementary school to undergrad, I was always a quiet, introspective student (it wasn’t until grad school and living in New York that I started to break out of my shell). Even today, in group chats, I merely observe the conversations and chime in when personally needed or addressed. It’s these social situations that make me feel awkward, and I reflect to who I was in the past. I use social media (and very much this blog) to give a glimpse of who I am — although I just use Facebook now for animal memes and cute pet photos.
I feel slightly uncomfortable when people sing “Happy Birthday,” and my own emotional baggage makes me feel like I don’t deserve anything nice, much less a day or a few hours devoted to me. Certainly, I’m guilty of giving the special treatment to others on their own birthdays, but my personal psychological characterization thinks “why would I deserve this? Nothing about me merits anything.” I’m a kind, creative guy who gives more than he takes, for sure, but everyone has their internalized flaws. It’s definitely all about self-confidence, something everyone knows I’m somewhat lacking.
So how do I tolerate my own birthday when friends decide to celebrate it? The answer is alcohol; I allow my inhibitions and self-loathing to drown in a glass of whiskey. I’m not much of a drinker, per se, but I will have a drink or two in most social situations. I won’t drink when I’m alone, but at a party, hand me something on the rocks or a glass of wine. Substance escapism is indeed a way to relieve whatever dumb anxieties I have.
And that leads me to today, where everyone is forced to stay away from each other, and I don’t have to physically be anywhere with anyone. By the time this is posted, I’ll be in the middle of a Zoom party with friends near and far celebrating my birthday. I appreciate the sentiment of my friends wanting to get together, and I’m grateful that technology and the social etiquette of our current situation can allow me to remain silent or even momentarily step away; I won’t have to solely carry a conversation, and there are enough tiny little screens that people might not notice if I disappear for a second or two. This year’s birthday, I feel, will be a great one. My primary concern, though, is that it’s going to be a roast, and I’ve told a few people I have a few apprehensions. Even if they’re going to be entertained at my expense, I have enough emotional fortitude to tolerate it (it’ll help that I’ll have a bourbon with me). I love my friends, but my mild social anxiety and my overall disposition of “not being good enough” tends to make me strive for creative isolation — to be alone in self-reflection and improve my artistic skills and imaginative ideas.
Despite this pandemic and my personal (albeit flawed) rationales, being 37 doesn’t feel too different from when I was 36 or even when I was 25. There are a lot of goals I still want to accomplish, and even at this age, I feel I’m not at the level I want to be: I want to have a better job and not have to worry about money; I want to have a wife and kids and a stable home. I want the worries I have about the people I care about to resolve themselves, and in turn make me feel so less co-dependent. I still have a lot to work on myself. Thankfully, I think my coping and emotional skills have come a long way from even last year, and I’m ready to give rational advice and emotional support to anyone who needs it. I’ve lost a lot of weight, too, and I’m making better lifestyle choices, with a goal to be at a reasonable weight by the end of spring.
Who the fuck knows what is going to happen within the next year, when I turn 38 and when things in our world are hopefully better. Nevertheless, I can look back at this post, on the edge of this apocalypse, and see who a younger Phillip Retuta was.