I'm an incredibly anxious person. Social events make me extremely uncomfortable, I'm too busy staying "out of the way" and being anxious to enjoy anything, and it's not unheard of for me to leave in tears.
So the perfect way for me to spend a Sunday night is obviously reading, writing, and watching TV, right? Maybe. But I went to a loud and crowded bar to play Doctor Who trivia with strangers!
I still don't know what possessed me to do it. I didn't expect to enjoy it, and only went because I thought I might be good at it (which, in itself, is a major leap in confidence that I'm still trying to explain). But I had a blast. We did leave early, but in this case "early" was after 2+ hours, and it was just because I was tired and the last round wasn't anything I was good at.
I went with my mother, who has no interest in the show, and it turned out it was a team event. I got absorbed into a team that ended up being me and four other people. I should have been nervous about that. I have never felt comfortable and accepted at a social event, but I did there. They were my kind of people, and within a few minutes I was laughing and talking with complete strangers and feeling like I belonged.
And I helped with questions! Sometimes just confirming things they weren't sure of, but there were some where I was the only one who knew the answer. At some point the guys wandered away, pointing to me and another girl and saying something along the lines of "these two have it covered." I can't put into words how amazing it felt to matter.
We came within a point and a half of winning the first round. They laughed at my jokes and there was some degree of banter involved. It was a good night. Even when I messed up I didn't hate myself for it and still felt... Accepted? I literally don't have a word for what I felt because I don't think I've ever felt it before.
Like, I'm always wondering if people really like me and if they're just letting me do things to be nice. But I didn't even consider that as a possibility. I didn't feel like my wheelchair was in the way or affecting the way people treated me in the least. I was just one of the team. Just another person, not a pity project or a spectacle or a burden. Equal.
I didn't even know my depressed and anxious and awkward brain was capable of feeling that way. It may have changed my life.
I spend every second in public pretending. Pretending that I'm someone else, that I know what to say and when to make a funny comment, that I'm not that weird nerd who names her pets after scientists and can recite the periodic table backwards and knows how many "New"s there are in the name of New New York (15). I don't know how I tricked myself into believing that it's impossible for people to like the real me. All I know is it isn't true, and maybe they didn't actually forget to install the ability to feel confidence and happiness in my brain.