Until I was twelve years old, I asked my mother for validation before pouring myself a glass of water.
When friends would show up at the door, sneakers scuffed from walking the country road half-mile to my house, I’d tell them I couldn’t play and then sit stewing for hours, imagining how much fun I’d be having if I’d only said yes, instead.
At sixteen I’d be invited for road trips, a quick text with a simple “yes” or “no” the only ticket I needed to gain access. I’d consider the pros and cons: would I miss a TV show if I went? What inside jokes would I be excluded from if I didn’t? I’d think about it for so long that by the time I would finally decide to go, it would be too late. The friends had already left.
I’d missed the train.
I started ignoring texts. Telling people I was too busy to hangout. The only antidote I could find for what felt like a cage around my brain was to remove myself from all situations where making decisions was a possibility. If I had no friends, I wouldn’t have to choose between staying in and going out. The decision would be made for me.
It wasn’t until I was twenty-two and in college that I realized my fear of making decisions had ruined my life.
I don’t remember the exact moment that thought crossed my mind. The oh shit, my life sucks moment. It was more a build-up. Like standing still in a blizzard, letting the snow and ice form me into an immobile snowperson, until one day I woke up and realized I’d lost the ability to move.
I’d gained weight. It’s easy to do that when you’re not moving. A comfortable chair in a dark room is the safest bet when you’re hiding from the anxiety monster.
I could count my friends on one hand. They were only my friends because they didn’t stop asking even after I’d stopped answering.
I was in college, but I’d never been to a party, never been properly kissed. I didn’t know who I was or what I wanted. I had no future plans, no hope that my hopes would ever become firm enough to manifest.
It was desperation that did it. The raw terror of a completely wasted life more visceral than the dull terror of being responsible for making one.
I started eating better. Working out. Saying yes when people invited me over. I realized I was more of an extrovert than an introvert, that drinking a little wine wasn’t an affront to morality. That so much existed in the world outside of my dark and cramped little bubble.
I made the decision to make decisions. I made the decision to have decisions to make. And the best decision of all was the decision to try. To try everything.
It was the hardest and greatest thing I’ve ever done.