For nearly as long as I can remember, anxiety has plagued my entire existence. It’s been what I’ve considered to be my prime weakness above anything else, and it’s barred me from truly enjoying my life as much as I likely should.

A chunk of my life was spent believing that the crux of my anxiety issues came from my early diagnosis of ADHD, and the introverted-ness that came with it. And for a while, it made sense. I had a reasonable explanation to give, even if it was for something that I wasn’t particularly comfortable with. Then came the discovery that I didn’t actually have ADHD, and I instead had a case of anxiety and a mild case of depression.

But then a recent conversation I had with my friend Trevor a few weeks ago brought up an interesting point: Gay guys, quite commonly (and maybe LGBT people in general), have some form of anxiety issues, from how we look to the way we act around certain people and how we react when put in certain situations. And it all connects to the underlying belief that, if we be ourselves based on the environment we’re in, we’ll be subject to discrimination, bullying, harassment, and so on, and particularly for middle school and high school kids who are gay, this is an enormously difficult thing to go through. In college, the pressure lessens up drastically because, for the most part, you’re amongst anywhere from 10,000 – 20,000 people; not everyone is going to know who you are, or, more importantly, care, contrary to what many people believe.

We allow ourselves to be prisoners of our mind, trapped in an invisible box looking out into a world and a life we desperately want to be a part of and live in, but don’t quite have the strength to do so. Not everyone falls victim to this; some have risen above it. But others, like me, aren’t quite as fortunate.

Fall Welcome kicked off earlier this month, as did the return of hundreds of students to Western’s campus, and a couple dozen familiar faces back to the caf where I work at. One of them I happened to run into midway through the week, filling out some paperwork with the scheduling supervisor. He’s not an asshole in the slightest, but he did say “I miss you! Well, not in a bad way.” Sarah, the scheduling supervisor, was as confused as I was, questioning him if there was a wrong way to miss someone, and he said “Well I just don’t want to give you the wrong idea.”

Mind you, he’s from the Middle East (or some country overseas), notoriously known for their anti-gay beliefs, so I knew what he was alluding to and what little, pleasant feeling I had towards seeing him again immediately vanished.

This isn’t the first instance with him. Sometime last spring semester one day, he was working a shift, swiping people’s ID cards. Someone came in to pay with a credit card and I reached over him to grab the credit card machine and pull it closer, and my arm happened to brush against his for a spare second, and he said something along the lines of “You know man, I’m sure there’s a girl for you somewhere out there.”

Another time, I brought everyone’s time cards back to the punch-out machine as he was running back to grab his, and he said “I love you! Just…not in that way.” And it’s the way he worded his responses in all three scenarios that have definitely made him someone I’m less than interested being around. I could’ve said something, yes, but I decided biting my tongue was better. Next time, I likely won’t have the same restraint.

But it’s that exact restraint we’re ingrained to have, because retaliating against bullies only lands in further trouble, whether physical or verbal, and I’ve never been keen on ending up with a black eye. We’re forced to sit there and act like these comments don’t bother us, and based on where we live, there’s little that can actively be done about it because it’s not covered as a form of bullying and going against school rules.

For so long, I’ve been dying to know the root of my anxiety, and at last I think I’ve finally found it. The challenge is overcoming it.

My living situation certainly doesn’t make that easy. All three of my roommates are officially moved in. The newest one seems pretty okay, the one I’ve been living with for the last year is creepy and awkward as hell, and the one I share a bathroom with is…interesting, to say the least. None of them are assholes, I’m thankful to say, but overall they’re not quite the type of people I want to hang out with regularly. Watching sports 24/7 doesn’t appeal to me any more than “tryin’ to hit up some bitches,” and so much of my time is spent in my room.

The one I’ve lived with for the past year has made comments like “He’s 4 years older than you and he lives in his room,””He probably wouldn’t want to hang out with us,” and so on. And the truth is, no, I really don’t, not because I don’t enjoy hanging out with people, but because between me and them, we’re completely different individuals. I want people I can actually relate to, in some cases on a deeper emotional level. These guys are not gonna fit the bill by any means.

Many times, I’ve consistently wished my living situation was better. I love the convenience of having an apartment so close to campus, particularly because I don’t have a car. But the people I live with…well it’s not my ideal situation.

A month or two ago, I also decided to change my stance against Grindr and download it and try it for myself, because as much as I can cast judgment about how it’s used and who uses it, I can’t say for sure one way or another unless I use it for myself. My main purpose at the moment is to find more gay guys to be friends with, and then see what, if anything, happens from there. Some people use it for sex, and I’ve received the occasional comment asking me for that, but sex with a complete stranger is not particularly my cup of tea.

I say more gay guy friends too because at the moment, I only have two, one I haven’t hung out with since the end of the spring semester, the other I haven’t hung out with since late March or April, but both I see at the caf fairly regularly.  One is now an RA, and on top of that, also has a couple jobs he’s juggling between classes, so my opportunities to hang out with him weren’t quite as frequent as they were last fall, and I’m kicking myself I didn’t take advantage of all the free time he had much sooner. Hopefully I’ll miraculously get more opportunities in the future.

The other one happens to be the same one that turned me down back in April, and by now, yeah I’m mostly over it at this point, but I still can’t help but wonder “What if?” What if someone actually took a chance on me, friend or otherwise? What if, instead of only hearing no and broken promises, I heard yes? I still believe that day can happen, I’m just patiently waiting for the people who will make it a reality.

I’ve also been wrestling with the question of how busy can someone actually be to not talk to you. Three of the wonderful friends I’ve made on this account have found boyfriends (though one of them recently called it quits) and have largely forgot I existed in the past few weeks. The conversations have all mostly been pretty one-sided too, and I can’t blame people for being busy or having lives. I’m not that important for someone to talk to every single day or acknowledge my existence. So many people are, unfortunately, temporary. But it sucks when I feel like I’m the only one keeping a friendship alive, all to avoid being forgotten.

But these things happen. It’s a part of life, and I’m the last person to say I hate anyone I consider to be my friend. Maybe I’m the one that needs to be better too. Who knows. Everything is a two-way street, I just wish I knew if I was driving the right way.

By the greatest of miracles, I hung out with someone yesterday! And you may laugh and scoff and think I’m ridiculous, and it’s true on some days, but what many people take for granted, I value with my life. Most people consider bonfires and parties and trips to the movies to be second-nature, but to me, it’s the equivalent of waking up on Christmas morning as a kid and finding a stack of presents under the tree. The opportunity to hang out with people is enormously rare for me.

We traveled downtown to a place called Shakespeare’s Pub (sadly no live reading of Romeo & Juliet, that’s on another night) for a drink and some food, and then went to the Civic Auditorium for the musical Evita, which was pretty good! Was it anything glamorous? No, but it was far better than sitting alone by myself on most nights, and for that, I can be thankful.

I just have to keep the hope alive that more days like that are still coming, and one way or another, I have to keep fighting for what I want and maybe, if I’m lucky, I’ll eventually get it.

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