I am one of those people.
You know, those people. The intensely shy, frustratingly self-aware, prone to the ultimate of awkward situations, think-very-carefully-before-you-act-and-speak, look behind your shoulder...those kind of people.
But such is life, right?
Well, I didn't realize what a problem this was...well, I lie, because I do know what a problem this is...but I didn't realize recently what a problem this had become until I encountered an interesting situation last night.
I don't sing in front of people. I don't dance in front of people. I'm one of those people who can't seem to let out musical energy in front of people for fear of looking stupid. This is entirely normal, there are plenty of those people out there. But here is the kicker: I couldn't even dance or sing in the middle of a deserted aisle in the center of an almost empty grocery store last night.
It was around 10 p.m, not a customer in the store, and I was performing the least-exciting task ever: mopping the floor. Journey's "I'll Be Alright Without You" came on over the speakers, a song I hadn't heard at work before, and I was almost instantly transformed. The sixteen year-old me - the one who has become buried by adult issues, college, and time - instantly emerged, threatening to come out of my mouth by way of the lyrics. I held the mop tightly, aware that my co-worker was only feet away, and waited for an opportunity when I could celebrate this song that I hadn't heard in literally years.
I had my opportunity when I went to dump the mop. I walked through an empty aisle with the mop, heading to the back room, but alas, I had my excuse - the mop would be a burden, you cannot possibly air guitar with a mop in your hand, you cannot sing a power ballad and take yourself seriously if you are holding a mop. I dumped the mop and headed back to the empty aisle.
Oh, perfect opportunity! My arms and legs tingled, I felt a weight in my throat (the song obviously trying to get out), and I kept thinking, this is my chance to jam to Journey at work! Nobody was there to look, there were no cameras in that section of the store, the jars of Skippy peanut butter would not judge me, the boxes of Cheerios would not tell anyone, the pancake mix would never remember...here was my moment to be sixteen again, to recapture a part of who I am, to break free, to be something that was not boring or anxious...
I reached the end of the aisle without uttering a note, without opening my mouth, without celebrating, and went back to work. I could not even sing or dance in an empty supermarket.
This was my epiphany, if you will. I deeply admire people who burst into song in random moments, but I couldn't admire myself enough to belt out the chorus of a Journey song in front of nobody. I respect people who don't care what people think of them, but I couldn't respect myself enough to not care what the empty air thought. I love people who have fun, but I couldn't love myself enough to have a twenty-second, uplifting moment. I could have chosen character, I chose fatigue.
It may sound a bit harsh, but it's true. Do I want to tell any potential, future children of mine that I used to drag myself through supermarket aisles at ten o'clock at night, trying not to fall down, or do I want to tell them I danced and sang the length of an aisle every Tuesday night and was a better person because of it?
My pledge now is this: next time I encounter an empty aisle and a Journey song, I will take advantage of it. And who knows, maybe one day I'll advance to choosing a crowded aisle.