Baby Steps


Yes, I am both alive and writing! This impromptu hiatus came from the good old-fashioned ‘shit I have a year’s worth of revision to do in three weeks’ fear, which is quite a reassuring kind of piercing dread compared to the other sources of piercing dread in my life these days.

And it’s that piercing dread, and assorted painful emotions prefaced with violent adjectives, that I want to write about today: shattering fear, gouging regret, gut-ripping despair, and the like.

This last year, from September to now, has been the hardest of my life. Certainly not the worst, but absolutely the hardest. I’ve fallen out with at least two close circles of friends twice each, and painstaking rebuilt the bridges I myself burned in operations about as easy as constructing a 1:1 scale replica of the Empire State Building out of matchsticks, chewing gum and discarded zippers from Sports Direct tracksuits. I also shed my assigned gender in scenes closely resembling the emergence of a butterfly from a cocoon, except if that butterfly suffered from crippling insecurity issues and fled back to their boring cocoon state whenever they hung out with their more beautiful and experienced butterfly mates who have been doing this butterfly malarkey for much longer. I started a magazine, lost interest, picked it up again, lost it again, and generally behaved as inconsistently as Rowan Atkinson’s character in the first season of Blackadder, and I was simultaneously distant from all of my societies, yet fanatically interested enough to sign up for two committee positions – including a presidency – next year, all but ruining any fledgling hope I still had of getting a first.

It’s been a year of swings, from wanting to get all dolled up in heels and makeup one minute, to loathing myself and anyone who comments on my appearance the next; from feeling painfully lonely one second, then being afraid of my friends at any social gathering with alcohol and/or more than five people. I was once told that this year has been like a pendulum, and I’m swinging wildly now, but it will soon settle into a more composed and coherent middle ground.

And last night, for the first time, I began to see that middle ground.

I was invited to a three-tiered social extravaganza, promising to whisk me from pub to flat to club like a Disney princess, only with fewer anthropomorphised lizards and more crushing social anxiety. In first year, I would have jumped at such an opportunity; I’d have put on one of my many shirts that falls into the ‘edgy and offensive but not quite insulting enough to result in my being barred from a club’ collection, rocked up painfully punctually, and enjoyed an evening of watching my friends fall into drunken, and hilarious, stages of affection, poor life choices and endlessly retweeted regret. This year, however, such interactions have filled me with horror; for reasons both personal and tediously complex I’ve developed a de facto fear of alcohol, for reasons mental I’ve fallen into increasingly unstable voids of non-confidence about my gender and appearance, and for reasons relating to my personal failures I’ve neglected a lot of my friends, turning social interactions into awkward bridge-rebuilding exercises, rather than anything necessarily fun.

Last night, however, these factors were more nuanced. The fear of alcohol was still there, and it honestly made the night difficult. Even the diabetes tried to screw me over, making everything a little more stressful and painful. But gender wasn’t an issue; I wore a dress and did my makeup and felt genuinely pretty for perhaps the first time ever. I talked to friends, and instead of our early exchanges being awkward and forced, I thought they were fun and relaxed. People were open and talkative, rather than shunning me in the way that I perhaps would have done had our roles been reversed.

Because ultimately, I don’t fit into a lot of ‘conventional’ (in heavy air quotes) social circles: I don’t drink but quite enjoy dancing but hate being in large, loud groups but love being lost in a crowd; I like playing sports but hate the afterparties but enjoy becoming stronger and fitter but hate gyms. If every social scene has, say, ten key features, I usually enjoy about five of them, and am repulsed or scared by the other five.

However, this is not to complain aimlessly, but to provide a starting point for next year. If there aren’t enough non-drinking socials at a sports club, I’ll invent some; I’m a president for gods’ sake. If I like dancing but hate most club music I’ll find new venues and drag my well-meaning but confused friends along to those. I’ve spent two years trying every social niche I can find – arts societies, magazines, sports clubs, after-work socials, you name it – and instead of getting frustrated at not fitting into one or two, I should be looking for new things, and if that fails, making my own amusement.

And I’m sure I’m not the first person in the world to think this. Surely not everyone at KOKO genuinely feels as elated as the handful of grinning dancers in photos they plaster all over their Facebook page, so I don’t want to set up a ‘me against the world’ approach where all my friends represent mainstream enemies, and I’ll find enjoyment by shunning them to start one-person moshpits in my bedroom. I’ve tried that, and it sucks.

I don’t know where this approach will lead me, but I’m excited to find out. In year one I tried everything under the sun, in year two I tried nothing out of fear and spite; now let’s find some events I’ll love with the people who are important.


Author: JP Casey

They/them. Chaotic gender neutral. Straight Edge. Writer. Journalist. User of full stops.

4 thoughts on “Baby Steps”

  1. And the Casey emerges! How are you! (Admittedly I did the Google a couple of times, wondering if my Reader had failed me.) And oh can’t we all understand the mass-shove de la révision. Just to clarify, your exams are over, right?
    Right, so now for the knuckle-cracking bit where I let the fact that it’s 03:32 and I’ve just watched three episodes of Skins influence my thought process as I submerge between the lines of the deeper bits of your post. From your writing – I feel like I’ve made this comment before but I’ll say it again – I can tell you’re a bright person who takes a lot in their stride and keeps motoring on. You have university and then your writing projects and your sport and other interests and more and to be frank, from a lowly soon-to-be-sixth-former (when did I get so old) it’s quite astonishing how you do all of that. Like, JESUS. I can’t even take time out for fun maths right now and its only GCSE. So, to hear that these other issues have crept in on you in this past (kind-of) academic year makes me both sad and happy. Sad that you’ve experienced it (and the friends bit especially because we all know the importance of circles), but happy in that you’re taking a new, exciting approach. GO YOU. No doubt you’ve got friends cheering you on so I hope all goes well. And this bit made me go yay in particular: “But gender wasn’t an issue; I wore a dress and did my make up and felt genuinely pretty for perhaps the first time ever.” Dresses, HAZAAR! And the make-up I’m with you on that one (but personally I still suck at liquid eyeliner, I mean, I’d go with pencil but it doesn’t have the same effect, you get me?)!
    Keep on keeping on.
    Any typos; some be-quiffed chart-topper has my response summed up in a song title. So badger him.

    1. Hello again! I feel like the Google fails us sometimes :p And that sounds like the perfect context to read stuff within – usually I ‘read’ the texts on my course alongside a game or YouTube video or both XD

      Aww thank you :3 Life is certainly harder than it was, but definitely worth it :p And liquid eyeliner confuses me on a deep, emotional level. I feel like it’s a form of sorcery.

      Also I’ll be 20 within a month you are a child and have nothing to worry about young one :’)

      Are you doing okay?

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