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Delivering In NYC Helped Me Overcome My Social Phobia


Delivering In NYC Helped Me Overcome My Social Phobia

 

I will preface this by mentioning that I am a Mexican American college student with Native Mexican parents from the state of Oaxaca.

I was born and raised in the Bronx in April of 1996. I went to grade school three minutes away from my parents' small apartment near Jerome Avenue (quintessential Bronx). I have always been an outcast in this neighborhood, or felt like one, for that matter. However, by age 14, the entire block knew me by name, knew my parents, and knew that I had been granted the salutatorian title upon graduation from middle school.

"...by age 14, the entire block knew me by name, knew my parents, and knew that I had been granted the salutatorian title upon graduation from middle school."

I was very careful about the situations I put myself in, avoiding drawing attention to myself or at least minimizing it. I remember asking my guidance counselor if I truly 'had to' deliver the salutatory address. My counselor insisted that I had to be gifted a plaque. All that ran through my mind was how many people would be at the graduation, who would be there, what I would say upon receiving this honor, and what I would do with my facial expression and posture.

Bronx High School of Science
Bronx High School of Science

My fears and worries became more serious throughout my four years at The Bronx High School of Science. What to do with my facial expression?' became 'Where can I hide today during lunch so that no one sees me by myself?' Being a minority felt more pronounced than ever. My poor social skills and lack of friends didn't make it any easier. I felt awkward, but not the adjective. I felt like I was wearing 'awkward' over my clothes every single day.

I felt truly and completely alone for the first time. I could not see myself, in any scenario, having a conversation with the people who were 'above me.' I believed that my ethnic background made me less, and my social awkwardness made me nothing.

The typical New Yorker has a strong personality and has the keep-to-myself, I don't care what you think mentality. I've never fallen into that category and do not wish to. Still, it must be peaceful, not worrying about what people think of you. I wonder what the white businessman on the subway thinks when he glances over at me, looking down at my feet, hiding my face with my hair.

I joined the workforce in 2015, hopping between different jobs. I landed a delivery job at a Lower East side diner. Things started to change from here. This job was a fast-paced environment where I had no time to think about how my voice sounded or how I was moving my arms while I walked. I was biking to and from, back and forth, between the diner, classy apartment complexes, hospitals, luxury hotels, hair salons, and a montage of fine business buildings.

This exposure made me realize how many people out there are in my shoes. Of course, I've always known about the 'melting pot' in New York. Swimming around in it changed everything.

The comfort I have gained by simply greeting the Greek doorman at the Gramercy complexes every morning, delivering lunch to the blond director at the Citigroup office, and conversing about how we were at the same Radiohead concert at Madison Square Garden in 2016 feels gratifying and wholesome. Even the quiet elderly woman of very few words who orders her oatmeal every other morning has opened my eyes. She's just like me, even if she lives on the 48th floor of this Chelsea tower.

Living in New York City was, and continues to be, a blessing. The phobias and anxieties are waning. The city itself is my therapy. It's a small world in a big city. All one needs to do is stand with open arms. New York City will make sure you see a bit of yourself in every single soul you come across.

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