School Lockers: A Thing That Gave Me Great Anxiety

All four years of high school, I had a locker. 

All four years of high school, I used my locker zero times.  

My brain convinced me if I tried, I would be late for class. And thus I would get in trouble and be a gigantic disappointment to everyone I care about.

For my lil still-forming brain, breaking rules of any kind was the worst thing I could do. So I did whatever I possibly could to avoid it. Including carrying pounds and pounds of books in my arms and on my back.

I didn’t even have a proper backpack! I carried my notebooks and stuff in a green messenger bag and the school books and readin’ books in my arms. 

I think I might have filled the locker once at the beginning of every year with the hopes that my brain would let me use it, but nope. By the end of the day, I’d have all the books in my arms before my last class of the day and there they’d stay until the final day of classes. 

Luckily I went to a very small school (there were about 50 folks in my graduating class), so I didn’t have to slug my books around too far all day, but still. 

the words 'locker anxiety' over a photograph of red lockers

Looking back now, I realize that this was rooted big time in anxiety. 

And it seems so obvious now, but then I was just this little thing with glasses and a perm who’s arms were always stuffed with school books, reading books and notebooks, because I always had to have options. My purse was always overstuffed with extra pens and papers and whatever else I might possibly need during the school day. 

I also liked to have extras in case someone else wasn’t prepared. 

That wasn’t anxiety-based though. I made sure to have extras for borrowing because I felt that was the only way people would talk to me. 

I only felt liked when I was needed. So I would make sure to have things that peopled “needed”. 

Ok, well, wait (I am editing this now, so this is an editor note, lol)… this sounds a lot like anxiety to me. 

Oof, let me tell you ALL the ways that has screwed me up as an adult. 

Thinking about it gets my brain all circular thinking too. Like, yeah, it’s a good thing to be prepared and it’s also great that I was thinking about other people. HOWEVER, it’s not healthy to think that those “things” all the value I had to give to other humans. 

Cause now I find myself in a place where I worry about things like:

“If I stop doing the laundry every week, will they stop finding me useful to them?”

“If I didn’t have this streaming service they don’t have, would they even come and hang out with me?”

“If I get overwhelmed and want to take a step back from helping my friend with their big project, will they still talk to me?”

“If I didn’t work for a big adult store chain, will they still want to be friends with me?”

And honestly, the answer to that one hurts a bit, because I have felt some people step back from me when they find out I’m no longer in a position to put them in front of my ‘customers’.

But then I remind myself of a couple things:

1. It ain’t all about me. It never is. (Unless it’s me in my brain, of course.) Other people have lives outside of me, and they have things churning around their brains, and troubles and dramas and all that. 

2. If they were only being friendly with me in order to score some swag or stage time, well, that says a whole lot more about them than it does me, doesn’t it?

And worse, it just reiterates the narrative of “People only like you because of the things you do for them.” that my brain has been super into my whole life. 

That’s something I don’t need anymore of, so I should be happy to see people like that outta my life, right?

But nope, my brain still sees that as a me failing, as is there’s something wrong with me for not being whatever they need.

But I’m working on it. I know there are good parts of me inside there that are separate from the things I do for people. Those are the things I’m trying to focus on these days. 

I feel like I’m one of those paintings that someone talented has to restore to its original glory. I’m dusty AF y’all. 

OR MAYBE, it’s more like cleaning out a locker at the end of the a school year. (Not mines, obv… it’s already empty.) Getting rid of all the stuff you don’t need, and cleaning it up so it’s nothing more than a locker. No supplies. Let folks get their own supplies. 

Ugh, that sounds so mean. I’ll keep extra pencils in my purse just in case, still. 

Unmasking after years of trying to fit in has been a trip, y’all.


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