The Violet In The Field
When I realized one of my favorite singers would be in my area this summer at FloydFest, I jumped at the chance. I hadn’t been to a concert in nearly a decade. But, this was no ordinary venue, and Tyler Childers is no ordinary artist. This singer-songwriter uses his voice and thoughtfully bluegrassy arranged instrumentals to evoke haunting stories of love, loneliness, and personal struggle. I would not be a shrinking violet and pass up this opportunity.
Set among the rolling foothills of the Appalachians, FloydFest is a multiple-stage event featuring artists singing country, blues, bluegrass, folk, and anything in between. And it’s kid-friendly… bonus! Being a camping family, we decided to camp nearby and bring the kids along. We took a chance that the kids would make it through the day without wearing out too early.
We arrived around 3 pm and made ourselves busy enjoying the kid-friendly portion of the festival, enjoying the music, and people watching. As evening approached, the event quickly devolved into a balancing act. We wavered between keeping the kids happy and lasting long enough to watch Tyler Childers perform. By 8 pm the scale was heavily tipped in the kids’ favor.
Fighting The Shrink
By 9 pm, they were falling asleep in my husband’s arms. I joined the crowd of fans while my husband sat on a bench far beyond the crowd. Although I was dying to stay for Tyler’s entire set, looking at my two small children huddled in my husband’s lap was too much. I decided to three songs and cut out so we could head back to camp and put the kids to bed. I was sad to miss Tyler play his whole set but knew that was the chance we were taking by bringing kids with us.
Standing there in the vast throng of people all shoulder to shoulder, waiting for Tyler to come on stage, sent all my socially anxious neurons firing at once. Being socially anxious meant feeling out of place, feeling as if I was surrounded by people who had more of a right to be there than me. But I fought against my urge to be a shrinking violet and flee, and I stayed put.
At last, Tyler came on stage, opening up with his newest release. As the crowd clapped, hooted, and hollered, I grabbed my phone and snapped a quick pic for memory’s sake. I decided to take a short video to watch on the way home since I would only be there for two more songs — wrong move.
The Violet Just Shrunk
10 seconds into my recording, I heard a shout from a few people behind me, “No one cares about your video.” Now given that the NIMH defines social anxiety as, “an intense, persistent fear of being watched and judged by others,” you can imagine how I felt at that instant. My fear was realized!
This message had affected me in two ways. Embarrassment was the only emotion I felt for at least five minutes from that point on, which only reinforced the illogical but persistent feeling that I didn’t deserve to be there. I had become the thing I avoided, the ultimate shrinking violet. Not only did I shrink. I wilted, withered, and longed to melt into the grass beneath my feet.
I also felt as if a colossal spotlight had swung around to shine directly down on me. Of course, that wasn’t the case. And besides the group of fans immediately surrounding me, no one else had heard or cared to hear what one insensitive pie-hole had blurted out.
Nonetheless, my thirty-second video was ruined because of his remark forever concreted within the video clip. My enjoyment of the next two songs diminished significantly. And I deleted my clip without ever listening to it.
Any logical person would say, “Don’t let some anonymous ass in a crowd ruin your experience.” And I tried. I tried hard not to be affected. But it got to me nonetheless.
Still Determined To Bloom
The thing about social anxiety is that new experiences will always be a high-stakes gamble with 50/50 odds between insecurity and enjoyment. I will always push myself to experience new things despite the risk. Sometimes it will turn out well. Sometimes I’ll have to push extra hard against my insecurities and doubts to make it through the day.
Life is full of beauties and bullies. Some people will lift you up, and some people will drag you down. I get it… taking a video in the middle of a concert may be distracting to the people around just trying to enjoy the music. But instead of shouting out a snide remark, couldn’t a more reasonable response have been to wait to see if I put my phone away? And if I continued recording, couldn’t that annoyed person tap me on the shoulder and quietly ask me to put my phone away?
I’m not asking for a handout. I’m just asking for people to behave civilly towards each other. You will never know what those around you struggle with daily. We all have internal wars we wage. Let’s treat each other with compassion.
Yeah, it took me a good 24 hours to get over that event, which shames me to admit. I long to be one of those people who can brush stupid, inconsequential actions like that right off. But I’m not. I’m a sensitive, socially anxious woman working hard to make it through the day without hiding myself away.
I may have wilted a bit at this event, but I refuse to remain a shrinking violet. I will see Tyler again. Next time, I’ll leave the kids at home, even if the event is “kid-friendly.” And, I will keep my camera tucked neatly away in my mommy fanny pack!