"Hey…You know that thing you did two weeks ago in class? Yeah, that thing that probably nobody else noticed… but what if they did, and what if they, like you, are lying awake at three in the morning replaying that situation in their heads too, and they also think that you probably shouldn't have gotten into UGA with the way you conduct yourself in public on a daily basis, and you know what, they probably also realize that raising your hand and then stuttering until the professor moved on from you was the stupidest thing you possibly could have done. They know that, you know that, let's not pretend that we don't all know that. In addition, they probably also think that you would be better off never leaving your room again, just to be safe. Stay here and think about what you've done; they'll never look at you the same."
Ah, the voice of anxiety. She's a cute one. Unfortunately, most of us face this battle within ourselves on a regular basis. We make a pretty minuscule mistake - dropping a water bottle in a quiet lecture hall, waving at someone when they're not waving at you, loudly saying the wrong answer in class - and at first, you're like OK, shake it off, it happens. But then you think it back over. And the more you think about it, the stupider it becomes in your head. Cut to three the next morning and you should probably just drop out of school now. This is your own personal apocalypse.
I've gone through many events that put me in this position, as I experienced what was arguably one of the roughest first semesters of college I could have had. I'll spare you the details, but here are a few my best "kill me now" moments just to give you an idea of what I'm talking about:
1. First and foremost, Wine Night 2k18.
In short, this event involved me, a couple of bottles of wine, and eventually the police. I'll leave you with that.
2. Hugging my friend who was not actually my friend, but his older brother.
Who, may I add, I'd never met. There's nothing quite like looking up into the face of a thoroughly confused 23-year-old man with your arms still wrapped around him. Look, stranger dude, I'm confused too. No two people should look that similar.
3. The MLC men's room.
Hey, UGA architects, WHY do the men's and women's bathrooms seem to switch sides on every floor of the MLC? That could possibly make it confusing for…certain people… who fail to look at the signs before they walk in! After five times, you think I'd learn. (Hint: Looking calmly into the face of a poor, confused male student and saying, "No, it's okay, this happens all the time," doesn't make it better, for them or for you.)
4. Dining hall windows.
A quick word, guys, they're tinted, but they are not those cool one-way windows where you can see out but people can't see in. The people outside can see you staring intently at them and admiring their outfits as they walk. And they will notice. And they will wave awkwardly.
5. Car windows.
Another quick word, car windows work the same way. Even if you see what you think is a guy passed out in the front seat of his car outside of Cookout, just walk away. His safety is not as important as the dignity you will lose when he, inevitably, is not passed out but is making out with his SO in the privacy of his own car, while you, the creeper, stand paralyzed with your face and hands cupped against the driver's window as the couple stares at you in shock.
Even though little things like these can feel like the end of your world, the reality is that nobody cares as much about your mistakes as you do. Chances are, you're the only one who actually remembers what you said or did, and yet these are the thoughts that keep you up at night. It wasn't until recently that I learned a two-step process to change the way I approach these situations: "Just say yikes and move on." It's so simple, and yet it takes the gravity out of so many situations. Dictionary.com defines the word yikes as "an exclamation of surprise or alarm." Fail a test you thought you had in the bag? Yikes. Call someone by the wrong name to their face? Um, yikes. Get detained in the first thirty days of school? Big yikes (no further comments or questions, thank you). Acknowledging that you have reason to be alarmed is the first step. You're aware that you've messed up, and trying to diffuse the situation by saying "It's not that bad!" only makes it worse. You're embarrassed and shook, so get it out in the open! By doing this, not only are you eliminating secret shame, you're publicly declaring that what's done is done. You can't change what's already happened, so you're coming to terms with it. This segues into the second part of the process: move on. You've just admitted that you've messed up, you've had your moment of surprise, and you've acknowledged that you can't change your past actions. Now it's time to carry on with your life. Yeah, that #Sucked, but at least it's over.
Disclaimer: there are some things in life that you actually need to deal with and spend time thinking about. You can't yikes away deep-set personal issues or huge life crises (trust me, I've tried), but don't let your completely normal, human mistakes ruin your life.
You're gonna have to laugh about it eventually, so just go ahead and start now.