Family of Me

by Daphne
Updates Mondays and Fridays

Scene 42: Risk Aversion

Bloom (High school me): So are things any better in college?

Libra (College me): We make more friends — I mean, we’re around our peers literally all the time, so it’s hard not to.

Mom (Present me): Hello girls. What’s today’s topic of conversation?

Bloom: Relationships.

Mom: I thought we pivoted away from relationships.

Libra: I mean, we were talking about how frustrating relationships can be. How we struggle to keep a conversation going sometimes, and feel anxious when there’s a lull.

Bloom: I don’t know how anyone talks to people they don’t know yet — it feels so awkward unless there’s a shared interest or experience or something to talk about.

Mom: Less relationships and more social anxiety, then.

Bloom: Yeah, I guess.

Libra: We seemed to manage okay in college though. We had to interact with people we hardly knew because there wasn’t any other choice, and we managed alright in those situations.

Mom: That’s when we developed your mask, right Libra?

Libra (uncomfortable): I guess so… Is that all it was? My confidence was just masking away the doubt?

Bloom: Our mom used to say she had no idea where our “unearned confidence” came from… Our birth mom, not you, Mom.

Mom: I understand, and I agree — I think a lot of that confidence came from masking away the discomfort. Now that we’re not using those masks anymore, we have to face that discomfort head on.

Bloom: That sounds… Pretty scary.

Libra: It is scary! How do we do that?

Mom: Honestly, I’m not entirely sure yet — I’m still working that out. That said, I think there’s value in trying to explore that discomfort, even if we don’t fully understand the process.

Libra: You’re saying understanding it might give some insight into how to deal with it?

Mom: I am. It’s probably coming from more than one place, but a significant source of discomfort seems to be our difficulty with uncertainty. We get anxious when we have incomplete information about something that we feel compelled to act on.

Bloom: If we’re asked to present on a topic that we haven’t prepared, for example.

Libra: Or if we’re trying to help a friend with something we’re unfamiliar with.

Mom: Or when we’re in a conversation with someone we’ve only just met. Social situations with people we don’t know well are uniquely stressful because we have very little information, we don’t have much opportunity to gather information, and we’re expected to keep up with the conversation in real time. You can’t say “hold on, I need to process for three minutes” to someone you’ve only just met.

Libra: Then our social anxiety is really risk aversion?

Mom: Not entirely, but I think that’s a big part of it. Like both of you pointed out, our aversion to risk plays out in other aspects of our lives too. Maybe it points to a larger truth about ourselves that we don’t understand yet — something deeper inside us that our risk aversion is just the visible tip of.

Libra: Like that iceberg diagram, sure.

Bloom (frustrated): I wish we weren’t such a puzzle. I just want to be a girl, is that too much to ask?

Libra: Maybe it is? Mental health issues are pretty common among trans people.

Mom (sympathetic): It’s no wonder — turns out that living as the wrong gender for decades is pretty traumatic. For what it’s worth, Bloom, I wish all of this was a bit more straightforward too. Still, we are who we are, for better or worse… And we have a lot to unpack.

Libra (proud): That’s why Mom called us in here, after all! We can all use some extra girl power when it comes to self-discovery.

Mom (happy): Hah, I guess that’s true. I appreciate your help, girls.