I’ll never forget this first time I heard the Simon and Garfunkel song I Am a Rock.
I first heard it when I brought their greatest hits album. I already knew all their tunes from The Graduate, and I already loved them. But then came I Am a Rock, and these lines:
I have my books
And my eyes for a tree to protect me.
I am shielded in my armor.
Hiding in my room, safe within my womb,
I touch no one and no one touches me.
I don’t think I was even 10 years old when I first heard those lines. Still, I thought, “This is ME. Simon and Garfunkel are singing about me.” I was a kid who stayed hidden in my room as much as possible. I was a kid who didn’t want to play outside with other kids. I was a kid who didn’t want friends. When I was around bar mitzvah age, most others in my class invited 25 or 30 friends to their bar mitzvahs. I invited 2. And that was mainly because my mother thought it would look weird if I didn’t invite any.
I never went to sleep-away camp because I didn’t want to. I never went to prom because I didn’t want to. I actually thought that stuff was beneath me. I would rather read books or see movies, and even there, my tastes were much more adult-oriented than other kids my age. I’ll never forget being in the sixth grade, and my teacher, Mr. McKnight, asked me what my favorite movie was. I said Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. His jaw dropped.
If I only knew then what I know now. It wasn’t that I wanted to be “a rock.” I was too damn afraid to be anything else. So I did my best to keep people away. When I was a kid, I even went as far as soiling my underwear, deliberately. I wanted to stink. I knew it would keep people away. And believe me, it did.
I still crave solitude more than most people. But I know now that there is a big difference between solitude and social anxiety. I am convinced that I’ve had some form of social anxiety all my life. To this day, I would much rather spend time with 2-3 people than with a large group. But, more and more, I am going out into big groups. When I do, I find that it’s not nearly as terrifying as I think it will be. Oh, and I make sure that I smell nice.
For me, I Am a Rock is no longer an anthem. It’s a reminder of how far I’ve come. Another Paul Simon classic, Still Crazy After All These Years, is much more reflective of where I am right now. I may not be a rock, but I sure am still crazy. In a good way.