At 18 years old, I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder and depression. The diagnosis came as no shock to me, as I had suffered from the effects of a nervous breakdown for the past two years. Effects that included: cutting myself off from my friends and refusing to go out or spend the night anymore. Unwilling to put forth the effort to see them, I lost touch with those high school friends and found myself too anxious to make new ones. This soon affected my education somewhat. I was required to write a weekly story for the campus newspaper and I was too afraid to talk to strangers. However, I was fortunate enough to have a professor who understood my struggle. He gave me generous deadline extensions and made sure I stuck with therapy. I passed the class with a B and was able to stay in school.
After years of cognitive-behavioral therapy where I worked hard to better cope with my social and generalized anxieties, I began attending house shows. House shows are where local and touring acts get a stage (read: living room or basement) to perform for an open-minded audience. My go-to spot when I was 21 years old, and first entering the scene, was called The Blueberry House. It served as both a music venue and a mixer to introduce young people interested in music, photography, hula hoops, or zines. This was a small, committed community, and I was thrilled to be a part of it.
I started interviewing touring bands for a blog I would never launch, which was, if nothing else, great practice for me to talk to strangers and give off some better vibes. For some time, we attempted to make a zine with a writer’s group that met at the house, but the project sort of died off. Eventually, the young people that rented the house were evicted and it was torn down. There still sits an empty lot in its place.
After years of learning journalism in school, and months of interviewing strangers at The Blueberry House, I had enough practice under my figurative belt to do pretty well as an intern—the last step toward graduation. I still had a few anxiety attacks when I tried to tackle some articles, but I stuck with it and kept working toward my goal. I received my diploma from Kent State University in December of 2014.
In the fall of 2015, I started asking for submissions for a new project, Eleanor: A Zine. Eleanor is an intersectional feminist zine featuring poetry, essays, photos, and art by female-identifying and non-binary people. On the fourth of May this year, I hosted a release show for the first two volumes of submitted work I received. The show went on for hours with friends I’ve known since grade school and ones I’ve only glimpsed at online in the same room. We listened to poets and musicians perform with passion and purpose. They sat on the floor together of a house, similar to The Blueberry House, with nearly a decade of history as a DIY space, called It’s A Kling Thing!
Kling, as it’s usually called, has become one of my favorite places to be, but not without effort. Sometimes I feel too anxious to go to a house show, reverting back to the isolation of my adolescence. I chain-smoked on the porch for most of my own release show to try to calm my nerves. I make myself go to the shows and chat with strangers, however, not only because I need to socialize to promote Eleanor, but because that’s how you make friends after school ends. You have to put yourself out there and meet people because you aren’t forced into close quarters with classmates anymore.
What I’ve learned from spending time at DIY spaces like The Blueberry House and It’s a Kling Thing! is that friendship is very DIY. Whether you meet online or in line for the bathroom, it takes effort to speak up. It’s a grassroots act to make a friend and to bring friends together. Friendship starts the same way a zine or DIY space begins: with communication and common interests.
It took me years of therapy, studying journalism and psychology in school, and spending time at DIY spaces to learn how to make friends and foster a community. I have grown to be a better, more confident and selfless person from taking part in the scene, attending shows, and making friends there. The effort makes all the difference.
Angel Cezanne is a queer feminist, essayist and poet, sleeping on couches and futons across Ohio. She is also the founder of a new web-based zine for women called Eleanor.