Flashback to my sophomore homecoming. I’m tense, sitting in a chair on the outskirts of the dance watching a couple hundred of my peers grinding in a ginormous mosh pit that surrounds the DJ booth. My head throbs to the beat of a One Direction song remixed with extra bass. My feet hurt, sticky and dirty from walking around barefoot for an hour, after I ditched my painful high heels.
I just want to be left alone for a few minutes. I want to regain my bearings before returning to the chaos. But instead of getting a few moments of peace, a friend walks up to me and prods me to return. My insides clench and suddenly I’m thrust into the tailspin of a social energy crisis. I don’t know what to say. I want to stay where I am, but I don’t know how to tell her that. On the cusp of tears, I make a few jumbled excuses, relying on my best friend to remove me and relocate me to the quiet game room at the back of the dance. Once there, I finally relax, recharge, and most importantly, refocus on the fun I was having earlier.
Homecoming is the social event of the year for underclassmen and upperclassmen alike. But what may be a fun experience for extroverts can quickly become overwhelming for introverts and highly sensitive people. If you’re attending a homecoming dance, here are four things that will help you have fun and avoid a crisis like mine:
1. Keep your homecoming group small and close.
School dances are the breeding grounds for unruly groups of friends that can total ten or fifteen people. While this may seem like a good idea, trying to keep up with all the people once you arrive at the dance is overwhelming, and you’ll find yourself spending more time looking for friends than actually doing things with them. Even worse, groups that large tend to have friends that border on acquaintances. It’s better to have a homecoming group of two to four friends that you know and trust. With smaller groups, there’s no pressure to make small talk or ignore your introverted urges to take a break for fear of it seeming uncool.
2. It’s okay to sit out for a bit.
The dance floor is crowded, the music is at near deafness-inducing levels, and dancing probably requires you to step out of your comfort zone. All of these factors go into draining your energy levels, and if you don’t manage your time between tearing it up and quietly observing your peers, you will soon find yourself running on empty. Don’t let this happen. Know that it’s okay to take breaks. Go get a drink or reconvene on your abandoned table to check your phone and send a couple of texts. A simple break can help you get a second or third wind that will help you get the most out of the experience.
3. Have at least one trusted friend that can tell when you’re getting overwhelmed.
Social events like dances can be black holes that suck up your energy. In addition to all the noise and activity, dances heap on tons of social pressure. So much to accomplish in only a few hours, along with the added pressure of high school supposedly having to be the best time of your life, can push you to your breaking point. But when you’re distracted by everything that’s happening around you, you might not even notice the energy drain—until your brain is suddenly screaming get me out of here now. To counteract this, make a plan with a trusted friend ahead of time. Have them stop you and help you take a break before you reach the point of crisis. A regret I have from my homecoming is going in a large group. My trusted ally was too distracted to break me from my spiral of energy depletion. She came in the nick of time, but unfortunately I had already reached crisis mode. If I had been more conscious of my needs, I might have avoided the freak out all together.
4. No school dance is perfect, so ditch the search for perfection and instead focus on the highlights of the night.
Mistakes will happen. Mistakes will happen. Mistakes will happen. Maybe a soda will spill on your dress, leaving you to dance in sticky shoes and stiff clothing. Maybe you will arrive late and feel like you missed the exposition of the dance. Maybe you will snap terrible photo booth pictures and wish you had a better souvenir of you and your friends. Whatever it is, an obstacle will pop up. Remember that homecoming is not about being perfect—it’s about looking past the imperfections to pick out what you enjoyed. Homecoming can be as rough as a bull ride—you just have to hold on long enough to feel the thrill. That homecoming I was telling you about may have had a crisis smack dab in the middle, but it also left me riding a high of excitement. I slow danced with a guy I was really into. I had an amazing dinner with friends. I felt pretty in my seafoam dress and butter yellow shoes. That is what I will always remember and those are the kinds of moments that you will remember too.
As homecoming season nears, remember that you are human. As an introvert, there is nothing wrong with catering to your needs. So grab your dancing shoes, assemble your (small) group, and go have the night of your life. It’ll be worth it in the end.
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