• Millie Liao

I have a crush... and you should have one too

Recently, love has been in the air. Everywhere I’ve gone, I’ve been surrounded by couples, close friends, or cheery friend groups enjoying each other’s company, while I stick out like a sore thumb as a solo rider. Even the shows I’ve been watching are brimming with the most silent-scream-inducing romances that I just can’t help but feel like this is a sign to me from heaven to go searching for my other half, or at least some new friends.


During the pandemic, many of us experienced the shrinking of our social circles and the decrease in the number of people we are still friends with or feel close enough to talk to on a daily basis. Now that we are slowly moving towards the end of COVID-19 and the age of self-isolation, it is easy to feel alone in a world eager to move past these past two years of quarantine. For me, I almost feel like I’m coming in late to this gigantic, worldwide reconnecting party. I was so caught up with a jumble of things in my head that before I knew it, life had seemingly gone back to normal.


After so long of being starved of any physical contact, our generation, to put it bluntly, is practically ready to throw ourselves at each other. I too share the excitement of getting to engage in normal, healthy relationships again that aren’t hindered by communication through a screen. But even with this initial excitement to re-engage socially and reconnect with each other, I personally have struggled with learning how to adjust and become accustomed with the significantly larger amount of time I am now spending surrounded by other people, when I just spent two years with no one other than my family.


The fear of socializing that teens have developed due to the pandemic is something I like to call “post-COVID social anxiety”, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who suffers from it. After two long years with little to no in-person interactions with other people our age, we have forgotten how exactly we were able to manage seeing and talking to so many people on a daily basis. Nowadays, going to a place that I haven’t visited since pre-COVID, or interacting with >10 people at once, feels like nothing short of a nightmare. The thought of running into one of those friends that I stopped talking to during COVID gives me sheer terror.


This might seem like a stupid problem, but I would argue that if you think about the number of teens it is probably affecting, it’s not something to be taken lightly. Especially for those with social anxiety before the pandemic hit, it’s probably become even more difficult for them to socially engage in this post-pandemic frenzy of constant interaction.


So how exactly do we remedy this?


Here’s where my love life comes in.


I have a crush. But actually, not just one. Multiple. Probably a dozen. Maybe more.


And these crushes are dispersed amongst the various places I must go: from school, to work, to youth groups, to Starbucks, to wherever else I might visit on my daily journeys outside my comfort zone of my house.


Unfortunately, I have to admit to you all that most of these crushes aren’t crushes in the way that you immediately think of. By that I mean, someone I am romantically interested in. Instead, these “crushes” are defined as people that I am excited to see and to interact with, people who motivate me to conquer my anxiety in order to be with them.


The beautiful thing about having a crush is that without ever expecting anything in return, you can go somewhere or do something with them simply because you want to be with them. You can have the time of your life in a seemingly daunting social environment, if there is even just one person there that brings you joy, comfort, and excitement.


That’s why when I feel my social anxiety kicking in, or I start to worry about whether I should have even left the house, I instead focus on one person at my destination that can serve as a crush. It doesn’t have to be a romantic, it can be a platonic crush, a girl crush, etc etc. Just pick a person that you can find comfort in, someone that you like as a person. When there’s a clear anchor or reason for me to be somewhere, that reason being a desire to spend time with someone I really like, then I usually find it easier to conquer my social anxiety with that motivation in mind. If it’s a completely foreign environment with strangers, do not fear, instead of picking a person you already know to crush on, you can secretly pinpoint on any random person you’d like, and do your best to imagine that they could possibly be everything you’re looking for in a partner/friend and more!


Having a crush on someone means seeing the best in them as a person. You see the really great and wonderful and likable qualities about them, and therefore you gravitate towards them. So in that way, I believe it is necessary for us to have crushes everywhere we go- people that we can see the good in, and that we love being around. These are the people that will truly help us decide what kind of environments we want to engage in in this post-pandemic frenzy of social interaction.


My friend Gracie is one such girl crush of mine. I would say she is kind, caring, thoughtful, considerate, and everything else you could want in a friend. During class, whenever I feel anxious about doing activities like speaking/performing in front of the class, she notices and checks in to make sure I'm ok. Even just her presence in a room brings me comfort and reassurance that I'll be fine. These types of people are what I'm talking about when I say platonic crushes, so I challenge you right now to think about who you would describe as kind, caring, thoughtful, considerate, everything else one could want in a friend, etc. etc. They could very well become the person that helps to ground you in a tough social environment!


Me and Gracie at Universal!!

Besides platonic crushes, I also encourage you all to nurture the hopeless romantic within you, who naively believes in love at first sight and hopes to find a person that they can become close with in every environment they enter into. This way, we go in ready to see the positive in people, rather than coming in with our guard up and afraid.


I mean, one can never know the exact moment where they might magically meet their other half. And just the possibility of meeting this person, of finding this person, can be enough to drag me out of the house on some days and accomplish whatever set task it is I need to do.


However, to add a quick PSA to this message: crushes are very different from actual romantic interests! I cannot stress this enough. Before setting your sights on liking someone, make sure they are actually worth liking. This applies to your friends and your entire social circle as well. You shouldn't try to trick yourself into seeing the good in people, when in actuality they aren't healthy for you. Do a thorough and clear check on who they are as a person: the good, the bad, and all the in between. Reflect on if they are worthy to be a crush for you. Don’t let yourself serve a delusion, or end up attached to a false idea of someone because that could cause a lot of harm in the future.


So in conclusion, while following the above precautions, I would just recommend you all try this method if you have the desire to conquer your social anxiety. Try it first with a friend you already feel really comfortable with, and challenge yourself to go with that friend to a daunting social environment by anchoring yourself in them and remembering all the great things about them that make you excited to spend time with them.


I’d be happy to help out more if you guys have specific questions about this, or if you need counseling on “real” crushes as well, although I’m not sure I’m qualified in the romance department…


But either way, send me a message through the Contact section and tell me about some of your “crushes” that help keep you grounded! I hope this piece gave you something interesting to try, or at least a new idea to chew on. And as always, I write this


With love,


Millie