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Why has my favorite bar closing left me feeling so anxious?

Triple Rock closing got him feeling like...

Triple Rock closing got him feeling like... Getty Images/iStockphoto

The Door Guy is a veteran of countless clubs around town. People say they've seen it all, but he's seen more, and he's got all the advice your life can handle.

Dear Door Guy:

I’m a former door guy myself. I found it easy to settle in my stool, pull out my book or phone, and go about my night. I'd check IDs, tell newbies to go to the show door, and shoot the shit with the regulars and drunken first-timers with almost no anxiety.

But after this certain beloved bar and venue closed, I found it difficult to venture out to different places to see friends, old coworkers, and bands due to my anxiety. What advice can you give this ex-closing time enforcer?

—Lost Without the Triple Rock

Dear Lost:

The first thing you gotta know is that you aren’t alone.

A long time ago, the first time I attempted to escape the inexorable gravitational anomaly that is our life as Door Guys, I made an observation about many of my co-workers: If we weren’t such fuckups, we’d all be millionaires. This was both high praise and wildly naïve; as a young door guy, I believed in the viability of a meritocracy. We can all see how that’s played out.

But my real point was then, and remains today, that some of the brightest, wisest people I’ve ever met have been part of our weird life. Whether we met as co-workers or patrons or through impromptu gatherings of the Door Guy Guild, we were sharp tacks and pains in the ass, which really go hand in hand. I knew a couple legitimate geniuses. Maybe not the kind who could go out get themselves a PhD in particle physics, but a more practical sort of genius—the kind that can see around corners, sort through problems, make a good argument, crush nuance, figure out new and better ways of doing shit. It just so happened that the shit we were all doing—the shit that we continue to do day in and day out—is driven not just by our brains but a whole collection of other shit going in in our heads.

I’ve talked about anxiety and depression before because I firmly believe in the zen of owning my shit—if you shout it to a loud enough audience, it will go away. So I say. But here I am in late winter/early spring again, just like that last time, with a pile of shit to do, a list of half-finished ideas for my Next Big Thing, and more than a few Door Guy questions that I haven’t gotten around to answering because somewhere back in November something bugged me and it’s literally been ALL I CAN FUCKING THING ABOUT AND HOW THE FUCK DOES MY BRAIN KEEP FUCKING ME IN THE EYE LIKE THIS.

So that’s the macro—we’re all fucked. By fucked, I mean, our brains work a little differently than what people call “normal,” even though my experience has led to the understanding that “normal” is complete bullshit. Some people are just better at making a passing appearance of fitting in to whatever mold our culture demands. But for many of us, part of being fucked is that we think—because of stigma, or upbringing, or whatever—that we’re all alone in being fucked. And that, my fellow member of the Door Guy Guild, is the absolute worst part. If you’re an extrovert like me, it’s like a wall between you and the people you need to energize yourself. If you’re an introvert (seriously, I don’t understand you people), the thing that recharges you suddenly feels like it’s soul-crushing and has dumped you.

But your question raises some interesting micro points, too. Door Guys—even the nicest, most humble ones—run the show. Our job is literally to make sure shit starts cool, stays cool, and ends cool. For dickheads in our profession that can mean a power trip. For non-dickheads (like you, I assume), it means we’re so invested in our responsibilities—and, in the case of the Triple Rock and beloved places like it, sheer loyalty and sense of family—that we take on a sense of authority that makes us feel at ease and want others to feel at ease. No matter what our silly brains try to bring to the table.

True story: I’ve never felt more clear-headed, like life made more sense, than when I’ve been doing my job. Checking IDs, talking to drunks, hauling trash, hell, even when I’m wrestling someone to the ground. I’m totally at peace. Anxiety and fear and depression fall away and everything makes sense. And when that stops happening—and it has to me, many, many times in over 26 years now—I move on. Because the job ain’t worth it without it. (Yet sometimes I still have to fight the urge to pick up empties or throw someone out at places I don’t even work.)

So like me, you’ve got anxiety. And like me, that can make it hard to go out. Even though you are trying to see bands you love, even though you want to see old co-workers and older friends, you can’t manage it, because in your head, the only place you feel at home is that little corner of brick and booze on Cedar and 7th.

But it’s not the physical location, Lost. It’s the sense of zen you had. You were at peace because you knew what you had to do, you knew you were around other people who had your back, and you knew you could do it. But is that really any different now? You have the people, you have the rock and roll. It’s the sense of purpose that came with the place that made it so easy to dismantle your anxiety and take control back from that little corner of your brain that’s always looking to derail you.

Fuck that little corner of your brain.

So here’s a suggestion: Make a plan to go see a show. Meet up with friends or old co-workers beforehand. Remember that getting out the door might be the hardest part, so remind yourself that those folks are counting on you the same way they counted on you as a Door Guy. Do what you do—smoke, drink, stay sober whatever—and hang out, until anxiety comes back and starts whispering shit in your ear like “It’s not the same” or “Are we still friends even though we don’t spend all our time together at the Triple Rock?” Fuck that noise. You are still friends, you just don’t have the intense crucible that made your connections so clear. Then you all go to the show. Absorb yourself in the band, keep an eye on what’s going on around you, be thankful it’s not your job to deal with it.

And if that doesn’t work the first time, keep trying. Because I have a Master’s in feeling awkward and uncomfortable—probably why I’m so mouthy and distractible in real life—and this is what worked for me.

Life takes practice, especially for folks like us. And to leave you with my favorite piece of trucker wisdom: If you can’t be good, be good at it.

Got a question for The Door Guy? Email AskTheDoorGu[email protected]