Grasping the nettle and embracing change

I have been blogging over at Prodigal Geordie about my move back North, so those of you who have been following that will know that it’s been a slightly bumpy transition. On the one hand, it is lovely to be so near to so many old friends, and to have family literally around the corner. It’s great to be exploring anew a city I was once so familiar with and immersing myself in a new arts scene that feels exciting and fresh. On the other… well, let’s just say me and my comfort zone parted company some way back.

Now, I can’t really complain about this. This is deliberate. As I have said in earlier posts, the impetus for the move came solely from me. I wanted a change, I made a change, and I got a change. But, y’know, it’s very… changey. And that isn’t always easy.

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Some of this is stretching myself in challenging ways. Quite literally, in my Barre class, where I am being forced to face up to the wilful ways I have neglected my body and my fitness over the past couple of years – there is little to make you wish you had skipped that last doughnut than being the biggest, stiffest and clumsiest person in a class full of tiny bendies who’ve got the moves down pat. I’m determined to stick with it – giving up because I’m tired or busy or embarrassed is what got me to the stage of having a wardrobe full of clothes I can’t fit into and an inability to bend at the waist – but I can’t say it’s a lot of fun, or particularly good for my ego.

Some of this is facing up to my own blindspots and stubbornness. I know – hell, you know, I have written about it enough – that I am bad at asking for help, except in a crisis, which of course often makes a crisis all the more inevitable. I want people to think I am capable and independent, and not the kind of person who, ahem, sleeps on the sofa for a week because she can’t figure out how to assemble her bed. What makes this even more ridiculous is that my family are the most practical and useful of folk, and have inundated me with offers for assistance (my cousin popped round with a housewarming card and assembled my bed in 10 minutes, with a stern telling off for not asking sooner). It’s a tough lesson to learn that I’m not impressing anyone by not asking – and, in fact, am actively offending people who don’t understand why I am shying away from their outstretched hands.

And then there is the whole ‘new people’ thing. In fact, the ‘old people’ thing is quite a challenge, if I am honest. This tends to surprise most folk who know me, who assume I naturally confident and gregarious (or, less generously, gobby and loud), but I am also, and often, cripplingly insecure. Sure, I bibble along in my day to day life assuming most people like me – I’m a good person (mostly), with more sins than many but less than many more, so why wouldn’t they? – but my innate bent for solitude can spiral into anxiety with very little prompting. My friends were all keen to see me when it was a once a year thing – now that I am back and available on tap, will they weary of my company? Will I manage to make any new friends? How? I work from home, and am just about to head into the busiest time of the year, when I often have little time to shower, never mind socialise. How will I meet anyone if I am always on my couch?

I am determined to become involved in the local arts scene, and have already made (and accepted) some overtures to connect by those already ensconced in the city. This, too, brings its share of anxieties. While in certain parts of my business I am confident and comfortable – mainly my legal work, where I am, unarguably, an established expert – in everything else I mostly feel like a big ole’ fraud, and that everyone else is cooler, more talented, more accomplished* and more together than me, and that they are just too nice to point that out. I stopped going to networking events years ago because of my unfortunate tendency to get so nervous I dropped or spilled things on myself (or, memorably, other people/the entire table), or to wolf down several glasses of wine in quick succession to calm my nerves, thereby making the ‘everyone thinks I am the loud, drunk, rambling weirdo’ worry a self-fulfilling prophecy. So the fact that I have several meetings lined up with people I consider ‘established’ is both exciting and makes me want to hide under my newly assembled bed.

(*Often they actually are much more accomplished, so, y’know, I’m not making that bit up).

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So why am I sharing this? It’s not exactly covering me in glory, is it? In part, I guess, because maybe we all feel like this sometimes, and it’s good to know you’re not alone. If I can fake it so successfully that people regularly exclaim in astonishment at my ability to introduce myself to strangers and cultivate long-term friendships (it’s a running joke in my circle as to the amount of birthday cards and presents I get every year, so I must be doing something right), then maybe plenty of other people are too.

And in part because by admitting it, I want to own it. Because admitting that you want something  – connection, help, whatever – but that it’s difficult is the first step to getting it. Or at least stop pretending you don’t want it, really, it’s fine, I’m good, I’ll just stay here where I am with my furniture in pieces because that’s easier than risking failure, rejection, embarrassment or scorn.

And if I can fall flat on my face failing to do a push up in a room full of super fit supple women and still sign up to go back for more, then surely anything else is easy?

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