You know, it’s going to sound weird, but it’s taken me an awfully long time to learn how to be myself. In fact, I’m still learning every day. I grew through my childhood and formative years with the notion that happiness comes from making other people happy. Before anyone starts to wonder and waggle fingers – no, nobody out there was preaching that to me – this is the opinion I formulated based upon my own observations and interactions with people.
But seriously, think about it for a second. As a child, if you eat all your dinner, Mummy is happy. If you colour inside the lines, the teacher is happy. If you remember to wear that hideous jumper Nana knitted you and smile at the same time, Nana is happy. You might not have been hungry, or you may have preferred your drawing messy, and you hate that fucking jumper, but you did all those things because it made them happy.
Now I’m a teenager. I say ‘me’ because I don’t want to race around putting words in others mouths, so let’s pretend I’ve gone back in time. You want to get good grades in the right subjects (English, Math, History, Computers etc) to “keep all the doors open for the future.” You want to look for a good career. You want to be responsible, and get a job, and save your cash for the future. Except maybe I didn’t like maths, and preferred art, but dropped it because the teachers said it was unimportant. Maybe the doors that were open were ones I’d have preferred closed. Maybe I didn’t want to be a doctor, or a lawyer – but an author and an artist. Maybe, to me, instead of ‘responsible’ I would have preferred ‘self esteem’ and ‘turning a dream into reality’.
I got jobs and was fired from them for a variety of reasons. Including, but not limited to:
* Too loud
* Too honest (not joking)
* “Nobody is that cheerful in real life”
* Refusing to follow a script for conversations with clients because my nonchalant attitude freaked my employer out
* Refusing to put up with my boss putting his hand up my skirt (“Is it really as bad as you think? Maybe he’s just friendly?”)
*Demanding to eat lunch at some point during an eight hour shift (apparently this made me “unsuited to the industry”)
* A flawed personality, resulting in my being too bubbly
The list goes on – I won’t bore you. Eventually I fell in love and got pregnant, married and so sick I had to quit my job (not necessarily in that order but close enough to) and I left the world of other people’s fucked up views with less self esteem than I started with.
And here we are, today, an adult. I have a wonderful, excellent, often confused by my actions but supportive nonetheless husband. Thanks luscious, I wouldn’t be me without you. I have two gorgeous, intelligent, sassy children who try their best to run my life and have a 50/50 success rate based upon their cuteness factor and my tea intake during the given moment.
But, and let’s say about August last year, I realised I was unhappy. Not with my life, per se, but as me. I didn’t know who me was. I didn’t know how to tell people what I wanted, where I wanted to go, or even something as simple as what I wanted to wear. I had formed my life, my personal mine-and-nobody-else’s-life, around what I thought everyone else thought I should be doing.
To be fair, I tried a couple of times to turn against the tide of advice but I just didn’t know how, where, why. I just didn’t. And when everyone is telling you that life works like ABCD, it’s pretty hard to explain why you prefer QSIP, especially when you cannot explain why.
So with the realisation of unhappy came the inevitable tide of emotions. Fear, anger, resentment, panic – all directed inwards, of course. I would wake up every morning, and look myself in the mirror, and say: “Why can’t you just be normal?” But I wasn’t.
BUT I WAS.
I am me. What I like, what I want, how I dress and the fact I prefer Pikachu to Prada – those things are all me. And it was time. Time to stop being someone else, and focus on allowing myself to come out and play.
Sounds simple but it sucked. So badly. I had developed a mild anxiety while pregnant with Piper because hormones and whilst it had rarely troubled me since then, it chose that precise moment to come clamouring in and snuggle me on the couch. Yes, I was sitting on the couch and yes, I remember the exact moment I went OHSHITMYLIFE.
I spent the weeks, months, hours since trying to rebuild myself. I battled with the anxiety silently – because when I mentioned it to a couple of people, they got all confused and asked me what I had to worry about. I tried to keep on plucking my eyebrows and wearing my big girl panties and blah blah blah and it just sucked.
But I missed the thing. The big thing. The main thing. The thing of ALL THINGS.
I was reluctant to be me.
And you know how I worked it out? I got so far down into shitsville, so piled up under anxiety and insomnia and the incredible racing of my brain that I physically couldn’t pretend to be anyone else any more. Yup. I started being me because it was too hard to PRETEND.
Except I didn’t know I was pretending until I stopped. Irony, much?
I started wearing my Pikachu in a Link outfit tank when I dropped Orion to school, because zero fucks, and guess what? The kids loved it. One asked if he could hug me because he loved Pikachu so much.
I confessed to my friends at dancing that I couldn’t be bothered waxing my pubes anymore, and that I really didn’t care if they saw my furry shorts poking out under my actual shorts, and guess what? They laughed. They. Didn’t. Care.
I told people that I wanted to work from home, running my own business. I didn’t want to be a journalist, or a data entry-ist, or a day care mum, or a cleaner. I want to be an artist and an author because that’s what my soul has been singing since I was old enough to listen. And you know what? My husband encouraged me to study and to follow those dreams.
I admitted I didn’t want to go back to university because nobody actually teaches exactly what I want to learn. Care to guess? I researched online, found what I wanted to learn, wrote my own syllabus, and began my own study using free resources.
I shared with a friend that I loved to write and we giggled over coffee and ideas and he asked me for a sample of my work and you know what? I gave it to him as a first draft and HE LIKED IT. (For the record, I never EVER give out first draft work to other people to read because it might suck.)
I lost my shit and ranted about the grittier points of a particular anxiety experience on a forum to a bunch of beautiful strangers, and you know what? They rallied. They reached out, and supported me, and empathised, and shared their own experiences. It was a massive, huge, incredible turning point that deserves (and will get) a post by itself. But not one person laughed at me. Not one.
I stopped dying my hair and discovered I liked the silver ones at the front.
I stopped caring if my clothes were trendy, rather than comfortable, and wear what I like when I like.
I started saying no.
I started smiling more.
I started laughing more.
The list goes on, and on, and on. The gist of it was, when there was nothing left to lose – in fact, almost nothing left at all – the person I thought I should have been evaporated, and the person underneath said “oh shit, well, okay then, you asked for it.”
And here we are.
Now, there’s not sunshine and rainbows and lollipops every day. I still have my anxiety and there are things which trigger it, many of which I don’t understand. I am still diabetic, which pretty much makes life annoyingly complex, and I still have to get out of bed at 6.45am every fucking weekday – oh and probably on weekends, because Orion’s an early riser.
I have spent many nights shouting at my support crew (internally of course, because RUDE) because I know they are correct, and their being correct makes me do something I am scared of. In fact, the best piece of advice a dear friend and mentor gave me was “If it scares you and makes you uncomfortable, then you should probably do it.” I set myself the challenge where instead of shying away from those situations as I would in the past, to dig in my heels, assess, and progress. And do it. And keep doing it.
That load I carried, the one that dragged me and tumbled and flustered me – is gone. I am loud, and bubbly, and cheerful, and too honest. I have no filter between my brain and my mouth. Sometimes I swear in the middle of the classroom by accident and all the kids laugh and the teacher tried to frown when really she’s laughing too. I eat more cake (even though that means an injection) and drink tea, and I like to make art and write things. I like Pikachu, and unicorns, and video games. I carry a planner around because I am hopelessly disorganised. I am a little (a lot) OCD and a terrible perfectionist. My nose has a bump in it, I have bruises from my insulin injections and I have a wonky tooth. I am unco-ordinated, graceless and probably a little hairy. And I am happy with all of these things. Every single one.
I am madly in love with my husband. I don’t always know how to tell him, or show him, but baby if you are reading this I LOVE YOU. Even your farts. Okay, maybe not your farts, but your bum is pretty cool.
I think my kids rock. They do. They are cute and funny and irritating and independent. They do stupid shit, and then incredibly creative things. Orion takes everything you say literally. LITERALLY. Yup. Piper’s a diva and a snuggler and I wouldn’t have either of them any other way, not even when they’re driving me mad. Especially when they’re driving me mad.
The me that I am now, the me that I see in the morning when I look in the mirror says: “You are your own kind of normal and that is pretty rad.”
Zero fucks, people. Zero fucks.