After starting this the other day I realize that this is really a piece in two parts, very loosely assembled parts. I have already started part two so will aim to finish it later this week (as long as my little crawling munchkin lets me!). As always, these personal pieces are never really finished and tend to evolve the longer I take to write them. This part is a lot less serious than the “second” part, so I expect the latter to take a little bit longer to put together.
I was a really shy child. I preferred my books and my journals and my stories to people. I got nervous around other people and never felt quite “right” in any kind of situation, apart from the times that I was with my closest friends and didn’t feel like I had to hide anything. I was shy as a teen too, but that kind of changed into rebellion once I hit the age of 15. I could hide behind my hair and my cigarette smoke and my loud music. There were so many times that I wanted to say things in certain social situations, even amidst my closest friends who I trusted with all my heart, but I just couldn’t. Mainly out of an irrational fear of looking like an idiot. I remember a friend of mine once saying that it is better to look like an idiot than come across as stupid, and that helped me come out of my shell slightly, but never as much as alcohol did (and that’s a story for next time, the one that I am also currently writing). In hindsight you know that awkwardness is a prevalent part of life as a teen, and people deal with it in different ways, but when you are actually living it, it feels like you against the rest of the world. You know that feeling where it appears that everyone has it together and you are the only one who hasn’t figured anything else out? That. My journals from 15-18 are filled with angst-ridden posts, really well written stories that I thought would never be good enough for anything and so many questions.
I wasn’t one of those people who was too shy to speak, who hid away from everything. I actually tried to hide my shyness as much as possible, and it did help that I had a wonderful group of friends and that we all felt a little like outsiders. I have so many good memories of times spent growing up with my friends, doing stupid things, drinking too much, having endless conversations about things that mattered so much to us. But my self confidence was always super low. It was never really because of something that had happened to me, more just part of me – I had always been quiet, even as a child. It was just a long and torturous path, trying to accept myself and live the life that I really wanted to live.
There were those months when I didn’t want to leave the house and doing the daily tasks such as classes and work were the only things I could actually do – anything else made me feel physically ill. And then, finally, there was the time that I let go, and just started to be myself. After a year of feeling so lost and with no idea where I was going with my life I went to stay with my aunt and her family in Israel, and ended up staying there for a year, for the most part as a volunteer on a kibbutz. The experience completely changed my life – I was in a place where no one knew me or my past and where I could be myself and believe in myself. And it worked! I finally used my voice, had a lot of fun, made sure I experienced so many different things and made some lifelong friends. It was in my mid twenties that I learnt to be myself in front of everyone, in all social situations. I forced myself to do things that I absolutely hated (speaking in public, still hate it, won’t do it again, but it was great to actually do it).
In my early 30’s I learnt to be myself without any aids such as alcohol. I managed to confront all types of social situations sober, which was a great accomplishment. It was hard, but had to be done. And even though I did start drinking again for a while after 3 years (again, more on that in another piece), I didn’t lose any of the confidence I had found. It took me to turn 30 to finally be completely happy with whom I had become. Of course, there were moments that I doubted myself and moments that I wanted to crawl into a hole, but I wasn’t afraid to open my mouth and speak anymore.
Before I gave birth I could talk to anyone, voice my opinion when needed without any worry, carry on interesting conversations with people, act on impulse, and conquer the unknown, without any fear. Large social gatherings were not a problem, telling annoying customers (politely) to eff off out of my bar and restaurant, just part of a normal day. I even had no problem speaking in public. I would never have been able to do any of this in my teens and with a pit of fear in my stomach during my early 20’s. I will always remember the day I had to present my MA thesis – I don’t think I had eaten for days before and was literally a nervous wreck. I sometimes wish I had known then that it didn’t really matter anyway. Ah hindsight and time and age, there are times that I could have benefitted from it in my youth, just to quell my nerves a little.
A few days ago a friend of mine posted a Facebook status about how she felt like an alien in social situations since she had had her child. It totally hit home because that is exactly as I have been feeling! It’s such a strange feeling, and I couldn’t put my finger on it until now. It’s not really that all the shyness I had fought to conquer has come back again, I still feel the same, don’t have a problem going into social situations, speaking my mind or going out and about. I’m very confident as to how we are raising our child, and taking her out and about into busy areas, breastfeeding her in public. But I often feel like a deer in headlights when I am in large social gatherings and find it really hard to find the exact words I want to use when I’m trying to have a conversation with someone! It’s a mix of post partum baby brain and a light form of anxiety that I can’t quite put my finger on. Someone will ask me a question and I will look at them all wide eyed and stumble over my words. I’m not anxious about going outside or being amongst other people, I just feel exactly how my friend so aptly put it, like an alien.
It’s possible that no one can see it; I have become pretty adept at hiding my shyness since I was a kid, but I feel so awkward! What happened to that person who could actually string an interesting sentence of words together and interact in public? Is it possible that all my energy is spent on interacting and stimulating and tending to my child that I just don’t have any left for public interaction? I’m so glad I can still write – I don’t know how I would express myself otherwise! At least I have time to think about a sentence for a day or so, so that it actually makes sense and doesn’t sound like “that thing I was talking about the other day, remember that?”. I suppose sleep deprivation could also be part of the cause, although that is getting a lot better nowadays that I have resigned myself to going to bed at 8 or 9 and getting a 5 hour stretch at the same time as Luna.
I’m assuming it shall pass with time and I shall become as funny, witty and engaging as I was before (hahaha), but until then just pretend you understand what I mean when I stare at you with wide eyes and mutter something about that thing that I have wanted to talk to you about for ages. It was important, I promise!
The next “part” will deal with the more serious topics of alcohol and sobriety.