I fully believe that it's important to never make a judgment based on appearances. But we always do, no matter how hard we try. Some of us try and some just don't really give a shit anyway and spend their lives judging others based on their religion, skin colour, language, background, clothing, whatever. I always hope that I'm in the first group, and that I have learnt from any mistake I may have made in the past, making sure that I never do it again.
If you don't really know me, then you probably don't know how shy and how anxious I am. I've spent many a year hiding it beneath layers and layers of toughened up skin and bone, but it always finds a way to pop up when I least expect it. I've worked on myself over the years, using alcohol to find a way to hide my shyness, then sobriety to find a way to accept my shyness and to get past it. I've learnt to get over my fear of calling people I don't know and accomplishing tasks over the phone. I've managed to get past my utter fear of putting my writing into the public eye and I've traveled to places and talked to people even though I often felt like I was crippled with anxiety inside. I've even forced myself to speak in public, although I don't really think I want to do that again. I'm actually quite happy working from behind my screen now, with my children playing in the background (or hitting each other or screaming at me, whatever happens to be occurring at that moment).
With motherhood also came a dip in the confidence that I had slowly built up over the years, and then, after the first few months went by, came an actual gain in well-being, confidence and strength. For the first time in my life I felt like I had actually finally become the person I was always supposed to be. So those days when my confidence takes a beating I seem to feel it even more. It is kind of like climbing a mountain and instead of falling a few steps right near the top you tumble a quarter of a mile down again. Even the stupidest of things can make me feel like I've fallen down the mountain, just as the smallest of things can often bring me right back up again immediately afterwards. It’s a strange feeling, trying to keep that middle ground of stability while your emotions are pulling you both up and down!
I've always been a good loner. I love my close friends from the bottom of my heart and miss them all terribly now that I have moved away, but I've always been good at creating and fully using my alone time. Books and walks and words and photos, lunches by myself watching the world go by and long trips to places where I didn't know a soul. None of those things ever fazed me. Put me in a room full of people completely sober and ask me to make myself heard, now that would give me anxious shakes and a desire to create a hole for myself to curl up in. I know, being a bartender and working in an extremely busy restaurant don't really seem to be the best jobs for an introvert from the outside, but that is actually wrong. Many of my fellow service industry workers are complete introverts. Many of my musician and actor friends are the same. That face that smiles at you and serves you your drink while chatting about the latest gossip is all an act, part of the job. An act that is pretty easy to sustain, a uniform that you mentally put on every time you walk into work. They are just jobs. Jobs that I absolutely adored before I became a mother, and would do again in a heartbeat if I didn't have two little children. I DO have tons of confidence, but only when I feel in control of my environment and comfortable in my place. It’s a bit of a two-pronged sword being both confident and shy at the same time, because sometimes you end up creating a role for yourself which kind of portrays how people want to see you rather than how you actually want to be seen. Sometimes it leads to a lot of bitterness and sadness when you can’t make your real self seen or heard when you really need to. And sometimes it makes it harder to explain that you need space and silence once in a while, time away from everyone and everything.
I'm still not confident as a writer, after all these years. I still hesitate every time I submit an article or deliver a job. I'm still always surprised when I receive great feedback and always a little hurt when something gets rejected. I kick myself when I read something similar to what I have written and hidden deep in my laptop's memory and wonder why I don't dare send these things out to others to read and love. Why do I watch others do it and sit back and wish that I had the confidence to put myself out there like that? Why do I hide behind my screen waiting for something that will never happen if I don’t “put myself out there” so to speak?
And then I realize that I do. I do it every day. And maybe there are many, many things that I will not publish on here, just because they may be too personal or involve others or just don't belong here, they still belong somewhere, and some day I will find a proper home for them. I still have trouble with social media, with being more pragmatic and less involved in making friends and actually considering people humans rather than just one more person to read my blog, but I know there are others out there like that, who are trying to promote their work while making friends at the same time, and I'm happy to know these people, sometimes work with them, but mostly because their photos and comments make me smile, their thoughts are similar to mine and because they are all inspiring, funny and most likely have the exact same worries and thoughts and self-confidence dips as I do. I do admire those people who have been able to create a “brand” out of themselves, but I cannot do that, and at the same time I don’t know anybody personally who has. Anyone I have actually “met” on social media is like me, just another person using words and thoughts and images to touch others. The whole “brand” thing is really not me at all. And that’s fine, I don’t need to do that, I just need to work on what I really want in a better way. (Sometimes I regret not being so proactive in my 20’s and instead of writing a blog at that time that made no sense to anyone but me I could have actually created something a little more meaningful!). I think this is why I continue to refuse to make my blog into something more “streamlined” – it was always meant to be a platform for me to “publish” my creations, before I became a mother and after, and I don’t want to change it. I may possibly set up something else in the future with some friends, I don’t know, I would need to be more focused on one thing rather than letting myself be pulled in all types of directions.
Years ago I took all of my "things" that I had left with my mother for safe keeping back, including journals dating back to my first at 9 years old. There was however one missing, quite an important one, from my late teens in the late 90's. This past weekend my mother came back from her storage unit with a box with my name on it, and amidst my Cure 45s, some Ted Hughes and Shelley books was that journal. I'm not ready to go down multiple rabbit holes just yet, but I read a few pages of it and see myself, 20 years ago, so shy but so exuberant, angry and happy, and I'm glad I've lead the life that I have. And while I will always regret a few things, mostly those moments when I couldn't tell people how I felt, those moments when I couldn't explain how uncomfortable I was or even those moments when I didn't dare speak up and voice my opinions. But I can catch up on that now. And one day all of those stories that I have written along the way and all of the essays and the thoughts and the poems that I have jotted down will find their own place too.
I suppose all these words came about over the weekend when I was feeling a little down, seeing photos of my friends at the Rockaways, my favourite beach in the world, or at the Stone Roses concert in NYC and missing them, reading nasty comments posted by ignorant and bigoted people from all over the world on internet articles, and with just the sheer amount of utter shit that is going on in the world all the time, every time I look at my phone or check out my social media feeds. Some days it is very hard to live with having both a hurting heart and an overflowing heart. In the end we all bleed the same; I just wish I could stop the unnecessary loss of blood and life with my own hands.
So maybe, next time we look at someone and start to judge them based on something about them, maybe, maybe we should take a step back and remember that they are people just like us, with hearts and minds and souls and worries and stories and families and feelings. And maybe we all stand up and talk about everything that hurts and destroys us as a community, a nation and a world and bring about real change instead of just looking the other way. And when someone is trying to express themselves stop and listen to what they have to say, because it may be a moment to learn and grow, you never know.
And maybe I will remember to tell myself that despite everything I put in my own way my words will be heard by some, and in the end that is all that matters to a writer.