Throughout my life, there have already been so many things I didn’t do that I felt strongly I should have, but they just sounded so awful to me. Joining activity groups in uni. That’s where you meet friends! That’s why I only had like four friends in college! Volunteering. God. What’s wrong with you. You’re improving the world! But I’ll have to stand around and schmooze with so many other volunteers! Parties. After work drinks. Company lunches. I should have gone to all of it! I know! I know! I’m terrible. I should be somewhere right now, actually, I’m pretty sure. I should be out somewhere, doing things. Meeting people. Expanding my world. Clinking glasses. Making witty small talk.
But you know where I am? I’m inside my apartment, with my laptop, writing.
“You need to go out, to have something to write about,” my mum is always telling me, in an effort to trick me into having something that looks a little bit more like a life.
It wasn’t until much later that I realised maybe I’m really just a normal person who happens to be introverted and loves to write and is very, very lucky to get to do that all day, and maybe it’s OK for me to not go to parties with everyone else because after all, I make very good pasta, and I paint very large paintings, even now, and there are so many wonderful stories stuck in the cracks between the supposed to’s.
It occurred to me that I have the potential to be pretty damn good at being myself. Which is good, I think. But first, I’m pretty sure I need to admit who that person is.
I’ve struggled with the pressure, self-imposed and applied by others, to be someone louder, more outgoing, and more interested in parties and joining groups, ever since I was a small child being overwhelmed by birthday parties. I’m only just allowing myself to know what I don’t want, after a lifetime of forcing myself to do things that I’m not really keen on, or making excuses not to do them and then punishing myself for being an antisocial failure for days afterwards, or criticising myself for not enjoying things I’m supposed to enjoy because, after all, everyone else seems to be having a good time.
It takes work to accept your personal style when it’s so different from the prevailing norms in your family and culture.