Wednesday, 3 February 2016

I Want to Be Brave

Since I finished university I've had to get used to doing things on my own. I know, bring out the world's smallest violin.

I'm not saying that to beg for a little sympathy because it's a fact: I really have had to get used to doing things by myself. For me one of the most important relationships in my life are the ones I have with my friends, and I'm sure that's true for lots of other people, but in my family there seems to be a trend of people losing contact with people they were once very close friends with when they settle down to start a family of their own. I can't ever imagine doing that, because to me my closest friends are part of my family and I don't care how cheesy that sounds. There are some close friends I just couldn't be without, but I'm nowhere near them; the majority of them live in the North of England while I live in the South of Wales, and one close friend of mine I've never actually met in person because she lives all the way over in Texas.

I loved my years at university; I made some wonderful friends that I have stayed in contact with, and I did so much with them during my years as a student. Now, as an adult, I suddenly find myself in a place nowhere near any of my closest friends and I don't find it easy to meet new people. My colleagues are lovely, but all of my colleagues already have their own families and friendship circles because they're either older than me or they've been lucky enough to stay in the city where they studied. I tried so hard to stay in the city where I went to university, but no matter how hard I tried nothing worked out. It got to the point where it felt like some other force was literally keeping me out.

I don't mind being alone, I like my own company and I've never been the kind of person who has to be with someone else 24/7 - in fact if I don't get time by myself I get quite cranky. But there's a big difference between being alone and being lonely, and I've done a lot of being lonely since I graduated. Friends of mine ask me 'How do you manage to read so much?' and I can't quite bring myself to say 'Because I'm lonely.'

I have issues with anxiety that I've only really acknowledged in the past year, but it's actually something that's been affecting me for a long time. When I go somewhere new I panic when I don't know exactly what it's going to look like and what's going to be expected of me when I'm there - what if the door I need to go through is a push door and I pull? I'll look like an idiot and everyone will see.

As you can see, anxiety's not fun.

But I want to be brave. I don't want to be angry about my situation anymore, and I don't want that anger to make me miss out on opportunities or excuse my lazy creativity. I barely wrote anything last year and I blamed it on anything else I could when in reality it was only my fault. Yes having my own writing space would be great, but there's no point in me not writing at all until I have that space. I'm a writer, and so I should write.

This year I want to write more. I want to finish all those unfinished short stories and see if I can get them published by entering competitions and submitting to magazines and anthologies. I want to write that novel I've been too scared to touch for fear of it not being good enough. I want to go and do things even if that means doing them alone, because I'd rather do them alone than miss out on them altogether.

It's the very first Bare Lit Festival this month and there's a panel I'd really like to go to, but no one else I know is interested. So what? I want to go alone. I can do it. I want to go the Hay Festival this year but I don't know if anyone I know does. So what? I'll go alone.

I don't want to buy into this idea that doing something alone is shameful. Why shouldn't I treat myself and enjoy my own company? Why should I miss out on something exciting just because there's no one to experience it with? Imagine all the stories I'll have to tell when I do see my friends again.

I already made some New Year's Resolutions this year, but this is more of a Life Resolution. It's not going to happen overnight - I'm still going to have days where I feel down and it's just as important to acknowledge those down days as it is the happier ones - but I want to keep working at it. I'll open my arms to the world, and there's no telling what might happen.


  1. I really liked how honest this post feels, and I actually felt quite related to it. I perfectly understand the feeling of solitude – coming from another country I basically left all friends and family behind. I love what I do in UK and I feel very grateful for my time here – but sometimes I miss people and feel very lonely, specially on dark, rainny days like this one...

    I also go to lots of events alone when I cannot find other people to join me. I'm one of these people who actually enjoys being in the cinema alone as well... Literary fairs and such sound scary, but the few times I was brave enough to go on my own I felt very rewarded. If you go on your own you make a real effort to meet others and enjoy, and usually make very interesting connections, So go for it! (Although, saying this, I'm also quite shy and social awkawrd buuut... I didn't leave my country for nothing!)

    Finally, I had the chance to read bits from a novel you wrote. I'm not sure my opinion matters, but as a writer and reader I say – no, wait, I shout – finish it! I'm going to buy it when it's out. We need novels with complex, inspiring female characters for a change, and the Lancaster setting is very original. Please, keep going.

    And thanks also for your blog, I really enjoy reading it :)

  2. Oh, Jess, I'm so sorry to read this. Although, at the same time, I'm actually perversely happy - because I've been feeling exactly the same way lately. I've always been anxious, but it's started to hold me back from things - my boyfriend wants to go abroad this year, but I find airports terrifying and far too stressful. And like you, I want to start being braver, and pushing myself out of my comfort zone, but I don't know where to start. None of my friends or family have the same interests as me, so the things that I want to do aren't necessarily what they want, and I'm too scared to go it alone. But it's so brave that you are planning to - I think you have to make a conscious decision to be courageous, and you clearly have, so you should be proud of that!
    Beth x