Guys, I’m actually really shy. Painfully shy. Always have been.
Here are two of my earliest memories. I remember walking through an amusement park with my parents, no more than two years old, and I was wearing a pink checkered dress with fish on it. Each of my parents held my hands and swung me, and I felt utter joy and kicked my little sandalled feet in the air, but I didn’t say anything. I was just so happy to be wearing a dress with fish on it and so happy to be holding hands. The next memory is from a party where I was told I had to say hi to people, and I cried because I didn’t know what to say after hi.
My shyness confuses and surprises a lot of people because I love to do ‘outgoing’ things: climb, hike, coach, goof off in gyms, teach, dance, play piano in the occasional pub, speak in front of crowds, hitchhike.
But whenever I go to hang out with an acquaintance or friend in a new environment—even if I’ve worked with them for months or spoken with them in passing for weeks—my stomach flip-flops, my heart pounds, and I’m constantly concerned that I won’t bring enough to the table.
I’ve allowed my shyness to hold me back so many times, and others have interpreted it as distaste or dislike or even arrogance when in reality I just don’t always know what to say after hi.
I love ‘outgoing’ activities because they give me a social role and help me feel like I’m contributing in a real way. When I feel like I have a purpose, I let my passion show. If I believe in what I’m doing, I’ll plough through almost any feeling of discomfort. I see the goal and drive towards it because my strength is ‘allowed’, it has meaning.
I’ll also ‘be outgoing’ when I feel like I will see something beautiful: with hitchhiking, the reward was the conversation with an ex-jockey who fell in love with Orkney, the fisherman who taught me about the Firth of Clyde and the fishing industry, the kindly teacher who was overjoyed that I was hitching to ‘educational’ and archaeological sties.
I’ve learned, over the years, that if I put myself out there, beautiful things can happen. That’s why I easily got over the shaky-kneed, heart-pounding nature of hitching solo as a young woman.
Blogging again has been a far bigger hurdle for me because it requires me to believe in what I’m doing and in what I’m saying. I’m not a bold traveller living for the moment or the girl in front of a crowd; I am literally offering up my thoughts and my words and hoping for the best. Other than my friend and partner on this venture, there’s no one else vetting what I’m saying. As a perfectionist (you wouldn’t know from my inability to use social media or type on my phone), this is completely and utterly terrifying. I feel like an idea could always be better, that an argument could be constructed with more integrity, that a story could hit harder.
I feel shy.
Whenever I post something new on this blog, I feel dizzy and I’m so anxious that my hands or feet (once, a whole leg and part of my face) go totally numb. I feel like I want to hide underneath my quilt and that I don’t want anyone looking at me. I’m often too nauseous to eat for a few hours. It’s ridiculous. I don’t feel brave and brazen; I feel like a little girl whose secret book of handwritten stories has been exposed to the world, and I worry others would judge the astronomically high prevalence of elves and unicorns and trolls.
In the case of the blog, I worry that my opinions, my humour, my sometimes awe-struck and sometimes angry way of seeing the world is too alienating. However, it’s my deepest hope that my words give hope or information or entertainment to at least one person.
It’s this hope that motivates me: I want to create something beautiful and, deep down, underneath all the doubt and shyness, I believe I can.
And while I don’t have a huge following, I will always hear something that encourages me to keep going. Someone struggling with depression says that my story encouraged them to keep going. Someone who wrestles with Academia says that my thoughts resonate. A friend will say that this is just the beginning and that I will have the impact I crave.
With that, the little girl inside of me crawls out from her hiding place, stands up a little taller, and decides it’s worth it to speak a little louder. But this is still hard for me. I’m not an influencer or social media mogul or Tumblr Titan.
I’m just a girl in love with the world and with words trying to find some way to have an impact.