This week, The Boy is away for work, and as I mentioned in my last post, we’re not planning any weddings until both our birthdays are out of the way. My birthday is on Wednesday, and as such, I have almost nothing to share in the way of wedding news. Except that we have arranged a site visit in a couple of weeks, and I very much hope we will be selecting the type of cake we serve (and if The Boy suggests coffee and walnut…well. The wedding might be off. Not that he’s made any indication of his preference for this type of cake, but just in case he’s reading this on the other side of the Atlantic).
Instead, as my post about The Boy went down rather well last week, I thought we’d keep it personal, and I’d tell you a bit more about me.
As I may have mentioned, I’m not taking my imminent milestone birthday too well. I’ve achieved some of the things I wanted (I’m marrying a lovely chap, I have a job I enjoy and a house I adore) and a few things I hadn’t planned on doing (I can name all The Doctors in order, I know what the deal was with the polar bears in Lost and I have a cat named after a Dalek). There are still lots of things on my to-do list (I want to write a novel, publish a novel, and have at least one person read said novel, and to start ironing instead of hoping a petticoat will fix the creases), but there’s one thing I’m beginning to notice. For the first time in my life, I actually quite like being me.
And before we consider how pretentious that sounds, let me tell you a story.
Ever since I can remember, I have always wanted to be anyone else but me. From a young age, I watched my older cousins with awe, and wanted to be more like them (to be fair, they are pretty fabulous). I used to read a lot of books (still do, come to that) and used to wish with all my might to be one of the heroines in the stories – who wants to be the chubby, boring child no-one wants to be friends with when instead, you could be someone brave, pretty and popular?
Then came secondary school, where I met a fantastic group of girls, most of whom I’m still friends with today (apart from one who mercifully moved away, after manipulating, backstabbing and bitching her way through our year seven friendship group in a way only teenage girls can), and I yearned to be more like each and every one of them. In my eyes, they were everything I aspired to be – tall (still no luck there), smart, funny, confident, pretty, assertive, and a million other things they’re too polite to agree with.
I used to tell myself over and over again that I wasn’t good enough to be friends with them, that soon they’d find out I was boring and rubbish. I wanted to fit in so badly that I pretended to like things (Adidas popper trousers, cigarettes, football) and hate things (reading, history, chips) because I thought it made me look cool.
Pretending to be something you’re not is exhausting, and eventually I realised that if they were my real friends, they wouldn’t mind if I didn’t understand the offside rule. Oddly, one of my friends recently told me, “I always thought people were only friends with me because of you. It wasn’t until they signed my yearbook I realised I had friends of my own.”
Eventually, after becoming more a human being and less a walking ball of hormones, I went away to university. Where I met some wonderful people, most of whom I am still Facebook friends with, and a couple of whom I actually still talk to on a semi-regular basis. Unfortunately, I was so crippled with self-doubt, self-pity and self-loathing (I didn’t think I could do anything right, which made me not want to do very much at all, particularly in my last two years there), that I don’t think I was a very good friend, even to the people who wanted one.
One of these wonderful people, who reads my blog (because she’s lovely), is one of the most amazing people I have ever met. She’s funny, super-smart, practical, nice and gorgeous to boot. She was unfailingly kind to me even when I didn’t deserve it, and I wanted to be like her, except I couldn’t be bothered with all the ‘picking myself up and dusting myself off’ elements. Eventually I overcame my pity party for one and started to grow up, but by that point I had already moved back home, and she’s such a nice person that when I tried to apologise for being a bit of a knob, she didn’t understand what I meant.
Despite getting jobs, paying bills and generally being a proper grown up, I still felt like I was trying to fit in – going out and drinking wine when all I really wanted was a Diet Coke, offering to drive everyone everywhere because I wanted to please them (even if I could barely afford petrol) and generally moving through life scared of saying the wrong thing.
It began to change when I met The Boy, who made me see that the things that I like make me, me, so I may as well embrace it. Until we had to wait for over an hour to get into the World War II tunnels at Dover Castle – he soon changed his tune then.
It’s the last year or so where I’ve really felt a change. I joined Slimming World and lost a lot of weight; it’s an ongoing process but I’ve learned that my body isn’t going to change in a day, having one bad weekend doesn’t make me a failure, and if I’m unhappy with something, it’s up to me to do something about it.
I’ve learned that if I want to dress a certain way, then that’s fine. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks, and if I want to wear a bright yellow skirt and hair flowers, then I will, and if I want to go out in rollers and a headscarf, well…I’ll just put up with the stares.
And last but not least, I’ve learned that if I don’t agree with something someone has said, or if they’ve hurt me, then I should damn well stand up for myself. No-one really likes confrontation (unless they’re Jeremy Kyle), but it’s important to let people know when they’re in the wrong.
Being comfortable in your own skin is surprisingly refreshing. The teenage me would never have had a vintage afternoon tea/Doctor Who wedding, because people might have thought it was odd. Now, I embrace the fact people will definitely think it’s odd.
While I hate to admit that I’m finally growing up (even if I do like coffee and posh cheese), maybe maturing and accepting who I am means turning 30 won’t be so terrible after all.
Next week: My Nostalgia exhibition shoot and birthday shenanigans