…Or more accurately, from Namibia (a country in south-west Africa), where I spent 5 weeks at a wildlife sanctuary, including one week at a research site. Overall, it was an absolutely amazing experience and one that I thoroughly enjoyed. I kind of wish I’d had the courage to do something like that sooner, but it doesn’t matter – I’m just so glad to have been able to do it in spite of my anxiety. I saw, and learned about, so many different animals – both in captivity at the sanctuary, and in the wild – and met so many different people, from all around the world. I feel that it really helped me to grow as a person, and although I’m still a very unconfident person by typical standards, it has helped with my confidence immensely. People at work have actually commented on this, telling me that travelling has brought me out of my shell, and that I seem like a more confident young woman. No, my anxiety didn’t magically cease to exist while I was away, and it was really tough at times, but I have fond memories of my time away, and again, other people have noticed that my face lights up whenever I talk about my trip. I’m so lucky to have been able to travel so far afield and have had so many new and pleasant experiences. I think my social skills have improved a bit, and while I still don’t particularly enjoy small talk, I can see now that it does serve a very important purpose. Also, this probably sounds quite trivial, but something that I struggled with before travelling was making eye contact when talking to more than one person. I used to only be able to make eye contact with one person in the group, but while away, I managed to make adequate eye contact with everyone, and I’ve been able to do so since returning from Namibia as well. I’ve noticed lots of small but important things like that. I’ll write about my trip in much more detail later, either as posts on this blog, or in a private blog.
Like I said in my last post, I have really missed my blog. You’ll have to forgive me for being quite rusty at blogging (I’m already being hard on myself for the low quality of this post), seeing as how I haven’t regularly written posts in over a year now. I’m also feeling a little bit stupefied, as I often do at this time of year (more on this later), particularly when it comes to forgetting words, so please bear with me. I have so many updates to write, and so many other things that I want to write about that I’m actually feeling a little bit overwhelmed, but I’ll take it one post at a time. Thank you so much to everyone who has emailed me and commented on this blog over the last year and a bit. It’s so nice to know that my blog has made some fellow social anxiety sufferers feel understood and less alone. Many of your comments/ emails have made my day, so thank you!
I did mean to write an update weeks ago, but a combination of work and coming down with some kind of viral illness got in the way. The doctor actually said that my symptoms (cycles of high body temperature followed by chills) meant that I had to have blood tests done for malaria, which (despite the fact that I didn’t visit a malarial area of Namibia, and didn’t visit during the malaria season) was quite disconcerting. I also had to take my own bloods all the way to the blood lab at the hospital, while I was feeling very unwell and flu-like, which wasn’t much fun. Thankfully (and as expected), it wasn’t malaria.
In other news, I’m still working away at my supermarket job. For the most part, I have felt much happier and less stressed since leaving university. I still don’t have a clue what I want to do with my life (and the fact that one of my course mates described the job market for biological sciences graduates as “a shambling corpse” doesn’t exactly provide much optimism), but I’m thinking that for now, I will just take a year or so to try and figure my life out, and hopefully save up money to do more travelling, while I’m still young and don’t have any major commitments. Perhaps I am burying my head in the sand a little bit with the career situation (and I have already had many people depress the hell out of me by telling me not to leave looking for a graduate job too late or I’ll be working at the supermarket forever/ they have X, Y and Z postgraduate qualification yet still work in an entry level job), but travelling is currently the only thing I know that I want to do. I know that it’s something that makes me feel happy and that has also helped my confidence, so I’m keen to do more of it if I can. I may do some voluntary work as well.
Social life? What social life?
I’ve been feeling pretty depressed about the likelihood of making friends post-university, as I don’t really have a way of doing that other than meetup.com, and the vast majority of meet ups take place at the weekend, when I’m working. However, after speaking with my manager, it looks like I may finally be able to have Sundays off. Saturdays would have been better (about 70% of the events I’ve seen seem to take place on Saturdays), but I’m not complaining. I really hope that I can go along to more meetups and make new acquaintances (perhaps even friends, if I’m extremely lucky), though to be honest, I don’t hold out much hope.
I went to a meetup on Tuesday night, to have a meal and see a film with a group, but I was the youngest person attending the meal by about 3 decades. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t like talking to older people, it’s just that the whole point of me going along to these meetups is in an attempt to make friends/ acquaintances, and I’m much more likely to be able to do that with people my own age. Everyone was very friendly but I felt very awkward being by far the youngest in the group, and they also kept mentioning things that were clearly before my time, so I just sat there saying nothing, not having a clue what they were talking about. Ah well…at least I was still working on my social skills, I suppose. A couple of people closer to my age joined us for the film (Fantastic Beasts, which, despite being quite tired of the Harry Potter films, I enjoyed), including a woman that I went to high school with. Like me, she was also quite unpopular and got picked on a lot, though unlike me, she still managed to have a group of friends at the time. I sat next to her in standard grade English for 2 years. One day we had to write a poem, and I chose to write one about people who are “different” in some way. I remember that the first line of the poem was “The world is cruel to those who are different, those who don’t belong”, and it was about being strong enough to ignore the bullies and be your own person in a world that tries to coerce everyone to fit into a very narrow and restrictive definition of normality. I remember her saying that she related to the poem and that it was everything that she had wanted to say with her own. I’ve always wondered – given certain mannerisms that she has – if she might have Asperger’s or something. She has always been a little unusual, but also very genuine and a pleasant person. She actually gave me a lift home from the film, which was really nice of her. It would be nice if I could see her at another meetup, but that group doesn’t have many meetups that I can actually attend, and the thought of being the only young person amongst a bunch of older people again puts me off.
I really wish it wasn’t so incredibly difficult to make new friends. I feel like a middle-aged person in that sense already. I’m so grateful for the few friends I have, but it’s not like I see them on a regular basis. We hear a lot about loneliness in older people, but people don’t seem to understand that young people can be very lonely and have no close friends too. I realised yesterday that barring my one online friend, I’ve only had one close friend in my entire life, while I was still a child, and I think that’s quite sad. All subsequent friends have only been casual friends. I’m left wondering if I will always be as lonely (if not more so) as I am now. The future, regarding friendships, doesn’t exactly look promising.
My graduation ceremony was at the end of last month. I was absolutely dreading it, and was in a terrible state of anxiety the night before, but I actually ended up really enjoying it. I even managed to smile in photographs! I had been dreading walking up on stage in front of everyone most of all, but it really wasn’t that bad. I also managed to cope with certain things – for example, collecting my ceremony and reception tickets, finding out where to collect my robes from, finding out where to get my photo taken, having it taken, and making conversation with the photographer (all on my own, as my parents went for a coffee while I was sorting all this out) – a lot better than I would have previously. And while this probably sounds really childish, I used to rely on my parents a lot more with this sort of thing, but I think I’ve become quite a bit more independent since my solo travels. I think my parents were/ are really proud to have a university graduate in the family, and my mum kept saying how proud she was of me for getting through it all and getting great results in spite of everything. I have fond memories of the day.
Meanwhile, in my (non-existent) love life, I FINALLY managed to actually post a picture of my face on online dating sites. That probably seems like nothing to most people but it’s a huge thing to me (and I’m especially surprised that some men have seemed interested in me despite seeing my face), though I’m still terrified that someone I know will find my profile and mock me for it. I just keep telling myself that the possibility of finally being able to be in a relationship and experience love will be worth any amount of teasing. I’m not going to be miserable for the rest of my life (or at least, I will give it one hell of a fight) just to avoid teasing by people who have nothing better to do with their time. I will admit though, joining a site that requires you to pay for membership does make me feel like a bit of a loser. I feel like I’m broadcasting the fact that I’m a socially inept freak who can’t meet/ talk to men any other way. In a lot of ways, I worry that I’m still not cut out for a relationship, and may never be, and would make a terrible girlfriend – I really need to read a book or two on emotional intelligence and on healthy attachment styles. However, despite trying not to get my hopes up, I have been chatting to a couple of guys and may actually be meeting one of them soon (a thought that absolutely terrifies me). I managed to video chat with him over skype the other day (though I wasn’t actually able to say all that much) and he said he felt bad for asking me to do something that made me so visibly anxious and uncomfortable. But I was actually surprised at how quickly my anxiety (which was initially sky-high) reduced. Even if nothing comes of it, I think just actually meeting someone from an online dating site (even if it’s not a proper date) would certainly be a step in the right direction. I think if I ever want to be in a relationship, it’s something that I really need to start working on before I get much older. However, dating and relationships are also definitely the area where my anxiety is most intense and where I definitely have the most issues. I will try to take it one small step at a time and see what (if anything) comes of it.
I’m sorry for dumping yet another essay here. A plethora of updates to come, when I can find the time.