Saturday, 8 April 2017

Dear Confidence

Dear Confidence,

You're on the up! Slowly but surely and without me really noticing, you've exposed yourself and made yourself known to me. You took your time but I'm glad you're beginning to come out of your shell. At first I didn't see you, and it was only in recent weeks that I've thought back on where you were, hiding behind your old friends humour and anxiety, last year, or the years before. Since then, things have changed. As I've done more of the things I love, you've stepped out from behind your place of safety and decided to show yourself. What's more, people have noticed.

I decided to write this letter last week, after a conversation with 2 ladies that I feel began to eek you out. I was speaking to Anna and Emily on Sunday evening, at the pub, Black and Teal - a singing and dancing extravaganza - having had it's final bow. I went to say goodbye and to thank them both for a wonderful show experience and tell them how much I love being part of the Starling Arts family, when they said this: They told me how proud they are of how far I've come and how much my confidence has grown over the last year. Unsurprisingly (if you've met me) I teared up. I hadn't really taken the time to think about it, but they were right! This time last year, I was settled but I wasn't confident. I would smile and laugh but inside be filled with wondering questions: What am I doing? Why did I say that? Everyone definitely heard that wrong break and cake time, I'd check my phone and wander aimlessly round the room, not knowing if and how I should join in with a conversation. Every so slowly, song by song, week by week, your nemesis', dear confidence, those feelings that make me want to stay inside in my own company avoiding any risks that might come with the world beyond those doors, have been pushed further and further to the back of my mind. And into the spotlight, has come you!

I'm there...blonde, second row. Smiling. 
I'm happier now that I used to be, at making a fool of myself. I used to always worry what people thought. Even if words weren't spoken aloud, the fear would be that everyone around me is thinking the same thing: who is she? did she really just say that? How embarrassing! Ah, embarrassment, my old friend. You'll always be here I know but I like to think we're getting to know and understand each other just that little bit better. As I've met more people, people like me, and felt able to be myself, I've realised that I control you. I used to think that you sat patiently inside, waiting to pop your head out at the most inopportune times, making a big fiery entrance. Now I understand that this is not the case. Sometimes, yes, you make an entrance when I'm least expecting it and I experience the joys of my favourite words: "Ellie, why have you gone all pink?".....or something along those lines...times when I'm unable to necessarily give an answer because all it will do is make things worse...worse than someone pointing it out in the first place..

However, most of the time, I am able to decide for myself whether I care what people think. I do or say 'Ellie' things and I don't care because, the point is you see, that's me. If people don't like it, they can leave it. I've met so many new and wonderful people over the last year: wonderfully wacky. I've found myself feeling more and more confident to be myself. Humour is no longer my weapon against anxiety but my shield, reminding me that I can be pretty damn funny when I want to be, and I normally do. I want to stick my tongue out for that photograph and sing and dance my way through the corridors of Great Ormond Street Hospital. I want to walk through Hyde Park seeing how many accents I can do and seeing how many funny looks I get from strangers around me. I want to dance across the zebra crossing, performing for the cars because...well why the hell not! I can't really say it today, but England often needs sunshine and if I can provide just a glimmer of that, then I'm doing well!

My Forte Family
I'm not saying you never fade away and take a back seat. You do. When I stood on that stage last weekend with my Soprano 2 girls, I heard my voice shake as we launched into our verses. I felt my knees knocking. The point is, I'm ok with that. The point is, I did it anyway. I didn't run away or burst into tears as the butterflies began to soar, I just kept moving. Kept singing. Kept going.

That's the approach I'm trying to take with everything. I'm not letting my mind rest on the little worries that niggle me. I'm making the decision to be me and take those who accept that with me, leaving those who don't, behind. I'm dating! Pardon? Yes, dating...I've made a conscious effort to meet up with new people, to grab a coffee or a bite to eat and to smile throughout. If it goes somewhere, then I'll go there and explore the new view but if it doesn't, then nothing's been lost. Yes, I'm still emotional and am always aware of the risk of getting too attached to someone too early. But once again, that's just me, and I'd rather be in touch with my emotions and liking someone too much than not giving people a chance. Of course this doesn't mean I haven't had some pretty dreary encounters. I've Whatsapped people for a week, met up with them and sat in silence...nothing to say to this person who seemed to be so full  of words on the other side of a screen. I've invented dinners that I need to go to with my family to give me a cut off time when I can escape and I've discovered that camera angles can be deceptive.

But I've also met lovely people, been to lovely places and gained friends. Male friends. Shocking! I know! Guys that I now meet up with from time to time for dinner, a movie evening or to drag along to watch me sing and dance. Through the power of dating, I'm broadening my circle of  friends and it's great. I'll keep hoping that at some point one sticks, but I'm trying to let you, dear confidence, lead the way, no matter what happens. 

A pre-valentines, singles ramen night with Steve
...a friend picked up along the dating way <3

I take the initiative and if I like someone, I'm trying to let you take the lead. I mean, what's there to lose? I tell someone I like them or I want to plan the next date. I match on tinder and initiate the conversation because why wait for the guy to message first....? I ask why when I like a guy but he says he wants to just be friends..I know I'm great so if they don't see it, through all or no fault of their own, then that's ok. Plenty of fish in the sea and all that. One of those fish will happily join me to read our books in the park or snuggle on the sofa watching Disney movies with a cup of tea. So there's no harm in putting myself out there. Best outcome: they think the same as me and we move one place further on the dating game board. Worst outcome: they don't think the same so we put the game away and start a different one. Either the: that was fun but I think we'll go our separate ways game or that was fun and let's hang out. I really do want us to be friends. I'm learning that any of these outcomes is fine. They're all good, one way or another. Dating's just a game. You keep playing and at some point, you'll get to the final square. It may have taken a while but it's not the winning that counts...and all that jazz.

I just looked at my notes for writing this blog and saw I'd written: Babysitting in my pyjamas. I had a point to go with this. I used to be paranoid about what I wore and how people saw me. At school, I was never one of the stylish kids and it was only as I got older, and moved towards my final years of 6th form that I realised it didn't matter. I had my own, Ellie style and as long as I am comfy, why does it matter, In the winter, I take advantage of the fact that everyday can be a leggings and baggy jumper day. In the summer, it's my socially acceptable pyjama trousers the whole way. When I babysit, I walk down the stairs of my block of flats in my pj's and slippers and snuggle up on someone elses sofa. Because why not. If you can't be comfy in life....

Comfort is key

And then there's uni. A place where this time last year, I thought I would avoid forever more. I'd already made that decision years before, at school, when I insisted the moment I had finished compulsory education, I wasn't going to keep going with that anxiety and deadline filled life. My brief stint doing English Literature took that confident claim that 14 year old me had made and said: 

"You were right! We should have listened to you before".

Since then, you, confidence, have appeared here and there throughout the last year and a bit. You've been there as people say how brave it was of me to take the plunge and stop doing something I wasn't enjoying. You were there when I signed up for Great Ormond Street volunteering, an entirely new experience full of emotions and you were there when I decided to take a plunge for the second time and apply for the Montessori foundation degree. You've been there, getting bigger and bigger with every week throughout this course, as I approach my 400th hours at placement and look back, noticing how shy and unsure I was in September and how now, I sing and dance my way into the nursery. You have been there with every essay submission and when I stood in front of the class to present my powerpoint...something that at school I would have done with the face of a tomato and a break in my voice. 

I met this goon because of the Montessori course...
we walked through London with red noses on...
because why not 
Now, when I sit down to do an essay, alongside my constant companion anxiety, I have you. Whispering into my other ear that I can do this. That, if anything, I'm going to go way over the word count and my main stress is going to be writing less on the topics that I love. 

You're there. Everywhere I look and with every day of every week, you're getting stronger. It's your time to shine.

So thank you,