I am 34, a mum of two, and still feel like a student.
I dress like a student, living in skinny jeans and ankle boots. My khaki summer jacket wouldn't be amiss in the college corridors, whispering through lecture room to coffee shop to library – oops, no coffee in the library!
I still wear my baggy jumpers, my KISS ARMY t-shirts – albeit these are confined to bedtime clothes most of the time – I am and always will be an indie girl at heart, and I frequently quote phrases from Friends. And I still have those freshman insecurities.
I haven’t changed. My mentality hasn't changed. I think that I ‘think’ like a 19 or 20-year-old.
I don’t but I still feel like that college girl, that English student who hid away in the second last row of lecture theatre A. To this day, I still watch groups and cliques gather around me in work, in meetings, at conferences and seminars and remember the English Quad Squad, as I referred to them, glide into the lecture theatre and take their seats in the middle, right in front of the podium, giving them the chance to stare straight into the lecturers eyes.
Approving nods and agreements thrown his way if eyes locked. They were the students who were remembered, who were given references for future employers by their tutors and senior lecturers. Not the girl in the back on her own who ran for the bus as soon as lectures were over, the girl who skipped tutorials because the two-hour wait between classes was unbearable on her own. The girl who avoided the student bar because, one, she didn't (and still doesn't) drink alcohol and, two, she didn't want to expose herself as an unworldly and timid freshman. The girl who introduced herself ‘My name is Geraldine’ to hear ‘Oh, Jolene, what a lovely name’. My voice was low, my heart was lower, I did not correct their mistake. I was not the most confident as you can see.
***The song Jolene was almost forever ruined for me until I heard my husband sing it… he has an amazing voice! Thank god for singing husbands and amazing songs!***
So, I still feel like that girl, the 19-year-old.
But the difference is, I’m not a teenager, I’m not hip or trendy (do they still say that?), my clothes are not new, in fact, they’re five years old or more. My hair has not been cut, let alone styled, in three years. And I often forget to pluck my eyebrows. I go out of the house with little to no makeup and there are times when I simply don’t know if my clothes are clean or not. Parenting has taken over as time runs away on me but underneath my insecurities are still real.
My 19-year-old self whips me back to a time when I watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer, worn big jeans and decorated my canvas bag with beads, gemstones and tippex painted symbols from Charmed. Anytime I encounter a situation when I’m nervous or shy, I feel like that girl again. I’m no good at making friends or keeping friends – so if we’re still friends, yay! I’ll do my best to keep you. And if we’re not, I’m sorry but I remember you fondly. I’ve never forgotten a single friend and appreciate all they have done for me.
Somewhere along the way, I grew up.
I graduated. I watched the English Quad Squad throw their hats in the air. I took the obligatory awkward graduation photo which hangs in my parents. And then I got a job, got married, we have a beautiful four-year-old and a gurgling baby. We have a bungalow on half an acre – with a lawn that takes up to three hours to mow – and we’re deciding on primary schools. No, I’m not in my 30s, I’m a 19 year old from 2002 who has simply grown up.
I still shy away and avoid people as much as I can. I lean on my husband – he gives me confidence just by being around him – he oozes charisma but suffered his own insecurities and dealt with them. With him, I can do anything. Without him, I find myself needing to imagine tree roots are growing from my toes and heels and rooting me to the ground.
I find I have to channel Karen O and hear her melodies singing in my head to banish any nerves or stress I have of talking to new people, old acquaintances and yet I want the relaxed and soothing nature of Bowie to ooze from me. I want to look and feel confident but that 19-year-old creeps back in and I doubt myself.
You may know me.
But you probably don’t know that beneath it all, I’m nervous. You may not know that the first time I met you, I was probably desperately searching the archives in my head to find conversation filler, that I was hoping you didn’t want to talk to me, that I wished I could have hidden behind the curtain before you approached me. I’m better than I was. My confidence is in there somewhere, lurking. I'm slowly learning, to laugh at myself, raise myself up and stand tall but it takes effort, mental effort.
Now I’m stronger. Because I don’t want our daughters to see my insecurities and think that they are the norm. I don’t want them to worry, to stress, to fear confrontation. To feel small or be shy. I want them to be brave, to be adventurous, to explore and be confident. I want them to see Momma Bear stand tall and not cower or shy away – or run away more like! I want them to look up to me. I want them to be proud of me and see me being confident and strong. Because of our daughters and because of my husband, I am becoming a stronger person.
I am less quiet, I force myself to put myself ahead, approach people first before they find me hiding behind a curtain. I stand tall even when I feel miniscule inside and I speak loud when I fear my voice will fail. Our daughters will not have my insecurities – no doubt they'll have their own – but I promise that I will not pass on MY insecurities to them.
And I will NOT hold on to them for myself.