Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Reflections at 30

Today is my 30th birthday and while you are reading this I am exploring New York for the first time. I’ll be visiting the Garment District this morning - what else would I be doing?! For many turning 30 is a big deal. It is for me but not because one decade has finished. It is big for me because it is a milestone that provided motivation to tackle a big personal challenge. 

I was a shy child. As I went through school my shyness increased mainly because of experiences that I was burnt by, whether in class or socially. People’s thoughts and comments played on my mind and I worried every time I had to go to a gathering or was called on in class. This carried on at university in seminars and today, at work meetings. My sixth form tutor summed it up perfectly in the opening line of her supporting statement for my university application: “Claire is a very quiet girl…” She went onto say good things about my abilities and interests but this has always stuck with me. 

So what? None of this is too big a deal right? In general, right. But for me, it is. I never understood why that comment haunted me. Let’s go to Christmas 2011. Adam had gone north to his family, a lot of my friends had also travelled to theirs. I had a few days to myself after I had seen my family and I was so looking forward to it! I had it all planned out. I would sew, tidy up the flat, see my friends who were still in the area, peruse the sales. None of this happened. Instead I spent the days unable to leave the flat, not knowing when I would burst into tears and how long it would last for. Adam and Emily, my best friend, were fantastic. In the end it got so bad my mum, who was also very supportive, took me to the doctors. “You’re almost depressed” was the verdict and I left the room with the names of a book and some websites to help me. I knew this was coming and that it was ok. I have seen what depression has done to people, especially some of those close to me, and I decided there and then to work my way out of it. Thankfully I didn’t need medication but I did need to take a long, good look at my thoughts and my activities. 

I realised that I had been pushing myself to try and fit in with what I thought I should be, not who I was. I was trying to be louder, outgoing, very talkative. This made me anxious and unhappy. I could tell when I was feeling this way as my bad habits (biting my nails, chewing my lip) increased. Essentially I was lying to myself about who I am. The resources the doctor gave me helped but I needed a thought partner. Someone who didn’t know me, my background, family or friends. I looked at several options and bit the bullet by paying for a coach. It was eye wateringly expensive but it is the best money I have ever spent! I used to scoff at this kind of personal development, and I’m sure many still do, but I had to try something. The sessions really made me think and it was painful at times. The process I started there continues, but I don’t see my coach anymore although I know I can if I ever need to. 

I had no idea what my core values were. This might not sound surprising but it was a revelation to me. I found my values and quickly realised that my behaviour and activities didn’t match them. I discovered what and who sapped my energy as well as those that gave it. In short, I realised that I was a quiet person. I enjoy time on my own, and savour it when I get it. Many of the activities I enjoy are solitary ones - reading, sewing, anything creative. At the same time, I love seeing my friends and meeting new people. I have found ways to turn my solitary activities into sociable activities. I joined a book club, I attend classes and I started blogging. I have pulled away from energy saps and situations that make me feel bad about myself. I give myself the time and space I need, without feeling guilty. Unless I have something important to say, I won’t try to be heard by people who are unlikely to listen. I try not to worry about what people are thinking about me and focus instead on activities and relationships where I feel I can be myself. 

And the turning 30 part? I made a promise to myself that 2013 would be the best year yet. I knew I would have to make it that way. It may not be the best in terms of events but it has been for my peace of mind. I know myself better than I did before, I am much more comfortable with who I am and how I live my life. I have worked harder than ever this year and it feels great. The comment from my sixth form tutor no longer haunts me. There is more to do but for now, this is enough. 

25 comments:

  1. What a beautiful and inspiring post, Claire. Thank you so much for your candor in sharing your deepest feelings and giving us all a chance to know you better.

    I hope you have a fantastic birthday. Celebrating in the garment district sounds perfect!

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    1. Thanks Gail. It felt like the right thing to do. I had a great birthday!

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  2. Hi Clair! Happy birthday to you! I really hope you enjoy youre trip, and get the most out of it!
    On the other hand, this was a very inspiring post! I turn 30 in february, and I am really looking forward to it. Like you, I was allso "a quiet child", most of the time. I had my groups where I felt comfortable enough to be my self. But as I got older, I constantly found my self trying to fit in everywhere; school, part time jobs, boyfriends and social activities where I just really did not know how to behave to seem "normal". And that was very stressfull!...
    Today, I still find difficulties when trying to fit in whit other grownups. And I realize more and more that I cant force my self to be someone I`m not! I have my friends and hobbies I find piece in, but i still struggle to relax in new and unknown terretories. I just hope it goes over or I grow out of it...
    I am really glad that you have found piece whit your self and that you are happy! :D

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    1. Thanks. I still find it hard in some situations but feel that it is ok. I feel I won't grow as a person if I don't push myself out of my comfort zone every now and then, but it is important to have restorative time after, otherwise it is all too much. It sounds similar to what you have mentioned here. I hope that you have a great birthday in February.

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  3. Enjoy your 30th. I am now in my 60th year and have a list of 60 things to do before I turn 60. My personal celebration. Like you I am quiet, few friends, solitary interests etc but I have had a rewarding and enjoyable life. I am glad you have found your "equilibrium" and I do hope you enjoy New York.

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    1. Thanks Margaret. I loved New York. Your 60 before 60 sounds great! I hope that you achieve them all.

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  4. First of all, Happy Birthday Claire. I hope you are having a wonderful time in New York.

    What a thought provoking and interesting post. I too was a quiet child, and have always gravitated towards solitary interests. I am now a pretty quiet adult, although much less shy than I was, I find socialising in large groups daunting and often struggle with small talk.

    I've also suffered from depression, although mine was brought on by work-related stress. I'm glad you've found ways to deal with the things that bother you, and that your old teachers comment doesn't haunt you any more.

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    1. Thanks, Sam. Oh, the dreaded small talk! I can find that really hard. I hope that work isn't as stressful anymore.

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  5. Happy birthday! This sounds like a fabulous year for you and I am so pleased you found a way out of your "near depression". How wonderful to know yourself and honour it. And thank you for sharing your journey. I myself have suffered depression and know how important it is to talk about it and not demonise it. I wish you the very best for 2014, and enjoy NY!

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    1. Demonising depression is one of the worst things people can do. I'm not perfect with those around me but I would never hold this illness against them. It is such a though one to deal with.

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  6. A lovely and honest post Claire. All the very best for you and enjoy NY! Buy up big.

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    1. Thanks Kirsty. I managed to purchase a few items!

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  7. Happy Birthday Claire, I hope you have the most wonderful trip. What a thought provoking post, I would never scoff at seeking help. I had an issue with work related stress and struggled with seeing a counsellor - not because I didn't value their work but because I'm the eldest in a big family and it's always been my role to 'cope and get stuff done'. I came to realise that his role had been given to me, it didn't actually sit with my personality well - staggering to find this out in your late 40s. I hope you continue to find a way of being that totally suits who you really are :)

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    1. It seems that whatever form of help someone gets, there is always a big surprise. Once you know what that is, you can begin to move forward. I'm glad that counselling helped you.

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  8. Happy Birthday Clair! I'm glad to hear that you are getting things sorted and learning how to make yourself happy.

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    1. Thanks! I'm glad I started the process!

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  9. Happy birthday to you! Hope you're having a wonderful trip.
    Thanks for sharing part of your journey here - it's so brave of you, and very inspiring. I'm so glad that 2013 has been such a great year for you. After all the hard work you've put in evaluating and then implementing changes you thoroughly deserve it. Here's hoping 2014 is even more fulfilling! oxo

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    1. Thanks, Danielle. It took a long time to write this post and I debated it until I hit publish!

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  10. Happy 30th Birthday!
    I wanted to add my voice to the others, as I really appreciate you opening up to the world. I have suffered with days to myself exactly as you describe, I look forward to it, plan and organise, and then... do nothing, see no one, and when I do see someone I'm inexplicably annoyed with them. I work at my happiness, and it pays dividends, I make sure I not only follow through on plans, but also force myself to take the quiet time that I know I need. Thank you for your story :-). Have an amazing time in New York! So Jealous!

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    1. Thanks. I'm glad you have found ways to work through those days and that you see the results. Quiet time is so underestimated but so essential to many of us. I know I wouldn't function properly without it!

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  11. Happy Birthday, and I just wanted to add my support to everyone else's. i really admire you for the way you are dealing with this, and also for speaking about it. Depression affects so many, and yet it is still hard to speak about in public. I've had counselling for reactive depression (after a car crash) and can't recommend it enough. Hope you have a great trip!

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    1. Thank you. I'm pleased to hear that counselling worked for you. It can be so hard to work out which way to turn without someone else there.

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  12. Happy Birthday Claire! I hope you are enjoying New York. What an amazingly brave post! And so well written. I am so glad to hear you are feeling better about yourself. My brother has gone through much the same experience over pretty much the same period. And I can definitely be guilty myself of trying to be what I think others want me to be. It's difficult but I'm so glad you are happier now. X

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    1. Thanks Helen. It is amazing how our thoughts can take over and make us try to be someone else. It is such a battle. I hope you're brother is doing well.

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    2. You are right and amazing how damaging a throw away comment can be to a child (and then adult) too! Yes my brother is doing better now too, thanks! X

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