I am away this week. I left my house first thing this morning, drove two and a half hours to then get collected by someone else to drive another two and a half hours to our destination.
I have two identical cases in the back – the one filled with clothes I will wear while I am at my conference, and the other case – left in my car containing clothes I hope to be brave enough to wear on my way home.
Hidden like a guilty secret, in the hopes that they are not discovered, but which case contains the costumes?
I am a quiet person – I have been professionally blending in with my surroundings for as long as I can remember.
Every time we moved I would blend in so that I would not be picked on, every place I have worked I blend in so that I can be a team player. Every conversation I have I try to understand others views so that I can find middle ground. I am a consummate chameleon.
A large part of this journey for me is one of self discovery – I am trying to strip back every aspect of my life and understand who I am at my core.
My personal life exploded, the person I thought I was blown apart over years of marriage to someone who did not share my affection.
My friends – physically miles away, all with their own lives, families, and problems – we never meet and hang out like we used to do and yet they matter to me, their respect and friendships are treasured – but how can I be sociable without ever seeing my friends and stoking those friendships?
My work is frustrating – I am supposed to be going places, taking the people I work with on a journey where the sole aim is to move forwards, and yet am met with total apathy, I do not have the capacity to sit and make idle chit chat with someone who does not really want me there.
In my work I am a leader, I encourage others, I support them, I offer space for people to be themselves, and my aim is to see them grow as individuals. I manage my own time and I consider myself extremely fortunate to do what I do, but in order to do that I need to be outgoing and able to approach and enter someone else’s space.
Conferences are a mixed bag – there are always people that I know and get on well with and love to spend time catching up, the flip side to that is that there are always people there that I do not know and am obligated to talk to, to introduce myself to and am expected to open up to. As an introvert I find that exhausting – I seek relationships with people, I find fulfilment in being able to connect with the world and yet all I really want to do is what I have done tonight – run back to my room, put my headphones on and listen to some relaxing music. I use the travelling as an excuse, normally I force myself to chat well after the session has ended but as tonight’s session was on mindfulness and self resilience I felt able to leave as soon as was physically polite to do so.
One thing that I struggled with is the idea that it is okay to be who we are.
I agree with the sentiment and would echo it to anyone, and yet tonight I sit pondering once again who I am, am I supposed to be that nice quiet guy sitting in the corner, if I could be in this room with these people presenting female, would I? Could I still be me?
It is chatting to the women that makes me most comfortable and talking to most of the men is a struggle to find something to talk about – why is it such a difficult thing to do?
In this place my work is more important than my gender, my experiences we are told, count, for no matter who we are we have worth and we have skills and perspectives that others don’t.
I sit quietly, looking at the room, disconnected, present yet not really here.
Does any of this apply to me? I know I am resilient, my life has shown me that I can wade through just about anything – but doing that in a way which allows me to learn from it, to thrive from the experience, to grow, to appreciate it while I am going through it.
I’m not sure I can.
Being who I am, knowing who I am, accepting who I am – those are the hard parts.