As far back as I can remember, I was shy. I was always hiding behind my mum, afraid to meet the eyes of other people. I don’t know when this began but I do know that it never went away.
For me, growing up shy meant being too scared to go and find friends to play with. Growing up shy meant that when I did form friendships, I was always doubtful that they genuinely liked me. Growing up shy meant that I was afraid to speak, so people thought I was either stupid or rude. Growing up shy meant not asking the teacher for help so never learning things that I was genuinely interested in. Growing up shy meant massive amounts of apprehension before trying something new or going to a new place.
I knew that I was shy. I knew it and I thought that it was something that I just had to deal with because that’s how I was and there was no other way for me to be. As I stumbled into my late teens I began to realise the reality of the situation. By accepting my shyness and never trying to overcome it, I had lost so many opportunities that I was never going to get back. Sure, I enjoyed the gaming and the reading marathons but I realised that I wanted more for myself. I wanted confidence.
So I went to university. In the first two years I made three friends. I tried to spend time with them but I was still too shy and afraid to truly enjoy myself. In my final year I transferred to a different university and moved out of my family home. I met so many different people and learned so many new things. By the time of graduating I had gained two friends. By pushing myself out of my comfort zone and forcing myself to do more things, I had started to make progress in building my confidence.
Now, progress is progress, but let’s be honest – it wasn’t much. After graduating I found myself struggling to find work. I was regressing and losing the confidence that I had worked so hard to gain. I couldn’t take it. I knew that I had to make a drastic change.
I discovered a company that hires graduates and sends them to China to teach English in schools. I debated with myself for weeks before deciding to send in my application. I mean, sure they said “no experience necessary” but could they really mean that? Surely they would take one look at my application, laugh, and reject me without hesitation. Eventually I decided to just do it, it would be a nice surprise if I actually got accepted. So I did. And I received a reply the very next day. Before I knew it, I was saying my goodbyes and I was on the plane to China. I couldn’t speak a word of Mandarin and I didn’t even know how to pronounce the name of the city that I was to be living in. To be quite honest, I was in way over my head.
Living and working in a small city in China whilst speaking not a single word of the language is incredibly scary. But it’s exciting too. Every day was a new adventure. I met so many awesome people and tried countless amazing things. I traveled to new places and I even fell in love. I thank my lucky stars every single day. A simple job application started the events that led to me meeting the love of my life, my Henry.
I lived in China for two years before deciding it was time for me to return to the UK. In September I will begin my Master’s degree. I have started freelance work to help me achieve my goal of writing for a living.
I am shy. I also have confidence. I am proud of the immense progress that I have made and I will continue to work to improve myself.