Complaints · Life · Me

“Why don’t you drink?”

“You’ll change your mind when you get older.”
“How do you get through the week without a pint?”
“What’s wrong with you?”

I think it started at around age 13. My friends started to drink cider on the park. I was always with them but it never felt right to me to join in with the drinking. We got older, the venue changed, the drink changed, the people changed. But the question never did – “why don’t you drink? There must be a reason.” For years, I didn’t know how to answer. I was embarrassed. I thought I was weird because I didn’t want to get wasted. I’d go to family parties and watch as arguments escalated as people got increasingly inebriated. I think about this and I still can’t understand why I’m the weird one for not wanting to be that way.

It was only as I got older that I could fully understand why I am so against drinking. For longer than I have been alive, my father has been an alcoholic. As I grew up I saw his addiction tear my family apart. I saw his addiction tear him apart. I cried and I begged and I screamed for him to stop but even to this day he is still adamant that he does not have a problem. I watched as my uncle wasted away as a result of complications from his addiction. I hear stories all the time of my father’s friends and my uncle’s friends passing away from their addictions.

Now, at 23 years old, I can finally answer the question “why don’t you drink?” Because I am absolutely terrified that I will become like them. I’m terrified that I might start to drink occasionally, and then over time it won’t be so occasional anymore. I’m afraid that I will ruin my life. That is why I don’t drink.

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Life · Self-improvement

Growing up shy (and learning to be confident.)

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.