This is quite a personal one for me this week and delves into how life experiences change us.
When I was younger, I was always the quiet one, who would never speak up and struggled with social situations. Thankfully, I had a couple of good friends who I would spend every weekend with. We would go out in the morning and come home when it was getting dark. Over time, this grew into a larger group who would meet up weekday evenings and we would go and play football. It was an extremely simple life.
However, I sometimes wonder whether this actually had a bit of an opposite effect on my social ability. Yes, it was quite a large group, however everyone was older than me. When they started leaving school, getting jobs, I was left with nobody to hang out with. People in my own year at school had developed meaningful relationships, yet I barely knew the majority of them.
I ended up going to sixth form for 3 years instead of the usual 2 because I messed up. Looking back, this worked in my favour from a social aspect as when the year below joined the sixth form, I was included in a few of their classes. I became engaged with them. Just as much as I had been with the older kids. Isn’t it strange how we fit in to the world at different times.
Naturally, I’m an introvert
It was during this time, engaging with the younger group that I really began to understand myself. I had always been an introverted person. I learned that I could use my (slightly) longer life experiences to help these people and in turn they helped me become more of the person I am today. They may not realise this (they probably won’t even read it) but I want to say thank you to those people for helping me discover more about myself. I actually feel mildly confident that if I were to send a message out to each group, I’d likely get the most responses from the younger group, then the older followed by my own.
Since becoming a stay at home parent, I know that I’ve changed again
While my wife was pregnant, we decided that I would, at some point, take on shared parental leave, with the intention of wanting to build a bond with our son. This is one of the biggest life experiences we have. I’ve loved every minute of it, and as you may know, didn’t return to work. I joined a local baby group, and, that introverted person that I was, began to get a bit scared.
How would all of the women perceive me?
How would they interact with me?
Would they even interact with me?
After a few weeks of going, I began to get more involved, occasionally speaking up about my experiences with our son, how they related to their experiences. Giving my side, as a Dad, of the story. It broke down barriers (that I probably had put up myself). Engagement grew, I became recognised and over time, even started providing advice. Yes, me, a Dad, providing advice to a group of women, on parenthood! As I’ve mentioned before, I then found myself becoming good friends with three of the mum’s at this group and every now and then, we meet up to talk about how everything is going.
If they don’t like it, tough
I’ve realised through these life experiences, that my introvertedness (is that even a word!?) has started to reduce. Now, I’m fully aware that I won’t ever be an extrovert, but that’s fine. I’ve become comfortable with that. I’ll sit back and enjoy the conversation from outside, and occasionally pipe up if the subject interests me, or I have something to say on it. Over time, people that I do speak to have learned that this is me. The real me. I’ve also come to the conclusion that, if they don’t like that, then they can leave me to it. I don’t need people in my life to push me outside of my comfort zone. I need people that are there to support me. Because I’d much rather have a small number of close friends, than a huge number of distant ones