Until recent years, I was a people chaser. I spent a lot of time wondering why people didn't want to hang out with me, and more time getting upset at this. While it may have been a case of them really not wanting to spend time with me, it was probably more that I was chasing the wrong type of people, just to have a connection with someone, I suppose. The people who don't belong in my life. Now I've stopped chasing, these people who didn't make time for me are no longer in my life. And I have a heap of great new people who are in my life - who belong here.
When I was 22-23, I would see a guy who wasn't really boyfriend material. For most of our relationship, he didn't work - just sat in his smoke-filled room playing computer games. His parents also chain-smoked, and so when I'd visit, I'd have terrible allergies. One night his Mum drove me to the chemist to get some Zyrtec. There was an irony in that she smoked the whole way to the chemist, with the car windows wound up. Achoo! This guy was unreliable - he'd constantly let me down, not attending my birthday party, not calling me in hospital, and it was always me doing the chasing. Phoning, texting, visiting. I just didn't speak up about this behaviour. And still I wanted to be with him. I guess he was cruelly kind, breaking up with me over the phone one night, saying "didn't I tell you I don't love you anymore?" so casually it was like he forgot to pick up some milk at the shop. He also added that he was only sleeping with me because he knew I loved him. Those words were sharp. He worked at an abattoir for a little while, so I guess he knew the quickest, gentlest way to kill an animal? I was devastated, for a little while, and then I realised what a good thing it was not having to worry about whether he was going to show up or not. And more importantly, whether he was going to treat me with respect.
I've had people in my life constantly show up late, leaving me waiting in excess of an hour (some citing the excuse "that's just who I am, I'm never on time"). Others would ALWAYS cancel, even when they've arranged a time that's suitable for them. As social media crept into our lives, I'd see that while they weren't able to make my birthday (many years in a row), they would be having such fun with their other friends. It's that showreel of envy, hey? I'd continue to chase, hoping that one day I'd be a priority. It takes strength to speak up about people not giving you their time. And when I have done, I've lost these people as friends. I'm ok with that. There are still a few people I want to spend time with but the friendship seems pretty one-sided, so I'm letting go.
I'm a big believer that respect equals people in your life being willing to give you their time - like time spent with you not a chore. This isn't a case of me feeling that I'm the most important person they should be spending their time with. I understand everyone is busy, and everyone has a lot of friends and family, plus work commitments. It's about having the respect for yourself to stop people chasing. The people who are meant to be in your life will come and stay.
I'm also a big believer in doing activities and going to events that will attract like minded people. When I moved to Melbourne, Mum always told me I should join Rotary so I'd meet people. I never did join. But in my own time - and I guess with blogging (and social media) as a vehicle - I started going to events that interested me. Some of these events were for social good, others were just so I could learn new things. I started mentoring at the Royal Children's Hospital, I started blogging, I started going to film and writing festivals, to bands (which I did from my first year of being here), I attended speeches, ate at many cafes, auditioned for community TV and got the role, started speaking outside of my day job. I started putting my name down to do lots things. I even started talking to people on public transport - and have met a few friends this way! Many of these things I'd do on my own (don't be afraid to do things on your own - if you wait for someone to make up their mind about attending the event you want to go to, you may miss out!). But there'd always be someone there to talk to. That common interest we have is a great conversation starter, and I have found that it leads onto finding out we share more common interests. And slowly I made more friends, just by doing my own thing.
I don't see all my friends all the time. I connect with them on social media, see them at conferences and events, send regular texts and catch up in person when we are both free - sometimes months pass between catch ups. We are all busy. I am busier than I have ever been. But I know my friends are there for me, as I am there for them. And I know they make time for me when they can, and want me in their lives.
That 'Be yourself...Just do your thing' is a concept I marvel at and struggle with in equal measures. I feel I've arrived here (when I say here, I guess it's referring to a certain level of success) just by being me. I feel that I haven't really done anything extraordinary. I've just shared my own story. And worked really hard. Anyone can do this. No one is stopping them. Of course, there's other steps involved in telling my story - which is part of the hard work: there's the self promotion, the content creation, the book keeping, the contact making, and planning. And there's self doubt. Which brings me to why I struggle with the concept.
I've thought a lot and written a little about pinching myself - life's great, and I've created this life! But I am also so self conscious of wanting to produce high quality work at all times, so that I don't disappoint. I have also so mindful of how I respond to criticism as well as unwanted contact. The work I do is mostly on the Internet, and apparently the Internet is forever. Recently I've had two encounters that have made me very apprehensive about how much I share about myself, and more aware of how my writing is being misconstrued and where it may be seen offline (without context). These encounters have also made me realise (again) that criticism often comes from a place of someone else's struggles, and it's ok if someone doesn't agree with or understand my work. It's a fine balance of speaking out and just letting things go. Whatever the case, these encounters fuel self doubt, despite how much I push them to the back of my mind.
I am so thrilled to be nominated for a Pride of Australia Medal. As I wrote, thank you to whoever nominated me. But I was talking to Mum about how weird it feels to be seen to be making a difference just by being me. I am not raising money, I'm haven't rescued anyone from danger, I haven't taken an animal (or child) in to raise. Then I think of the people who have contacted me to tell me reading my writing has helped them tell their story or become more confident in themselves, or given them some hope for their own life living with a visible difference or chronic illness. They're why I tell my story - to show people that they're not alone. To give hope. To set a positive example.
These people - the people I've helped I'm some way, or their friends I've made - they've come into my life because I've stopped chasing and started attracting them. By just being myself.