I read somewhere that you are where you are now because of decisions that you had made three to five years ago.
So where are we now? It’s nearly the end of 2020 and there’s still a global pandemic, but on the brighter side, I started my job at BBC Radio Lancashire six months ago today! This is definitely very far from where I thought I'd be five years ago, which was to be a primary school teacher. You see, I loved my time during school years, and I thought I could re-live the nostalgia as a schoolteacher, but then I quickly realised that it was not for me after I tried teaching a class of six-year-olds…
Nonetheless, we can all agree 2020 has been a tough year so I tried to project a lot of the reflection that I’d done in 2019 into the year 2020.
After completing my master’s last year, a part of me felt like I was finishing one season of my life and transitioning to another. If you think about it, most of the early stages in life continue in natural phases through the education system - after high-school, you can go onto college, then later university and then maybe a post-grad etc. but after that, you just freestyle through life. These thoughts, along with the thought of coming to an end of a decade, brought on a lot of self-reflection.
In reflection, I carried a mantra with me throughout 2019. Anytime I felt out of my comfort zone or required extra courage, I told myself: ‘just give it a go, it’s nearly the end of a decade! What have you got to lose?’ I know, how cliché. But I wanted to leave no room for regrets or ‘what ifs’ so, I used 2020 as an excuse for a fresh start – like the same optimism I have when I renew my gym membership every January.
Here are the three notable moments in 2019 where I turned my fear into courage and inspired a more positive outlook for the year of 2020.
1. I gave into swimming lessons
If you know me then you know I have a massive fear (or, used to?) of mass water - that’s the ocean, big lakes, ponds and as such. So, I couldn’t swim or was reluctant to learn how to swim altogether. This has always been bizarre to me since my heritage originates from a country that floods 18-75% every year, so how I don’t have flippers for feet I don’t know, evolution’s having a laugh. I don’t even remember having any traumatic experience that’s caused this fear, but I think it’s just the fear of the unknown, the limitless of the ocean and the fact that you can drown and die – duh.
However, last year I stayed in a cottage lake resort in Sweden and while all my friends enjoyed the lakes and went swimming, I stayed back and watched, and it sucked. I even brought along a swimming suit and I don’t even know why because it was not like I’d swim in it! Therefore, when I returned home, I made sure to book myself some swimming lessons with a professional instructor. The first few lessons were really tough, because I was terrified, I held onto my breath constantly when I was in the water and stayed close to the edges at all times. But things turned around with a lot of support and I got used to the water. Eventually, I was able to get from one side to the other side of the pool without using any aids! I am hardly Michael Phelps now, but I think I could manage an outdoor inflatable pool one day. Also, I can’t say the fear has completely gone away but now it’s manageable and it makes me feel like I can manage anything.
2. I told him that I liked him
Okay, this one required a weird sort of courage, because it was the first time that I ever told someone that I liked them and it involved a minor risk - to my ego. And also to my friendship, of course.
My friend and I had a very platonic relationship from the beginning, and we share a lot of mutual friends, so we knew each other well on a great-friends basis. We met as we both travelled together for an international project abroad and then we continued to stay in touch and hang out when we returned home.
However, I did start developing feelings for him and I ignored it because I thought there was no point and I also didn’t want to ruin our friendship. So, we continued on as good friends. But obviously, as we were nearing to the end of 2019, I was learning to swim, I was finding my confidence and I was all up in my feels, so I thought I was ready to confess. I wanted to go into the new decade with no regrets, remember?
So, on one winter evening, I was so nervous that I prepared what to say in my notes app, then I phoned him without any pre-warning and told him not to say anything until I finished and then, just like that, I told him. He listened, we talked, and he took it very well, in fact, he took it better than I expected. I mean, he didn’t exactly say how he felt about me for that matter, but I think that tells me enough and I accepted it. But he did commend me for my courage and was very kind too. Then after that, we arranged to visit the Christmas markets in Manchester together, very platonically, and all was back to normal again.
So, not the expected happy ending but I faced the fear of rejection and also potentially ruining a great friendship and I was relieved that it turned out okay - it felt like I levelled up in adulthood.
p.s. If you needed a sign to let that special someone know, then take this one...
3. I took part in a live audition for radio
After the many face-the-fears I had to do in 2019, I think this one bites the bullet. I almost didn’t go for that audition slot and if I hadn’t then I probably wouldn’t be in the job that I am in today. Last autumn, the major broadcasting organisation, BBC, was holding a national competition in all their local radio stations called the ‘BBC New Voices’. This was a competition searching for new talent for local radio. It was the perfect entry opportunity for any graduated journalism student of course, but I was afraid to give it a go.
The competition was a live audition pitching a story for sixty seconds to three judges. A candidate required three ‘yeses’ to get through the first round before making it to the finals. A niggly voice in the back of my head furiously told me to go for it but another voice told me that I would just embarrass myself out of that audition and that I wouldn’t be good at it.
These thoughts continued to nag me even on the day, mere hours before my audition as I fought with thoughts of backing out! Until I thought, sod it, what have I got to lose? I went in, got my ticket number – no backing out now - chatted to a few other candidates and relaxed a little. Eventually, I did my funny, little audition and got three yeses!
In the end, I didn’t make it all the way to the finals, but because of this opportunity, I managed to secure a position at BBC Radio Lancashire. So, I’m forever grateful for taking that plunge and I never want to not believe in myself ever again.
There you go, these are just my little experiences and I think everyone can find their own little moments like these if we have a look more carefully. Yes, I didn’t win the competition, nor did I get the guy, but with a little faith in myself and pushing my comfort barrier I learnt a lot about myself, and it feels like I’ve unlocked the next level to living.
So, I would say, don’t limit yourself to your fears and do allow yourself to be vulnerable once in a while, find strength in it and see what happens in the next three to five years.