Sunday, 1 March 2015

Break Away...

In October last year I made a decision- just a little decision- a decision to send a text message, to be precise, without consulting my best friends or parents first. I made the decision, wrote and sent the text, and then messaged my best friends and called my Mum to tell them I had done it.

Everybody immediately told me it had been a huge mistake. I shouldn't have been so honest in my text. "There's being honest and then there's that!" Minnie Mouse had despairingly replied. 

I couldn't see what was wrong with it. Honesty was the policy that I had with the receiver of that message, and it had worked well for us thus far. I thought he would appreciate it. 

Soon though, the horrified reactions of my Mum and friends were starting to concern me. I started to feel sick, actually. And he hadn't replied. Oh God, why hadn't he replied? 

I sent another outrageously honest text, that went along the lines of: Oh my God, I shouldn't have been so honest with you. I'm sorry. Forget I ever said anything. Can we start again. Please? 

I like to think it wasn't quite as desperate as that. But you get the idea. 

I called him. He didn't answer. I had to start work. Work was going to be hell. My stomach was in knots. I told the girls at work what I had done. I wasn't massively reassured. 

My break couldn't come soon enough. 

When it finally arrived, I had a text from him saying call me. 

Oh God. 

I frantically explained that I thought it was best to be honest but now I had learnt my lesson- my friends had all told me that that was a step too far, I was sorry, I wouldn't do it again. 

He laughed down the phone. 

He told me that yeah, it was honest, and it probably wouldn't suit most people. But that was the standard we had set. That was the policy we had decided on. He hadn't thought anything of the text. But he'd read it on his way into the underground and so I hadn't received his casual and happy reply before I'd sent my frantic sorry messages. 

Then he told me something that I believe has changed and will continue to change my life: 

You hold your friends' opinions up too high Rebecca. You rely on them too much, and you care about what they think far more than you should. 

Those words struck me far deeper than I think he intended them to. 

Did I rely on my friends too much? Or was he just failing to understand how girl friendships work? 

I had a feeling it was the former. 

A couple of weeks later I was at Pumbaa and Baloo's wedding, where I was reminded that Pumbaa's friends and family were actively against her dating Baloo when she first met him. 

"Imagine if I had listened to everyone, and cared what they all thought. Imagine if I'd thought that everyone else's opinions were more important than my own." Pumbaa had said, eyebrows raised and arms flailing when I asked her about it. 

I realised that I had had it in my head that this was how our friendship worked. We ran everything by each other. That was how we made decisions. Talking to Pumbaa I realised that that wasn't strictly true. I would run everything by my friends, take their opinion as gospel, and make my decisions based on that. None of the others did that. I was being ridiculous. How had I let this go on for so long?  

A few weeks later, Madame Adelaide suggested something that I wasn't totally sure I agreed with. Remembering the advice I had been given, I took a moment to consider what my opinion was. I told her. She tipped her head to one side and said: "Oh yeah. I hadn't seen it like that. That makes sense." Then we talked about something else. 

This was a revelation to me. 

Madame Adelaide is the nicest person in the world. The most angry thing I've ever heard her say is "and then she took the buttercream and iced the cake! Can you believe it?!" 

So I'm not sure exactly what reaction I was expecting from her upon hearing I didn't totally agree with her opinion. But I learnt a big lesson in that moment. 

Madame Adelaide, Pumbaa, and Minnie Mouse- as well as anyone else I put on a pedestal- are wonderful, really. And their opinions are valuable and will always be important to me. But they are not the only opinions, their point of view is not the only one, and they would be the first to say that their ideas are not the be all and end all. They don't necessarily know the situation that I need help with or the people involved like I do. It might be that they are so quick to defend and protect me that they can't see it from the other person's point of view. It might be that they are comparing it to a situation that they feel passionate about that it can't totally be compared to. 

There's a line in the Baz Luhrmann song Sunscreen that says: 

Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it's worth. 

And that is what I had somehow let myself forget- despite listening to that song far more often than necessary. Advice is provided with the intention of helping you but you don't have to follow it to the letter. Just because you think someone is wiser or more experienced than you doesn't mean they have all the answers for you and your exact situation. 

Since this huge revelation, I have discovered another, very similar feature, about myself. 

It turns out that, despite the fact that I love them and just think they're the best human beings on the planet, I don't have to agree with my parents on everything. 

They might be reading this and laughing, shaking their heads. I am quite opinionated. and I'll not pretend that I've never disagreed with my parents until this year. But recently my friends were discussing how much they love Emma Willis and I, in my new practice of voicing my thoughts, disagreed with them. When they asked me what I've seen her on that made me dislike her I realised...I've never seen her on anything. I don't really know anything about her. My Mum doesn't like her though. 

That's a ridiculous reason to not like her, I realised. 

How had I caught that opinion off of my Mum without noticing?!

A few days later somebody asked me if I like cats. 

"Ooh no. Ugh. Not a cat person. Not me." I scoffed. 

Then one of them started telling stories about her cat. I remembered sharing a bed with the cat in one of the houses I worked in. Then I remembered the kittens that my ex-boyfriend found and hand-reared. And then I remembered how much I love Dale's cats climbing onto my lap. 

Actually, I love cats. I think that when I do finally grow up and have a house and a pet, I would like that pet to be a cat. 

Yet somehow I had held onto this idea that I hate cats because my Dad does. 

I am twenty-five years old. I left home almost eight years ago. I've lived all across the world. I've been responsible for other people's children. I'm someone's manager. What am I doing running around voicing my parents' opinions as my own?! 

These two huge revelations of how much I rely on those around me; despite my supposed independence, my travelling, my stubborn and opinionated nature and my own initiative, have been a wake up call. I have decided to make that independence genuine and am becoming a better adult and well-rounded person as a result. 

Here are the ridiculous things that I have discovered about myself on this journey of independence so far...

1) The voices in my head are enough. 

A few weeks ago I had to call in sick to work. I hate calling in sick. My mum was one of those parents that insisted I "had a try" if I was ill, so I went into school no matter what kind of vicious bug I had and nine times out of ten would end up having to sit in the horrendous medical room throwing up into a washing up bowl that smelt of bleach until she came to get me. I am grateful to her for instilling into me the importance of only calling in if you were genuinely too ill to be there but still. The guilt gets me. Ordinarily I would have called my Mum asking her if she thought I was sick enough to warrant calling in. Wanting her to reassure me that it was the right thing to do and remind me that everyone has to do it sometimes (I've literally done it four times in my life). But this time, in my quest for independence, I realised that I knew exactly what she would say and how she would say it. That if I tried to go into work I'd only end up being off for longer. That I'd be of no use to anyone in my state anyway. She'd tell me she hates doing it too. That the people I work with should know me well enough to know it would only ever be genuine. And then I'd have dragged out making the horrible call even longer.

So I did it. I made the decision and the phone call without running it by anyone And I was off for a whole day. And neither of my parents knew. What a grown up.

2) It's okay that I like tattoos. 

Lots of people like them. Lots of people have them. A lot of those people have parents that don't like them. And that's okay. I think that they're a ridiculous reason to judge someone and, for the first time, am happy to admit that out loud. And even put it in writing. Where my parents and grandparents can read it. And I'm fairly sure they won't disown me, and that I won't get struck down. (If someone could just keep an eye on me for a while though that'd be great. If I am suddenly disowned you all know why.)

3) I will be finding out the sex of the baby. 

It's such a stupid thing to disagree on but my Mum and Grandparents passionately believe that the sex of the baby should remain a secret until the baby is born. I want to know. And I've always kind of thought...well I want to know but the family don't so I guess I won't be able to.

But I totally can and will find out! They don't have to know if they don't want to :)

(Just to be clear: I am not having a baby any time soon.)

4) I actually would quite like to go to Asia and Australia. 

My parents have never wanted to, so I have never wanted to. But now I have lots of friends there and couldn't work out my feelings. All the pictures and stories are amazing- so why do I still not want to go?

Oh wait. I do.

5) Everybody doesn't have to know everything. 

I had got myself into such a mad state of needing everybody's opinion before I made any kind of decision, or if I had any kind of dilemma, that two things would happen.

Firstly, I would hear so many different opinions that I wouldn't be able to form my own; and secondly, everybody would know all of my business all the time. It drove me crazy and it didn't seem to be a pattern I could get out of.

Until I found the power of making my own decisions. It's okay to just make a decision or deal with an issue without telling everyone I've ever met. It's okay to just ask one or two people to get it off my chest. It's easier, in  fact.

How have I only just discovered this?!

6) Nobody knows the right answer. 

I always remember that when I worked with Flounder she told me that when you're on the spot you just have to make decisions based on your own feelings and hope it works out okay. You can't run every single decision by a manager or you'll never get anything done.

I found that a really difficult concept to get my head around: I like rules and regulations, thank you very much. Anyone who's ever worked for Disney will know that decisions are made using the four keys in order. Safety is the main priority in every decision, followed by Courtesy, Show and Efficiency. That suits me: a decision making formula. Wonderful.

But in the real world, the four keys don't always apply, decisions have to be made purely on instinct and common sense.

And what I've discovered since becoming a manager is that there's not a ruler of the world that decides whether what you did is right or wrong. If you can explain why you made a decision, people will generally support it. Even if you made it without running by somebody else.

That is a huge revelation for me. I can decide things without getting someone else's opinion. And it will all work out okay. There was a time when I couldn't choose an ice cream flavour without running it by my Mum first. I'm growing up :)

 7) My parents will support me even when they disagree with me. 

I recently called my Dad and asked him for advice on something. He gave me a lot of advice based on his own experience, and then I went and did the exact opposite. When I told him what I was thinking of doing and then what I had done, he listened patiently, asked all the right questions, and reassured me that I had done the right thing.

It turns out that I'm surrounded by people who are happy to disagree with me. How magical :)

So try it out: make your own decisions, be your own person, take a deep breath and decide your own opinion. Form your own thoughts, go your own way, and make your own mistakes.

Take a risk, take a chance, make a change.

Prove yourself.

And let me know how it goes :)

Oh! And another thing...

I am going totally against my boyfriend's beliefs by taking Davina's Five Weeks to Sugar-Free Challenge, and I will be documenting the highs and lows in my brand new blog: Just Sweet Enough.

Please do not feel obliged to have a peek, but if you're interested in doing it yourself or seeing what it's going to do to me, take a little look :)

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