Coming into one’s own is a term which I’ve always just laughed away, which can sound pejorative – but it isn’t. It just boggled me whenever a female public figure (and for some reason it always tends to be a female) was quoted saying, “I’ve finally found myself. I know who I am now.” I couldn’t comprehend how after being yourself for essentially however many years old you are, you didn’t who you were. But, now (and you know this is coming because I have just started off with a judgemental comment) I can finally relate.
I have now been on my own for 10 months in a city that I had never visited nor heard of prior to my arrival. I have also managed to cross off the following from my imaginary bucket list:
– First professional year in a field that I got a my degree in
– House hunting alone
– Shifting houses alone
– Living with flatmates (A sweet girl I clicked with and a man I cannot stand)
– Living alone
– Traveling to the outback and surviving
– Miraculously developing cooking skills
– Solo international travel
– Wearing a bikini without giving a crap that my stomach isn’t perfect (okay, unrelated but definitely a milestone. Okay fine, not giving enough of a damn that I am no longer scared to do it.)
A lot of alones if you haven’t picked that up yet. Am I humble bragging? Probably! You can take away the humble, I’m down right bragging. I have surpassed 2013 Anna’s expectations of pushing the boundaries. So yeah, I deserve some fucking credit. As result of this, I have learnt more in this past year than I have my whole life.
I have always wanted to be one of the cool kids (who secretly doesn’t?). I wouldn’t say I was a nerd or a geek or a goth – I would never really categorize myself into any particular clique during my time at high school or university. I have just had my own group but I also knew everybody else. I suppose which clique I fit into is a question left for my high school peers. My personality growing up, or at least viewed by my friends, was friendly and bubbly. I was chirpy, willing to say hi and talk to anyone and everyone. However, I have recently found out in my short lived professional career as a chemical engineer that I have turned into an introvert – a shy kid. I didn’t understand this for a very long time. I couldn’t understand how I had gone from the chirpy person that everyone at least knew to this quiet shy girl who just did her work in her own office and didn’t have loud obnoxious and hilarious conversations in the lunch room?
This is where I am going to diverge a bit and jump off into a completely different but related thought. I found New Zealand to be a racist place – or at least Auckland. I am not saying that I ever got bullied because of the colour of my skin (with my yellow-ish skin tone, I would be mistaken for various other nationalities before anyone would pick Indian). However, I felt as though the Caucasians always looked down on me. They deemed me unfit to be a part of their crew (the fact that I’m referring to a friendship circle as a crew may well be why I wasn’t part of their ‘crew’). So although we were acquaintances we were never really be good friends. I was pretty happy with the friend circle I had and to this day have. They comprise mostly of Indians and Asians who grew up in New Zealand and are a little bit weird in the head just like me. They are my treasures but it still always intrigued me why I didn’t have many Caucasian friends. Various experiences through high school and university gave me the perception that all Caucasians are racist, ill-mannered who will only hang out with their type. A completely justified opinion at the ages of fourteen to eighteen I would say.
Moving to Australia, specifically Newcastle, I was completely shocked at how everyone adored the fact that I was coloured. They acknowledged me as a New Zealander (and gave me more grief for being a Kiwi) and were intrigued by my heritage. My work group consists of a group of mid 20s to late 20s Australians, with a token Asian and Indian. I think as graduates and being the young ones in the office – they are automatically the cool crew (oh my god, someone stop me!). These bunch of people are possibly the funniest engineers I have ever met. The problem was that the bubbly Anna had somehow shrunk in front of this group.
Okay, now you’re up to speed – back to my story two paragraphs ago. In the beginning it was overwhelming getting to know these people who are polar opposites to my personality. They are eccentric, hilarious, very-well travelled, boozehounds with great personalities. I don’t have conflicts with any of these people but I also didn’t connect with any of them. I didn’t mind spending lunch times talking about this and that but I couldn’t find myself to willingly want to spend weekends doing activities I would love to do with my friends back home. This is when I realized that I never really want to be part of the cool group because I would never really fit in. I though that in New Zealand it was because they were racist, and perhaps to some extent they were. But I have now come to realize that it was more that our personal beliefs and views on life differed. I didn’t have the same opinion on anything with this new bunch of colleagues/acquaintances/friends (where’s the boundary really?). They are friendly, they are nice, but ultimately they are people I would’ve never chosen to hang with. It was like finally being allowed in to the cool crew (here I go again) but not really not feeling at home. I liked my own crew (give up on me now) that I had hand-picked.
All my life I have been allowed to dictate who I have been close to and who I have chosen to keep as acquaintances. I have had the luxury of hand-picking my company. However, entering into the workforce, you’re deprived of this privilege. You have to gel with everybody, even those whose personalities you are not comfortable with. I think I do this well but I have also realized that I don’t need to be the old bubbly Anna around them – because that’s a part of me that is for close knit friends.
I have finally come to the decision that I don’t have to force myself to get along and be great friends with those I don’t have much in common with. I choose to once in a while stay in my office during lunch and read a really good book. Why should I deny myself of this when it’s what I feel like at that exact time? I have become confident enough to say to others, the reason you haven’t seen me around is because I like spending time alone. I am denying the company of the cool crew (I swear this is the last time I will say this word).
I am in a male dominated field and being a female is being exactly that – a completely different species. So do the guys laugh when I almost cry at the thought of a spider on my head (cruel jokes guys, cruel jokes)? They most certainly do. Do they film it? They try! Does that make me feel inferior. Hell to the no. Do I still prance around with my way too high heels for engineering and Prada bag with my hot pink top to work? I sure do. Do I sometimes succumb to laziness and wear Hi-vis instead? Guilty.
I no longer worry what people will say behind my back, or to my face. I know who I am. Once you get comfortable with who you really are, all the opinions and background noise just disappear. And this is where I realize exactly what Taylor Swift is talking about when she says she found herself, which then lead to her making music videos still about her exes and taking the mockery out of what people say about her – having a lot of exes, being crazy etc etc. She doesn’t give a fuck? So why should I? Yes. Taylor is my idol and if that’s all you got from that story, I’d be happy with that.