Nearly a week into this 365 Day Challenge and I haven’t failed yet. Woo hoo! Today the prompt is “what would you like to change about yourself?” Easy! Or is it…?
For nearly five years I had wanted to visit Glenfinnan, the location of the rising of the standard that commenced the ’45 uprising and home to the viaduct later made famous in the Harry Potter movies. It was also the home of Duncan MacLeod, lead character in the Highlander television series. After I ran away from home in 1997, disappearing into the Scottish wilderness, I knew I would regret it if I didn’t visit this locale. Having settled into a backpacker hostel in Fort William I boarded an early morning train and headed out.
For twenty minutes the train snaked its way through some of the most spectacular scenery in the world until, out of nowhere, we were on the viaduct gazing upon the panorama that is Loch Shiel.
Alighting at the station I hurried toward the loch, pausing only briefly to gaze upon the church used in the aforementioned television series, where I spent the day writing, reading and hiking the nearby hills with a song in my heart.
The train ride back to Fort William eight hours later was blissful and when I disembarked I had never in my life felt more confident. Perhaps it was the way the jeans hugged her curves or her short pixie crop of dark brown hair or, most likely, because she was the only person visible on the desolate station, but a woman walking down the platform immediately caught my eye.
As we passed she fumbled with the bags she was carrying and, out of reflex, I caught her handbag before it tumbled to the floor. Handing it back to her I met her eyes and smiled. She thanked me, rearranged her backs and continued toward her train.
Glancing back down the platform she caught me checking her out and, rather than blush, I nodded a farewell.
I was perched on the edge of a rose patterned duvet as I told this anecdote. My fingers tapping the stem of a wine glass to emphasise each important moment. The woman hugging a pillow a few metres away was Samantha, someone I’d known for a total of 23 hours and approximately 67 emails. We’d met that morning in the heart of Glasgow, a city I didn’t know, after months of pixellated communication.
“What did she do?” Samantha said.
“What did you think she’d do?”
“Shoot me in the testicle,”
She thwacked me across the head with her pillow before tucking it back against her stomach. With a click of her fingers she drew me to hand her the half full glass of wine a few feet away.
“You’re an arse,” She said as she sipped. “Why would anyone shoot you in the bollocks for checking out her arse? Where the fuck would she even get a gun?”
“She might have had one secreted on her person,”
“In the Highlands?” She laughed. “Such a hot bed of gun crime up there! Go on,”
“That’s it? That’s what you want to change about yourself?”
“You don’t get it do you? That was ten years ago, but to me it was yesterday. I can still remember the wee pink butterfly patch she had on her right, back pocket. Still smell the coconut soap she must have used that day. For the first time in my life I was able to look a woman in the eye. I got caught sneaking a cheeky glance of her arse and responded with yep, you’re hot rather than volcano cheeks,”
“Ha. Ha!” She slurped her wine and waited for me to fill the empty glass. “You don’t get it Andrew,” She downed another mouthful. “I’m gonna keep asking til you get it, you know that, don’t you?”
I downed the remainder of my wine whilst averting her steely gaze. She crawled over the bed and thumped me on the arm before kissing me sloppily on the cheek. “Sorry,”
“Being a bitch,” She said. “I know it’s hard for you to open up. Come,”
The Rocky Mountains of Canada, one of my favourite places on Earth, and a place where I’d never expected to meet a hot woman. I’d expected to spend my days roaming the forests and mountains in solitude whilst reading and writing in solitude by night.
I was wrong. I met a woman whom I immediately became entranced by and we spent a week hiking the forests, paddling on lakes, lounging in hot springs and talking. For some reason I could with her, as long as I avoided anything that could be categorised as personal information.
A month later, after completing my West-East trip, I boarded a train. Rachel, a woman I’d met in Halifax, had filled me with such self-belief that I knew I needed to see my mountainous friend again. For six straight days I sat on a train, cheering whenever I could alight for a few hours, groaning whenever the announcer stated we’d entered a new time-zone and had to set our clocks back an hour.
For a week I stayed at her house. I laughed with her, joked with her, hiked with her, camped with her, flirted with her…but never once could I summon the strength to say what I wanted.
“Why not?” She asked before burying her hands deep into her pockets to protect against the night’s chill. Rangers were playing Celtic at nearby Celtic Park so the only people out walking were tourists, the non-football obsessed and those running late to watch the match.
“During one of the stops I read an email she’d sent saying she had a boyfriend,” I took a drag on my cigarette. “Couldn’t after that,”
“Why not?” She asked again.
“Because I couldn’t,” I explained. “Look, Sam, I’m not as awesome as you, okay? I’ve kinda wasted my life, I know that, that’s why I want to change my confidence!”
She delved her hand into my back pocket and stole a cigarette. Slipping it into her mouth she waited patiently for me to light it with a grin on her face. “For an independent woman you sure like being waited on by men,”
“Why else be an independent woman?” She smirked. “I’m still waiting for you to get it,”
“Ok, I get it, let’s move on,”
“Tell me another,”
“Another embarrassing moment from my shit house life?”
“Another embarrassing moment from your awesome life,”
When I went to do my A-levels I knew what I wanted to do; English Lit, Media Studies, Theatre Studies. Yet, when I arrived to solidify my choices my anxieties had won out and I signed up for Media Studies, Computer Studies and Maths. My lack of self-belief had convinced me I wasn’t good enough to pursue a career down the creative path I yearned for. For two miserable years I studied two subjects I hated, resenting myself on a daily basis for the fear I felt and the lack of confidence I possessed.
“Didn’t you go to college to do photography or something?”
“Television, photography and sound production,” I nodded. “After backpacking,”
She sighed. “Another.”
In 1999, as I spiralled downwards into frustration and depression, I pushed hard to become more confident and social. On a staff night out I went clubbing in my local city and, somewhat tipsy, ended up dancing with a female co-worker I’d crushed on for months. In one of those moments seen only in slightly dodgy romantic comedies the music slipped into a slow number and I found my hands slipping around her body to pull her close. Whether it was my imagination or the desire to look back on this moment with rose-tinted splendour, the sexual tension could be cut with a knife.
After exiting the nightclub come closing time we lingered in the street and she asked if I was heading in a particular direction, the direction in which she lived. I said I was headed the other way and bid her goodnight.
“I’m seriously going to punch you in the face in a minute,” I watched her stub her cigarette against a bin and flip the butt into the trash.
She hooked her arm with mine and pulled me close. I could feel her body shivering in the cold and wrapped my arm automatically around her shoulders, holding her close and asking if she was okay.
“My God,” She whispered in annoyance. Before she had the chance to vent I began talking.
After roaming Scotland for over a month I settled into Inverness and a backpacker hostel. Although I worked to connect with the other long-term residents I continued to be unable to share anything with them. Whilst they talked freely, sharing horny moments of hilarity and humility, I listened and said little.
On one occasion we headed to the pub and then onwards to a nightclub. Once there a young local lass grabbed my hand and dragged me into the dancing cage where she proceeded to dance somewhat provocatively with me. I can still remember the moment my breathing stopped and the sweating palms began. Still recall stumbling away from her, the silkiness of her thigh lingering on my palm as I collapsed into an alley outside in full panic mode.
Her hand slid down into mine and patted the surface of my palm before tightening around it. Without saying a word we walked into the hotel, gathered our key from the receptionist and hopped upstairs.
“I’m not going to stop asking, you know,” She said as we reached our floor.
“Tell you what,” I said. “Why don’t you just tell me what I should be saying, I’ll say it, and we can move on,”
“Nope,” She smirked as I unlocked the door. “Where’s the fun in that?”
Holding the door for her she skipped into the room. “Bedtime?”
“Bedtime,” I said, pouring myself a final nightcap.
“I’ll keep asking,” She teased, pulling her pyjamas from her bag.
The moment I saw her pyjamas I turned away from her and began slowly sipping my wine. “How about the time I recited Henry V beside a fountain in Halifax?”
“You told me that last year,” She said. “Before entertaining me with your Eddie Izzard doing James Mason doing Macbeth shtick,”
“I did that for you,”
“You can turn around now, babe,”
Once upon a time, I was standing in a bar surrounded by strange people. I’d met them at the backpacker hostel I was staying at and, not knowing anyone in town, latched onto them so I could enjoy a night on the town. You know, drinking, dancing, crying in the gutter over meaningless crap before collapsing into bed. The sorts of thing people do when they’re trying to make friends and be awesome. Anyway, half way through my third drink, whilst I was in mid-conversation with an annoying twat, a different arrogant tosser slapped me pretty fucking hard on my ass! Now, I’ll admit, I was torn. My feminist side wanted to throw my drink over him, punch him in the face then knee him in the bollocks for being such a backwards thinking cock…but my inner voice was a little stoked that he’d chosen my ass to slap.
Anyway, before I could say anything he introduced himself, shook my hand, then launched into a tsunami of words. For nearly an hour and a half he described in insane detail his day, his thoughts, his feelings, this chick he once knew, what he thought about gambling and his favourite blends of whisky.
When I realised he knew about Scotland I wanted to say ‘hey, I’m Scottish,’ but he wouldn’t let me. I was so shocked at how much he was talking I kinda freaked out but my make-shift group of friends had vanished and it was either this or wandering back to the hostel alone.
Anyway, eventually he needed a drink. This pause gave me a chance to escape, but as I sat there and watched him weave to the bar I couldn’t help but find him a little intriguing so, I stayed. And this time made sure I got a few questions in.
When I woke up in a park the next morning, freezing my barely clothed ass off, his arms tight around my body, I could only vaguely remember what we had done: betting him to streak down the mall, losing the bet, loving the fact I lost the bet, being entertained with a monologue from Macbeth in full Scottish accent, the fact he tasted of cheese and I couldn’t work out how.
But you know what? What I remember the most is how he gave me his jacket, how he made sure I was comfortable, how he seemed to be the biggest fucking enigma I’d ever met! He was all I could think of after he accompanied me to the airport that day, and somewhere above Kakadu I realised I didn’t even have his email address.
And several months later I realised I didn’t even know his real fucking name!
“Sorry about that,” I whispered across the divide of single beds. We were both curled up, staring across the space looking at each other. “I didn’t know what I…”
I know, babe. Or rather, I found that out when I stumbled upon a photograph that looked a bit familiar. Was I angry? Did I feel used? You bet your ass I did…especially when he couldn’t remember me. That really hurt by the way.
“It wasn’t intent…”
I know! But reading his blog, sharing in his life, seeing his pain, loving his happiness, I understood. I got it.
“If you hadn’t shared those photos,”
“Then you would never have remembered my ass and, however tempting, I could never wish that loss on anyone. What I’m saying is Andrew, the reason I want to thump you, I mean really – fucking – belt – you – is because it pisses me off that you just can’t see it.
I ask you about something you want to change and you give me these silly tales of double-taking girls at train stations or not asking your school crush out. You obsess over these moments unable to see what was really going on.
Okay, so you were an arse for not escorting your co-worker home, but so what? You slow-danced with a woman for the first time. As for having a panic attack in a nightclub…you didn’t have one with me tonight, nor with me in Adelaide, nor the night Louise asked if she could kiss you.
And your friend in Canada…”
“I get it,”
“So you never told her how you felt. So what? You had an awesome time with her. You chose not to pressure her after you found out she had a boyfriend. Some would call it…”
“…being a gutless arse…”
“…morality. You know, like when you turn around when I’m changing even though you’ve seen it all before. You say you want to change by improving your confidence but you recite Shakespeare in parks, streak down malls, slap strange woman on the ass and talk to them for hours and hours and hours, share yourself with the world and hook up with someone you barely even remember.
You bitch about choosing the wrong subjects at A-level but miss completely how you had the courage to try to rectify it in Inverness and Melbourne when you could easily have stayed in your comfortable – miserable – job. You beat yourself up so fucking much you don’t see your own awesomeness,”
“Can we stop talking about me now, please?”
“No. Not until you answer my question.”
“What do you want to change about yourself?”
“I want to be more confident,” I said.
She sighed deeply “I swear to fucking…stop it!”
“It’s what I’ve always felt. If I was more confident I could be who I want to be!”
“You’re already confident Andrew,” She said. “You just don’t believe it,”
“I can’t believe it,” I snapped.
“Because of her? That abusive little shit?”
“Fuck, I wanna whip her narcissistic ass so hard! Andrew…” She paused. “…Addy, I don’t want to have to ask this again. What do you want to change about yourself?”
Staring across the expanse of empty space I knew what she meant. It was staring right at me, it always had been. “I want to change how I see myself. I want to see me, instead of this thing she made me into,”
- 10 Ways To Love Yourself More & Gain Self-Confidence (vivendidesign.wordpress.com)
- 10 Strategies for Building Confidence in Others (hasarla.wordpress.com)
- Building Creative Confidence through Blogging (thoughtsfromthefareast.wordpress.com)