When I was younger, I was pretty brave. Not daring as such, but pretty brave. If I wanted to go somewhere, I would just go. So I flew on my own at 17, I went on a coach trip to see the Levellers in Belgium when I was 19 and I went to gigs on my own throughout my late teens and early 20s.
And then I had children.
From the very first time I took my newborn baby son out into the world (just a short walk round the block in the pram), I started to worry. The world was fraught with dangers, all out to get my baby. Suddenly I could smell the fumes that he was inhaling into his delicate lungs. A dog put its nose right into the pram. The world was a scary place.
I’m a worrier. I come from a long line of worriers. My granny was a worrier, my mum is a worrier, my sister is a worrier. Neither my parents nor my siblings will get on a plane. I am the only member of my family that will (and, believe me, I have to have a serious word with myself to do it, not to mention a couple of weeks of hypnosis with a Paul McKenna download and a small dose of diazepam).
But I don’t want to be a worrier. I want to enjoy life. I don’t want to be constantly thinking about crowds and germs and whether I’ve got enough to eat and drink, where the nearest toilet is and whether I’m lost. I’m safe, my kids are safe. I know I have nothing to worry about. I need to break the mould before I wake up one day and find that I will no longer get on a plane or travel anywhere without my husband.
Over the summer, without really intending to, I started to be just a bit braver. My kids don’t need much ‘looking after’ now, they are independent young people. I can leave them at home if they choose to, or if we go out, they can help me with finding the way.
It all started when I drove to Bristol for the first time looking for Gromits on the Gromit Unleashed 2 sculpture trail. It was remarkably easy and stress-free. So much easier (and cheaper) than catching the train. There was no way I was ever going to get the train to Bristol again. So I drove there two more times in search of Gromits. I actually started to enjoy driving and I have NEVER enjoyed driving. I felt confident driving up and down the motorway.
Although the second time we went, I had a minor wobble. I stayed on the M4 for too long and was stuck in traffic. I wasn’t sure where I was and I started to worry about my usual things. Traffic jams make me feel trapped – anything I can’t escape from makes me feel trapped. I worry about getting lost, and when I worry about getting lost, my driving suffers, making me more likely to have an accident. I wasn’t sure whether we would make it home in time for tea. And I really needed the toilet…
Not wishing my daughter to join the long line of female worriers in the family, I try not to let my fears show, I just asked her if she could have a look at maps on my phone to try to work out where we needed to go. Fair play to her, she did it! We parked by our first Gromit and even managed to find a toilet to use, then she navigated our way to all of our Gromits from there.
When the opportunity arose to be in the audience of a new dance show on TV, I knew I couldn’t turn it down. For my daughter, this would be like the best thing ever (second only to actually appearing on the show, of course). So, without thinking about it too hard, the two of us just jumped on a train to Birmingham. We got a bit lost when we arrived and resorted to a taxi to take us to the venue.
The show went on right through lunchtime and lasted for hours, which was a potential worry for me. But I soon realised that people were nipping in and out of the audience and sneaking food and drink in. We were still extremely thirsty by the time we left though. We managed to get onto a train with seconds to spare. But we had no drink! I had a minor panic for both my daughter (who gets travel sick on trains, particularly when she’s hungry or thirsty) and myself (I just drink a lot and am always thirsty), but I had a word with myself. It’s only a short journey, we could get a drink when we got home.
It might not seem much to people who aren’t worriers, but for me to be able to travel places with my daughter without worrying is a big step. I have to keep having a word with myself and pushing myself out of my comfort zone being brave and breaking the mould of the worrier.