I’ve never been the most adventurous person. When I was young it was typical for me to go to a friends house only to call home around midnight sobbing and scared, wanting the familiarity of my mother and my bed.
I didn’t mountain climb, I didn’t water ski, I didn’t run marathons (or at all). I didn’t take risks.
I remember my parents telling people that I was a homebody, that I would rather be home than anywhere else, that I rarely went anywhere. Hearing that out loud made me not want to be that person anymore. So, I stopped.
When I was young I was deathly shy, always attached at the hip of those I felt most comfortable around, and the list was never long. I got embarrassed easily, so to keep the harsh comments about my inevitably red face away, I rarely spoke up.
Looking back, I think that this took a real hit on me. It’s so important to encourage imagination and creativity and the idea that every single voice matters, and I think that because I was scared of turning red, of someone saying something to me about it, I rarely said anything at all. Don’t get me wrong, my parents did everything in their power to bring me out of my shell. I was just scared, and people were cruel.
I remember vividly sitting in a high school social studies class and my teacher announcing loudly to the class how often my face turned red and asked if I had a skin condition; or if I was blushing because of some boy I liked in that class. I was so, so humiliated. I remember slinking down in my seat and not meeting anyone’s eyes that entire class. I wished I was invisible.
It wasn’t until later that summer when I went to work as a CST at a summer camp, that I finally began to come out of my shell. I remember the freedom that I felt simply being around people who didn’t know me. They didn’t know how shy I was, they didn’t know I turned red, that just being there was a huge leap for me. They just accepted me, and it was that summer that I found confidence. I still have my ID picture from that first week of camp – bright red face and eyes cast to the floor on day one. I have another picture from the end of the summer, and that part of me was no where to be seen. I was caught mid-laugh, my hair turned platinum from the sunshine, and my skin the darkest I think it’s ever been. I was happy.
After that summer I went from Elizabeth to Liz and the old me kind of left. I found happiness and friendships and a boyfriend. I found confidence.
When I think about adventure I find myself thinking of that picture, my first big leap at age 15. I think that in a way, this past year I’ve gone back to that girl from Freshmen year of high school – eyes cast down, nervous, not wanting any attention brought to me at all and I don’t want that. I’ve felt uncomfortable, not the most confident as a result of having to try and prove myself every single day in a new profession, and always wondering if I’m good enough. It’s scary to know that I might not be.
Years later, when I was 18, I had this amazing opportunity to travel to London with my best friend. I had the best time visiting a different part of the world, exploring the city life, venturing out on our own for the first time in my life. I walked through streets crowded with people and spoke with strangers and ate food that I had never seen before. That time of my life changed me, showed me that there’s something different, something more than small town Maine, that crowds or people in lime green taxi cabs and buildings taller than I had ever seen before were actually desirable. I loved it. I went and had the opportunity to be whoever I wanted to be, nobody knew me there. I was free, just like when I was 15.
Maybe that’s what New York is all about for me. It’s a challenge, a leap, a new opportunity. When I leave here, I get to start again. A new city, with new people and buildings and opportunities. I don’t have to be known as the Liz that’s unsure, nervous, a list a mile long of what-if’s and I’m-sorry’s. I can be whoever I want to be, and to me, that’s worth everything.
It’s important to me to make my own way, to always, always, always be a good person, and have standards and dreams. I want to leave a legacy. A good one.
In a perfect world I would always get support from the ones I love, no matter where I decide to go or what I decide to do. I’ve told those close to me what my plans are, that the next chapter of my life will take place in a city a million times bigger than where I grew up. Initially I was upset that I was offered more negative comments than support, but I’ve had to realize that this is for me. Not anybody else. I’m going to go on this adventure for me, so that I can be happy and live life to the fullest and be proud of me. I don’t need anyone’s support but my own, and I’m going to go regardless.
I think I’ll always be me. I’ll always love watermelon and sunshine, have a weakness for ballet, Starbucks, the Christmas season and guys with blonde hair and blue eyes. I’ll always find myself reading at a bookstore to calm my nerves, watching Julia Roberts and Meg Ryan movies when I’m sick, calling my mother when I’m sad. I’ll always buy flowers for my kitchen table every Sunday, live in dresses and skirts whenever I can, wear flip flops beginning in March. I’ll still be me; have the same values, honor traditions, have the same convictions and conscience. I think that I, more than anyone need to remember that.
And yeah, I still won’t climb icy mountains and jump off of cliffs, but there are still things that I can do. I can walk through Manhattan streets first thing in the morning, take photos of tulips under 100 story buildings and ride a yellow taxi through the pouring rain. I can make new friends, and have new experiences and make new memories. These people don’t know my history, and they don’t need to. When they meet me for the first time that will be it, that will be their very first impression of me, just like I’ll have first impressions of them.
They’ll never know that I’ve never been adventurous before.