What Makes You Happy

Someone said to me the other day that her mum knows her better than anyone in the world. It made me think about who knows me best in the whole world. And then it made me question whether anyone knows me that well.

And I came to the conclusion that, actually, I don’t think anyone in the entire world knows the whole of me.

It made me feel two things: sad, and angry, although not at anyone else. Angry at myself.

Now I think about it, I realise I’m a bit of a shape-shifter. Sort of a crowd-pleaser. I have different faces for different people. I actually tell quite a lot of lies.

I’m 29-years-old and I still don’t feel able to be my real true self around anyone. Not the childhood friends I adore. Not the people I work with. Not my family. Not fleeting acquaintances. Not even my mum. I twist and change and omit what I think and feel and like. I play down the things I think are completely awesome or that I am in love with for today. I belittle my own quirks. I make jokes at my own expense. I don’t mention when I’m feeling really sad. I act like the tough guy when really the smallest thing can hurt me. I automatically assume people will judge my interests, or fail to understand my point of view on things that don’t even really matter, and because of that I spend all my time trying to pass off a bland, watered-down version of myself.

The more I think about it I am beginning to wonder – with horror – whether I ever really say what I think or feel to anyone.

No wonder I am not widely popular. I must come across as such a fake. And how awful to realise that about yourself at nearly 30-years-old. If I can’t be myself now, then when? And how am I supposed to set a good example to my daughter when I care far too much about what other people think and willingly paint a false picture of myself to meet their ideals?

I don’t know what I am so afraid of. I don’t know why it matters so much. I certainly don’t know who I am trying to impress and why on earth I’m doing this. I guess I can probably blame the Asperger’s for some/most of it. Maybe if I had attempted at all to grow out of being a teenager at heart then I might feel differently. Maybe if I saw things a bit more like everyone else it might be different. Maybe.

Well today I’ve had enough. I’m cross with myself and I’m sick of the effort of trying to be something I’m not; something I actually have no interest in being. I like who I am. I recognise that I have horrible flaws – I am selfish, and judgemental, and can be pretty mean – but I like the person who emerges when no-one else is around. The person who, it seems, only I really know.

I always thought I didn’t care what other people thought of me. It turns out nothing could be further from the truth.

So what is it that I think others will find so objectionable about the real me? What kind of things are acceptable for a late twenties mummy to think and enjoy?

Well this blog isn’t okay, for a start. Because it’s honest, and probably a little self-indulgent, and I’m consciously trying not to censor myself. I’m actually talking about my feelings. And, surprise surprise, I have only told my very closest friends about it.

What else?

I like boy bands. A lot. Too much. Often obsessionally. Like a teenager. I like pointless catchy pop songs; I like beautiful charismatic boys who set unrealistically high standards for real-life boyfriends. I like the promo and the gossip. I like management approaches and PR strategies. I like the whole damn thing. I spent years being a total music snob. Barely even listening to Radio 1. And then suddenly I was single for the longest time I’ve ever been on my own since I had my first boyfriend at 18, and I started to rediscover all the things that used to make me tick. The novel I’m writing has music as a strong theme so I immersed myself in pop music once more as a kind of research and I began to wonder whether maybe pop music was always what I was best at.

But that’s not to say that the bass solo in Royal Blood’s Figure It Out can’t move me just as much as the way Louis Tomlinson sings “love” in Happily.

Talking of Louis Tomlinson, I watched the new One Direction film at the weekend (because of work, but still) and I got GOOSEBUMPS at certain points. Yeah. Goosebumps. I’m 29-years-old.

I played it off like I was bored half way through when really my mind was stuck on how impossibly and effortlessly cool Zayn Malik looks on stage, and how had I not noticed this before, and now I actually wish I was Zayn a little bit.

None of that’s really okay to talk about, though. I should probably be watching soap operas or something instead.

I painted an impromptu mural on my bedroom wall a while ago. I love it and I’m quietly proud of it, and it’s my bedroom wall after all, but I haven’t posted any photos of it online and when someone sees it in person I jump in with words like “strange” and “bonkers” before they actually have a chance to say what they think.

I don’t have any serious political opinions. I’m not sure how I feel about feminism. But we can have a conversation about Harry Styles’ tattoos if you like.

There are other things. So many other things. They’re not all to do with boys in bands. But I’m a little pre-occupied with One Direction right now to bring them to mind…

That’s not to say there aren’t also some highbrow things about me. I love world cinema, and classical music. I read Chekhov once. (Loads of peasants.) People can be much more than just one thing. We don’t all fit into neat boxes.

When I talk to other mums I don’t know very well, the whole time I’m thinking how to steer the conversation away from laundry and biscuits and find out what they really care about. How do you ask someone what kind of music they listen to and what kind of films they watch and what books they read without it sounding like some kind of abrupt speed-dating question?

I’m going to The Big Reunion Boy Band Tour next week and I won’t mention it at all to half the people I know. With the half I do mention it to I will probably talk about it using my omg-I’m-ironically-talking-like-a-teenager voice or pass it off as “stupid nostalgia”. But, actually, I’m going to be grinning (and probably dancing) like an idiot the whole way through.

I always used to look down on people like me. When I was 17 and chasing around after a boy band I’d sneer at the “older fans” and think what losers they were, because they should be doing proper things with their lives and have serious interests. (Like biscuits and soap operas?) Being the same age or older than the band was a total no-no. (Hah. I’m not even going to think about how much older I am than the One Direction boys.)

I have a proper job and a mortgage and a small child to look after and none of that has stopped me from being a complete boy band loser through and through. Can’t fight it and I don’t want to. Because the thing is that I can just as easily dance around my kitchen at 6am after a sleepless night with the toddler to Walking With Elephants, Shake It Off or Best Song Ever. And if it puts a smile on my face, why the hell shouldn’t I?

Recently I’ve been trying to appreciate other people more. I feel quite strongly that we should be celebrating people who dare to be different or who genuinely don’t worry what people think about them. I can be a bitch, I know. Snarky comments and raised eyebrows. But I’ve got quite good at not vocalising bitchy thoughts; pushing them away, in fact, and replacing them with a “well good for them!” kind of thought instead. Maybe someone wears something rather figure-hugging when they haven’t exactly got a figure to shout about. I wouldn’t dare. But good for them feeling good about themselves. Maybe someone says what they actually think about something on Facebook or Twitter. I rewrite everything at least twice. But good for them not censoring themselves and putting their thoughts out in the public domain.

I will no longer let myself whisper something mean to a friend about these people for a cheap thrill. It’s probably about time I start showing myself the same kindness.

From now on I’m going to try really hard to make sure the every word that comes out of my mouth is representative of how I really feel, no matter what the subject. I’m not going to put myself down to get an easy laugh and I’m not going to trail off half way through trying to explain why something moves me the way it does. One day I might even tell other people about this blog.

After all, does it really matter what makes you happy as long as something does?

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