My boyfriend calls me “Jersey” as one of my nicknames. He started the first day we met, when I revealed my feistiness, no-bullshit attitude and truck-driver mouth.
I’ve always been that way a little bit. It’s not just growing up in a state so often made fun of and shoved into the monstrous shadow of places like NEW YORK. Both my parents spoke their minds and stood up for themselves and for their kids. My seventh birthday at a bowling alley conjures up not recollections of the gifts I got, but of my mother reaming out the manager for trying to kick us out early.
But despite my proclivity as I grew older for outbursts, scathing commentary on everyone from classmates to the priest at my church — both in oral and written form –, and a vocabulary as full of curse words as it was full of “words of the day” from my Advanced Placement English class, I remained a bit of a pushover in certain areas. Part of me likes to make people happy, but I would often do so to the detriment of my own health, well-being and sanity. I am a hard worker and a bit of an obsessive at times, and those traits can get squeezed to death when in the hands of a soul-sucker.
When I started as a journalist, people in authority unnerved me. There were things I didn’t know — things I had to report on that others knew more about. I lacked confidence early on. It happened again at the start of my freelance career. I was so desperate, err, hungry for work that I could live off of that I drove myself crazy doing things for less pay and recognition than I deserved. I was scared that if I didn’t, I’d lose my chance. I also thought if I promoted myself on Facebook or Twitter or via email too much, people would get annoyed. Though I’ve always been inquisitive and worked as a bloody Philadelphia newspaper reporter, asking questions also often made my palms sweat.
But in the year since I’ve settled into my new home in Sydney, I’ve let much of that fall by the wayside. When you move abroad in circumstances like I did, there’s a certain “nothing to lose” mentality attached to it. And if I have nothing to lose, why would I waste my time befriending anyone who finds any part of me unsavory or stifling my words? When you start life over somewhere so far away from what you knew, it inspires a newfound belief in yourself and your abilities.
So I’ve been a little more upfront with many people. I will call bullshit on something you say. I can complain to the person at Vodafone, Woolie’s or my health insurance company with ease. I used to dread those phone calls. Now I just make them, tell them what I think and what I think I deserve. I’ve started making more people in my life meet me halfway.
In my work, I’ve stood up taller. If I disagree with something an editor or web site says or does, I tell them. If a thought creeps in that they could drop me, I acknowledge it and think, “Then I shouldn’t write for them anyway.” I know that some people probably are annoyed that I largely use Facebook to post links to my blog and articles, but I no longer care. They’ll just hide me in their feed. Problem solved. I ask questions with abandon, because they are smart and deserve answers.
It’s in little things I notice, too. Less guilt about saying “No” or politely saying “No thanks” to people soliciting for money for various causes, less fear that I’ll lose something or someone just because I spoke my mind. It’s a rather nice feeling, really. It’s a feeling of being less censored and afraid.
Has traveling or moving abroad made you more confident or able to stand up for yourself?
Featured image by crabers.crab on Creative Commons