I have to start all over again next week.
We’re moving from North Cornwall to a village near Falmouth. I have one friend there and one potential friend.
But I’m leaving most of my mates behind and, as we’re all crazy busy with work and kids, I know we won’t get to see each other much.
I’m going to be the newbie in town. The new mum on the school run. And I’m scared.
It’s not just me that’s moving. My husband, my son, my daughter – we’re all relocating. But Chris already knows a load of people down there, so he’s cheating.
My kids have to start a new school and they’re anxious about it. I’m overflowing with positivity when I’m around them – it’s going to be so exciting, they’re all going to want to meet you, you’ll make so many new friends.
But I’m bloody worried. For them. For me. I know it’s going to be hard for all of us. My metaphorical boat is only just precariously floating again after my hysterectomy and I’m really frightened about rocking it.
I don’t like being the new person. I don’t even like entering a restaurant or a pub first in case everyone stares at me. I always make Chris go in in front of me so I can hide behind him.
If I have to meet new people I either retreat into my shell like a terrified mollusc or overcompensate – I morph into this annoying, mouthy cow, while my introvert soul watches on in horror.
I’m lucky that I’m an introvert. I like my own company and I do enjoy being alone. But I also get lonely. And when it comes it hits me like a hammer to the heart. My husband is my best friend. But he’s a bloke. I will miss hanging out with girlfriends, laughing, sharing stories.
I was talking to a family member about all of this over the weekend. She wondered how come she can chat to anyone in the queue at the supermarket but struggles when meeting new potential friends.
I said it’s because it doesn’t matter at the supermarket. Whereas when you join some kind of club, or get introduced to a new social group, it bloody does matter. And this creates some kind of blockage, impeding you from just being normal.
It could also be that I’m a slow burner. It takes a while for me to open up to people and show my true self. By which time, many people have given up on me and think there’s nothing there.
But how I handle this move is going to impact on how my kids handle it.
As I’ve found with every single thing in my life recently, doing this as a mum makes it even more difficult and even more important to get right.
I don’t want them to see me sh*tting myself when I meet new people on the school run. I want them to see me looking confident and calm, so they can feel that way too.
So here’s my game plan:
- Write my own introduction. I’m a writer. I’m not an expert in improvisation. I feel happier if I have time to think about what I’m going to say. I would never publish a post here that I hadn’t sat on, edited, tweaked. I’d never go for a job interview without having prepared first. So I’m not going to force myself to come up with something to say on the spot. I can anticipate that I’m going to be meeting new neighbours, new parents on the school run, and new friends of my one Falmouth friend. It might sound weird, but I’m writing my own introductions to these groups of people. Working out what I want to tell people about myself when I meet them. I will even rehearse it to make sure it sounds ok. That way I won’t go blank and say something ridiculous.
- Remember to smile. I have a classic resting bitch face. I have to remember to smile more, otherwise I’m going to scare everyone off – especially if I’m feeling anxious. Smiling makes us feel happier and makes us look more attractive to potential friends. I have read that forcing myself to smile will increase the amount of dopamine released by my brain, helping me feel calmer and happier. A kind of ‘fake it til you feel it’ effect.
- Join something. I hate joining new clubs. I always regress to that shy, only child who didn’t quite know how to mix with new kids. I always overinterpret every look, comment, shift in body language – looking for evidence of threat. But the only way I’m going to meet new friends is by putting myself out there, following an interest and hoping I’ll hit it off with other people with similar tastes to mine. I’d like to learn something creative that I haven’t been able to do up here. Photography or painting, perhaps.
- Listen to my gut. I have a very good sixth sense when it comes to people. I can get a good feel for whether a new acquaintance is going to be a good companion by listening to what my instinct tells me. But I tend to ignore it, especially when I’m anxious about meeting people. Like the boy I latched onto in abject fear at Freshers’ Week and then spent the next two terms trying to get away from. Every time I ignore my gut I end up regretting it. I’m going to trust myself and take my time.
It’s not much of a game plan, but it’s a start. Just writing all of this down has made it feel a little less daunting. And I’ve got some ideas to help the kids if and when they feel wobbly about the whole newbie thing.
If you’ve got any tactics to share, I’d love to hear them.
Wish me luck x