It’s funny how often I think about the most insignificant moments of my past, like a random interaction I had with a boy when I visited London as a kid. I mean, I literally lay awake on more than one night freaking out because when I was 10, a boy came up to me when I was buying souvenirs and asked me what my name was and where I was visiting from. I responded awkwardly with the basics, that my name was Sydney from Melbourne and without thinking first, that I was grateful to be around new people because my family had to act like a happy family in front of other people.
The boy just stared at me, and gave me a slight smile. It could just be that I was reading too much into the situation, but I was mortified. Before he had a chance to say anything else, I put down the snow globe I was holding and ran back to my parents who apparently hadn’t realised I had even been away from their side. It seems like a fairly innocent interaction for a ten-year-old to make, but to this day I scald myself. I should have said something different, asked what his name was, there were a thousand different ways it could have played out, and I’m almost certain the way it did was the worst.
I was never all that great holding a conversation, I guess you could say I was socially awkward. I mean that’s probably not the best way to describe it, because if I’ve known you for a while, you can’t get me to shut up sometimes. It’s more the fact that I like silence, and I like observing people.
If I was to meet someone in a lecture, there’s two ways it could play out, I could ask them just as many questions as they were asking me, and converse like a true expert. On the other hand I could answer questions they asked me, but never really ask them questions, so there were all those weird pockets of discomfort, and then when the silence just makes it passed the place of no return, I blurt out a half stuttered mess about a topic that was brought up twenty minutes before.
Classic Sydney, always knowing what to say just after the moment has fluttered away, and then contemplate things that have been said and done for the next twenty years, all the while thinking that literally everyone must me judging me for one of the miniscule things.
By the time I got to university, I found that it got slightly worse before getting better. The trick I eventually realised was not to care as much. I decided that I was me, and I was happy being who I was, so it didn’t matter if people were judging me, regardless if they were or not.
Of course this realisation didn’t help me in terms of guys. It wasn’t even making a fool of myself in front of guys, it was the fact I was completely oblivious to anyone trying to make a move on me, to the point that I just thought no guy ever looked at me in that way.
I still remember this time in high school, and a guy asked me to see a movie with him, after we were instant messaging about how much we wanted to see it. Naturally, I didn’t realise he was asking me out, so I invited my friend along who also wanted to see it but didn’t tell the guy. So when I arrive at the cinema, and he was like, ‘hey we should get tickets’, and I was like, ‘oh, but my friend is nearly here, she’s running late’, he was kind of stunned, which I also promptly ignored.
It was only, I kid you not, years after that I figured out what had happened. He had thought I had blown him off because I wasn’t interested – which for the record, I was – and so he started dating this girl all the way up to graduation. I’ll always remember Ben Campbell, the boy I unknowingly rejected.
I still hadn’t had a serious relationship in my early twenties. I think that it’s perfectly fine, but I couldn’t help but wonder, if circumstances were different, my life could’ve been completely different. I might not have focussed as much on study, I might have had my heart broken a few times, or I might be married, but life isn’t necessarily about ifs anymore, it’s about the now.
A week into my post grad in London, and I was rushing to a meet and greet with staff and other post grad students. Being my normal clumsy self, I crashed head first into some guy’s chest. I start apologising frantically when he said my name, and I looked up to see Ben standing in front of me.
After discussing what we had each been doing since school and how we ended up in London, in his case the break up with that high school girlfriend, we made plans to see each other again.
It’s amazing how time changes so many things, and how we somehow ended up in the same overseas city at the same university. In any case, it was as though our minds and bodies were built for each other, and coffee turned into dinner, dinner turned into couple holidays and watching movie marathons together.
Before either of us realised, a few years had gone by, and we stood hand-in-hand on London Eye until he got down on one knee and asked me to be his wife. He slid the ring on my finger as I said yes, and we laughed and cried when both of our parents surprised us at dinner that night as though they knew tonight was going to special.
Not even a year later, I was walking down the aisle to the man who loved me unconditionally. I knew that if he loved me half as much as I loved him, I would be safe and appreciated, always. I could see in his eyes how much I meant to him, and as my ivory gown floated gracefully as I moved, the world I knew to be true was more than I could have ever hoped for.
We danced until our feet hurt, and basked in the light of all our friends and family. We went on our dream honeymoon, exploring every corner of the world, and once we arrived home, we bought our first house knowing that it was the place we would raise our children.
I sit looking at a sonogram not long after, and my mind reels about how I used to let insignificance consume me to the point where I never let anyone in and watched blindly at all the missed opportunities of friendships and relationships.
For a significant amount of time, I let my anxieties and worries control where I was in my life, and it was only when I regained faith in myself that I really start living. But saying that, even considering all those years of internal torment, I don’t think I would change a thing.
I’m sitting here with my husband listening to our babies heartbeat, and I take comfort in the fact that every decision I made all those years ago have led me right here, and I couldn’t be more proud. For all the negatives that were in my life, I always found the positives, found ways to get to the places I wanted to go, and eventually I found my home in the heart of the boy I had a crush on as a anxiety-ridden teenager. I guess things do get better after high school.
By Naomi Eleanor