When I was little, people were always telling me to speak up, quit worrying, eat my vegetables and tie my shoes. Now that I'm 26, people are still telling me to speak up, quit worrying, eat my vegetables and tie my shoes.
I used to think that these were my greatest failings as a person, apart from the bit about the untied shoes, which I found vaguely irritating and today tend to avoid by wearing flip-flops. I thought that the ideal human being was one who could socalise with enthusiasm, only worry about the things in life that really mattered and, of course, clean their plates even if they were covered in horrible things like (shudder) carrots. Anyone else was doing it wrong.
If I'd just try a little harder, I'd be as vocal as anybody else and I'd enjoy it too. If I had a serious think about the things that worried me, I'd realise they weren't worth my time and be able to switch my worries off. If I sucked it up and ate my peas, I'd eventually learn to like them.
When the Bishop family sat down after New Year's Eve dinner to write our resolutions out, as we traditionally did, I always said that this would be the year I grew out of being shy, stopped worrying and started eating properly. (Learning to swim and not fighting with my siblings were recurrent themes too, but really just to appease my parents as both were very clearly lost causes.)
I know now that I will never be outgoing or emotionally effusive. If I have something that needs to be said, like what my thesis is about or that I need to be re-booked onto the next plane out of here because I have a trans-Pacific flight to catch, I'll say it. I can even say it in two languages. (The flight re-booking part, not the thesis part...) I understand that reminding yourself about the things in the world worth worrying over - people dying, for instance - is not going to make your fear of catching something from the guy who's puking in the train magically disappear. And I know I will never learn to like peas. Everybody has a few things in the world that they dislike - perhaps hot weather, cricket, outhouses, their boss, Hemingway. I just happen to dislike earwigs, vomit, telephones and most foods. We're all supposed to be different, aren't we?
I don't know whether I've made peace with my shortcomings or just given up the fight, but it seems that quiet, picky and vaguely fretful is the way it's going to be. My resolutions for this year included getting my yellow belt in kung fu, finishing two experiments and writing to my grandparents more regularly. Nice tangible things, two of which may even be realistic!
So I'm optimistic. I think 26 is going to be a good year.