Standing in a garden in Brentwood kitted out in a full bee suit, hat and gloves, I held up a frame covered in hundreds of bees, smiling from ear to ear.
I was on a day-long beekeeping course and, at that moment, I was brave, fearless, euphoric. The happiest and best version of myself I’d been in a long time.
It was day 30 of my challenge to try 30 new things in 30 days – and I couldn’t be prouder of myself.
Not only because I’d completed the month-long task I’d set myself but because I also have a long-standing fear of bees.
At 41, I’d love to tell you I’m the type of person who’s always adventurous. Someone who grabs life by the horns, confronts her fears and throws herself into new adventures.
But I’d be lying. I’m a homebody who doesn’t tend to rock the boat and follows a pre-prescribed routine of being a working mother-of-four. I avoid situations I find socially stressful and mostly stick within a 10-block radius of my home in southwest London.
I’m kind of… boring.
So back in May, I saw that Eventbrite was running a competition, called the #GTFOChallenge. The challenge would take place in July, where one Londoner would be selected to try out a different activity every day for 30 days.
‘I could be that person,’ I thought.
As soon as I had the thought, fear and self-doubt knotted my stomach. Of course I couldn’t. It wasn’t me at all…
But there was something invigorating about the challenge and I found myself wondering, what could I try out that I’d always wanted to? What could I learn? Who could I meet? How much fun and adventure could I have?
So, I pushed down my inner doubts and filled out the application form. Incredibly, the team got in touch to arrange a Zoom call.
And in June, they contacted me again – this time to say I’d been successful!
I was elated… but then it hit me.
That mix of nerves and excitement when you realise this is one of those incredible, once-in-a-lifetime opportunities but you’re also scared you’re going to fail and let everyone, including yourself, down.
The idea was to experience the range of offerings on Eventbrite. Very soon, my July schedule filled up with a mixture of suggestions from the team and things I was keen to do because they sounded cool and different, like jesmonite casting, or acrylic pouring bear – you pour paint over a bear; it’s big on TikTok!), and face yoga.
It would be a month-long ‘yes day’, where I’d agree to absolutely everything, even things that scared me, such as beekeeping, or those I was nervous about, like running a 5K when I’ve been recovering from a sacral fracture.
I even found myself suggesting a London Wing Tour of chicken wing hotspots… despite being mostly vegetarian for the past three years.
The month kicked off with puppy yoga on 1 July with Bare Paws Yoga at Elephant Park. My seven-year-old came with me and she absolutely loved all the chaos and cuddles that come when you let six pug-cocker spaniel mix puppies and their pug mum frolic around a roomful of people rocking half-hearted downward dog poses while secretly hoping a puppy runs in their direction instead.
It was great to spend that one-on-one bonding time with my daughter, and I left with a bounce in my step.
Partly the rush of serotonin and dopamine flowing through my veins, but also that giddy feeling that comes with discovering something new and meeting people in a neighbourhood I lived in 15 years ago (or meeting people outside of my neighbourhood.)
From then on, each day in July brought new adventures and unexpected experiences.
There was the amazing night when I pulled divination cards and cast a spell.
Or my off-the-cuff monologue about ‘confidence’ for two minutes at a School of Connection public speaking workshop, which forced me to confront a fear as deeply-embedded in me as my hatred of insects: my social anxiety in front of strangers.
I swapped clothes I haven’t worn for years for the prettiest floor-sweeping gown at a Loanhood swap shop in Selfridges – and didn’t spend a penny.
The more events I attended, the more inspired I felt. And fitter too.
From 5K run clubs to dance classes, I was more physically active in July than I had been in months. I rediscovered my childhood passion for dance and I’ll definitely be doing it more from now on.
It was also mentally restorative too.
A forest bathing session in Wimbledon Common – which involved sniffing the ground, feeling the sensation of leaves on my face and doing a body scan lying among the trees – was my most relaxing experience in recent memory.
I kept thinking I would eventually hate something, refuse to participate, feel ill or tired to the extreme – but none of that happened.
I just kept loving it.
The rush of trying new things and dipping my toe into new communities felt powerful.
I used to think people couldn’t change, especially once they got older and increasingly stuck in their ways. But this experimental month has shown me I have lots to learn. And that I can feel different in a short period of time.
Of course, doing an activity for 30 days in July was physically, mentally and emotionally exhausting, not to mention being logistically tricky to fit in.
I was still getting up early to spend time with my kids before school since I was missing a lot of bedtimes and I had ‘day job’ writing work on, too.
The jam-packed schedule meant I didn’t see my friends and I missed a few school events, including the deadline to sign one child up to autumn after-school clubs.
Yet, even though I saw much less of my husband and kids and I missed them, I think it’s important for my children to see me trying new things.
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Platform is the home of Metro.co.uk’s first-person and opinion pieces, devoted to giving a platform to underheard and underrepresented voices in the media.
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My youngest, who’s five, had only ever seen me work from home before this so it was a huge adjustment for her to realise I wasn’t part of the furniture… in a good way.
Now, I just need to keep going. Continue to be braver. Calmer. More in tune with my emotions and needs, which has the happy effect of making me more present with my husband and children.
I don’t want this feeling to end so I’ve already booked a collaging class for this month.
Now that I’ve conquered my fear of bees and public speaking, what’s next? I can’t wait to find out.
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