If there was a poster girl for ‘people who worry too much about what other people think of them’, that would be me. So chronic was my condition that I’m pretty sure the whole reason I went to university was so my Nan could boast about it at bridge. I’ve taken jobs because they sound good, rather than because I actually think I’ll be any good at them, or because I particularly enjoy them. I’ve pursued men who I know are entirely unsuitable for me because I liked the idea of dating them, rather than actually spending time with them.
I, am a chronic people pleaser and master of ‘not making a fuss’.
So, I thought one of the hardest things about ever leaving London (pathetic as it may sound) would be dealing with people’s reactions. ‘She’s probably been fired!’ ‘Practically unemployable!’ ‘Moving back to the burbs….can‘t even afford her house share in Balham’ etc, they’d all jeer.
Funnily enough, when it actually came to it, I really didn’t care.
It wasn’t because I’d grown up. Or because anything particularly eventful happened to me. I didn’t go through a break-up, I wasn’t grieving, I didn’t get made redundant.
For fear of harping on like a motivational fridge magnet, I’ll just say this. All it actually comes down to is seeing a real value in what you are pursuing - you end up caring more about what you think about it, than what other people think of you.
So what had started as a little niggle of an idea, was soon consolidated, when I was at a birthday and somebody started talking about their 86 year old father who had decided to move to the South of France six months ago and who, despite not speaking a word of French when he left, was having a whale of a time. ‘PHWOAR. What an incredible man! How incredibly inspiring!’ Good on him. I bet he’s an interesting fellow’, everyone said.
Did anyone say ‘what’s he doing with his life? What a waste of a career! What about his house? Family! Friends! Abandoning it all…must be some kind of crisis eh?’.
Of course they didn’t.
Because, when an 86 year old man decides to pack everything in and move away, he’s a total legend.
When a forty year old woman moves to the south of France, she’s having a mid-life crisis.
When a 24 year old decides to pop off to Italy, she’s being irresponsible.
So here are five typical reactions I've received, since my announcement:
1. What are you going to call it?
This is what my best friend said to me as soon as I made the big revelation. Certainly one of the most interesting reactions of anyone, because, I can’t say it’s something I’d really thought about. ‘Are you going travelling’ he said, ‘or are you living abroad? Or are you becoming a fully-fledged Italian?’ He's still waiting for an answer.
2. Are you going to find yourself?
My least favourite of all the reactions. Reducing my epic adventure to the stuff of a Julia Roberts film or a Jilly Cooper novel? How dare you. No, I’m not a 36 year old divorcee moving to the Tuscan hills to learn Italian and sweat out my demons.
3. How are you going to afford it? You can barely afford your rent!
…said most people who know me. Most irritating of all the reactions because it’s the most legitimate. Followed by…
4. What about your job?
Which is what my boss said when I told him a contract renewal wasn’t really on my mind as I was off to Italy for at least the summer. 'Do you speak Italian, are you going to try and get work in PR?' Unfortunately, a career in communications all becomes a bit redundant when you can’t speak the language.
5. YOLO! Just do it!
This is either the response of really fun, interesting, adventurous types or people who don’t know you very well and just don’t really care about where you live.