You would not be mistaken for calling me girly.

As a child I played with dolls, sylvanian families, my little ponies.

I bake, I like wearing pretty things, I get excited about new earrings, I have been known to scrapbook, I look forward to flying for all the time I can spend gazing longingly at the clinique and mac counters and trying all the perfumes, I want to learn to knit, I make patchwork quilts, I love romantic comedies and cry at the predictably lovey-dovey endings.

I am entirely happy to be known as girly and enjoy it immensely.

However, at certain points in my life, even still on occassion, the fact that I am girly has been used by people in my life as an insult. People who are friends, even family members. Now I’m older, I recognise how entirely ridiculous it is for that feature of my personality to be used that way. But for many years it hurt deeper than I ever let anyone see. My girliness was the reason I was not taken seriously, not listened to, not included. They were joking but there was truth in their insults: because I was not the same as them, I was not as good.

It wasn’t continuous and I am certain that the people who did it never meant to actually hurt me. But I felt less worthy of their attention for it. I felt guilty for being me.

I know, not my usual happy blogging tone. But I wanted to tell you about something that happened at Christmas which was an important moment for me. One of many that has happened since I’ve been an adult that has helped me shake off those years of teasing and the feeling I wasn’t good enough.

On 27th December, after the fun and feasting had mostly finished, the men of my husband’s family all headed for his brother’s house. He bought this beautiful old house a couple of years ago and has been slowly ripping out the interior and putting it back together again. Last Easter there was no floor, no walls, windows being moved. Now he’s put in a new floor, the bones of the new walls are in place and the windows are finished.

The job of the day was to work on the insulation. Rasmus, his dad, brother and brother-in-law were all joining the fun. Did I want to go?

No. Not really. But yes. Yes I did.

I know nothing about DIY. Nothing about renovating a house. Nothing about insulation. Growing up I memorised my granny’s shortbread recipe, not how to use a saw. I took the wood and metal work class at school coz I was interested in the graphic design side – and my teacher was weak enough to let me persuade him into doing most of my practical projects himself. Or there were 15 other boys in my class eager for another excuse to use the electric drill.

So I can’t do these things now. Which made me wonder if I should go and help. I’m too girly, right? I would make a mess, cut off some crucial supporting beam or something. What if I’m not strong enough or don’t get it right?

And then I had an epiphany which is probably blatanly obvious to most of you but which was crucial for me to realise. It was this: just because I was never taught to do something, doesn’t mean I can never learn. I know, really basic. But it was huge.

Just because no one has shown me how to drill a hole in the wall, doesn’t mean I can’t learn. Just because I’ve never installed insulation, doesn’t mean I won’t be able to do a good job once someone explains it to me. Just because I don’t own work-trousers with padding in the knees, doesn’t mean I won’t want to by the end of a day of manual labour… :)

I got shown the ropes, given a saw and I got on with it. And it was hard, because I’ve never used a saw before and those things are kinda annoying to get used to. And half the time I felt like a fraud while I was measuring a wall with part of my head saying “what are you doing, you’ve never measured a wall in your life” but then I did it once and said “well now I have”. It was also freezing cold because, duh, there was no insulation yet, and the snow was still falling and the door was open and let me tell you, sawing insulation is hard work when you can’t feel your fingers.

But then we stopped for lunch and I sat on the step and ate sandwiches and drank shots of my brother in laws homemade honey snapps (that warmed me up!) and went back to work. And felt part of the crew.

I still suck. You wouldn’t want to consult me on your renovation yet. But I’m better than I was. And isn’t that kinda what the whole of life is about? From the first day of life we’re learning and exploring and trying new things. My personality, my history, my current abilities, these are not barriers to trying something new, becoming something new.

May I never let fear or people’s opinions stop me from trying something new.

(photos by my father-in-law)

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