A couple of months ago, while I was round at one of my friends apartments for one of our ‘Come Dine With Me’ dinner nights. Catching up, we were all talking about our latest gossip and what we’d been up to, and when it came to my gossip which was distinctly lacking, I made no qualms to hide how fed up I’d been feeling lately.
After dinner, piled onto the sofa and armed with ice cream, none of us could agree on what film to watch, and eventually we all agreed on ‘Yes Man’ cause it stars Jim Carrey who is always good for a laugh, and also because I had never seen it before, much to all of my pal’s distaste.
(If you, like me, haven’t seen ‘Yes Man’ then I’ll give you a brief synopsis: Basically Jim Carrey is stuck in a negative frame of mind; so he gets dragged along to a self help seminar that’s all about the power of saying YES. The seminar leader claims to curse Carrey if he doesn’t say YES to things, and from there on in, he says YES to everything.)
Anyway, fast forward a few weeks later, where I had my epiphany after crying into my poached eggs (read more about that public meltdown, here) and armed with the solid advice from my very successful friend, I decided to look at my life from a different perspective. I was also offered some food for thought listening to a recent podcast episode by Carin Rockind called Dreams, Desires, And How To Make Them Happen, (listen to the full episode here). When visualising her dreams, she insists that by turning, “I can’t do that” into, “how can I?” we can turn our dreams into reality.
I came to realise that I had been feeling really alone in Dubai for months, probably since one of my best friends left, and had been wallowing in that quite a bit. In this job, you might travel the world, but you travel it with strangers who you probably won’t ever meet again, (and sometimes you don’t even like your colleagues enough to socialise with them when you do finally reach a destination) and then you sit in your hotel room in foreign countries alone. You see, everyone assumes that I have lots of friends, and every time I bump into people, they always comment on ‘how busy’ I always appear to be. They always say they’d like to catch up but always assume I am busy. Now this is a gross misjudgement on their part, and it is a side effect of social media fooling others into thinking that what scrolls by on an instagram feed is a true reflection of a person’s real life. They forget that instagram and other forms of social media are just a big high-light reel, only showing the best bits.
Anyway, with the words of my friend ringing in my ears, I decided that I had to embrace the fact that really we are alone in this world. You come into the world by yourself, and you leave the world by yourself. I am an only child who spent my childhood, mainly by myself, and I travel the world by myself. I don’t care if I eat dinner out by myself, although I draw the line at the cinema and a night club or bar by myself (unless said bar is in a hotel because I spend 50% of my life in a hotel). No-one is obliged to be there for you all the time, so you’ve got to be there for yourself. And armed with this, I decided to start doing more things by myself.
I actually thought back to all the times where I managed to do hard things by myself and was absolutely fine. Moving countries by myself? Check. Moving house multiple times in Dubai by myself? Check. Going to hospital in a foreign country by myself? Check. Tourist day out in Moscow by myself with scary people and a very complicated subway? Check. Got a degree with the best grade ever despite being absolutely horrendous at maths? Check. Built a stack of flat pack furniture by myself? Check. These don’t even sound like deal breakers, but a friend replied to my instagram story the other day asking if I was out for lunch by myself to which I replied yes. She sounded so sad on my behalf, but I had wanted to go out for lunch, and everyone was working or busy, so what was the alternative? Stay home? So, I went out for lunch by myself. A girls gotta eat!
With this new mindset, I decided that if I wanted to get myself out of my depressive rut, I had to start being more open to doing different things, because the current set up wasn’t working. And with that in mind, when a message dropped into my WhatsApp inbox from my super muscly, gym bunny, fitness fanatic neighbour asking me if I wanted to go cycling round a 50km race track through the desert, of course I said yes. (and then immediately regretted it and tried to talk myself out of it because a. I’m not a fit freak & b. I’d be much slower.) My friend later reconfirmed why I shouldn’t go. “Pam, you do realise it’s 37 degrees outside and you’re going through the desert. It’ll take you at least two and a half hours. AT LEAST. And it’ll get dark before you’re even finished. Are you mad?”. His lack of faith in me flicked the switch of stubborn that lies on autopilot inside my brain (My step dad once told me that I was the most stubborn person he had encountered in his entire life, and ‘that’s not a compliment.’) and I decided that actually, if my mum could do two back to back gym classes in the recovery stages of cancer, then for sure, despite not going to the gym for ages, I could survive cycling round the track, and on the plus side, I would meet new people, and maybe get a suntan. So, armed with bananas and water bottles, my neighbour picked me up at 3pm and we went off cycling in the desert. And guess what? I didn’t die!
The following day, feeling quite liberated by my epic cycle, I decided to do something else that I had wanted to do for a long time. I volunteered myself for dog walking at a local dog shelter based in the desert. These poor dogs are abandoned and subsequently spend their lives living in kennels existing purely through charitable donations, shared with numerous other dogs. A tragedy anywhere in the world, of course, but it feels some what even more heart-wrenching when you understand the relentless and extreme temperatures of a looming summer in Dubai. While many of my friends would like the idea of such a thing, I knew that none of my friends would be interested in actually participating, so I messaged the organiser myself, and she kindly set up a car share (with a hilarious French girl) for me. Personally, I’d classify myself as a cat person; I’ve never had a dog, and even now, big dogs tend to unnerve me, so when I arrived to discover that I’d be responsible for walking up to four dogs at a time, I was already having a minor freak out. Even harder was the power walking through the desert for hours on end – a work out in itself even without four dogs incessantly tugging and tangling you up in their leashes. But after four and a half hours of walking lots of different dogs through the blistering heat, I was even walking a Rottweiler named Biggie.
(I will omit the part about the dog that managed to escape who I then had to chase through the desert like Linford Christie). By the time I was done, I was a sweaty mess and had walked what felt like 100+ dogs; my legs ached and I stank of dog, but I was so proud of myself that I had given up one day of my time to do something so rewarding despite it feeling scary, and I was even happier that I had made a new French friend who encouraged me to spend the afternoon practicing my very rusty French with her.
In the space of two days, and by saying yes to two activities, I had expanded my social circle by seven people, and had two, really rewarding days that made me feel good about myself. By the time Thursday came around, I met up with one of my friend’s from Come Dine With Me for a quick bite and a trip to the cinema – something we do a lot on Thursdays. We had a brief run down on each other’s week, and I told him all about the cycling and the dogs while he moaned about work being non stop, and then it was already time for the movie. As I was in my taxi home, a WhatsApp message pinged into my inbox from my friend;
“Pam, you look so much happier than you did a few weeks ago. Being a Yes woMAN suits you! Keep saying YES to new things!”
Since then, I have said Yes to the following things:
- Lunch with two girls who I had a fun work trip with.
- Last minute drinks with two of my neighbours which resulted in us meeting up with a big group of (each) other’s friends, and coming home at 6am after a McDonalds, walking a Labrador named Chester and having a go on the swings.
- An adventure at the Dubai Safari. (Saw flamingos, hippos, cheetahs, etc etc etc)
- An impromptu coffee with a friend that I lost touch with who I ran into while shopping in Mall of The Emirates.
- Attending a birthday party where I knew only the hosts.
- A boat party.
And in doing so, I have expanded my social circle a lot. For instance, at the birthday party, I met someone who it turns out, lives in the same neighbourhood as me. We ended up sharing a taxi home and she invited me to hers for some gins next week. If I hadn’t went to the party, I’d have never met that potential new friend.
On a roll with all my saying yes-to-adventures, my friend who’s currently living in Athen’s pinged a message to my WhatsApp suggesting I come to Athen’s on my next string of days off. Usually, I’d straight up be like, nah… and find lots of reasons not to go, but following my roll of good fun and yes success, I thought why the hell not? I had the time off, it’s great weather there at this time of year and what else would I be doing in Dubai on those days except the same boring stuff I always do. I took this job to as a means to travel, and if I sit around waiting on friends or a partner in crime to travel with, I’ll never see any of the world. So I’m booking myself a cute Air b’n’b with a balcony for breakfast hangs and those late night Aperol Spritz hangs, and while it’s not full 100% going by myself, (since my friend lives there) and it is only for three nights, it’s a start! Baby steps and all that! Maybe by next year, I’ll have graduated to a solo tour of South America that’s always been on my list!
Watch this space! (Lots of pictures of my adventures in Greece to come!)