I was that girl, always on the invite list and always willing to show up – and not be seen. I was there physically but I wasn’t there honestly. One friend dubbed me ‘the five-minute party girl’ because when the weekend rolled around I had a series of parties, birthdays, gatherings to go to. I would have 3 or 4 events on a Saturday night and spend select time at each, always moving onto ‘something better’ or so I convinced myself. The reasons for the social occasions may have differed slightly but the format was often similar – booze, binging, blasting around to a bleary-eyed sunrise.
To an observer, I was a party girl, always having a good time, always ready for another drink, and always ‘on’.
I was pleased with that at the time and there were certainly good times had. However, I look back on my late teens and twenties and see a young woman who was forcing life to happen. I thought to overwhelm my calendar with brunches, parties, dinners and after work drinks was a measure of success and happiness. I had decided that if I was out and about all the time, dashing around the city meeting different friends mainly to mindlessly eat and drink; all the time; then I was winning.
My attempt at being happy was to always push my way into getting others to notice me.
Sass people to get their attention, ‘win’ arguments and conversations at all costs, be on the move all the time – show the world and myself that it didn’t matter what I felt – I had an image to carve and maintain. I could never show weakness, be vulnerable. I couldn’t be honest about all the situations and possibilities that scared the hell out of me, I would never admit to not being able to do something – and there was plenty that I hadn’t learned to do. I avoided, distracted, distanced myself from others while maintaining a classically believable veneer of chatty, smart, sociable female. And most painfully, I put distance between what I chose to experience and what I really wanted.
I shut off and buried all the hard stuff.
The fears and anxieties, comparisons and hurt – that I had accumulated through childhood and continued to collect later on.
I was bought up to live out a future planned before my birth, based on traditional and cultural expectations. And I pretended that didn’t sting every time it crossed my mind. I ignored tears that wanted to be shed and I shoved my anger deep into recesses I could forget and numb away. I swallowed every hurtful comment that was said to me, comments where I perceived the undertone of “you’re not good enough”, “you’re stupid”, ” you don’t matter”. I plastered a smile on my face and acted like the words didn’t matter, that I didn’t hear them. I didn’t dare dream of standing up for myself, of responding assertively, of walking away from people who fit into ‘with friends like these…’ And I never asked for help – that would’ve meant being vulnerable and I believed that to be weak.
It was a journey of so many components and extraordinary people that taught me there were other ways to live and to be. That I could be at all, without being defined by my social life, career, number of shoes I owned, surface gloss.
The journey started in 2009.
Discovering that I had some annual leave owing and some cash saved up, I took a backpacking trip, solo, for several weeks over Christmas, starting with Japan, China, Cambodia and ending up on a three-week trek in the Himalayas. That was one of the first times that I let myself pay attention to the moment I was experiencing – there are not many other options when you are situated at an elevation of 5000m, walking on a snowy mountain pass into icy cold winds at a temperature of -25 deg. C!
I returned to New Zealand and started seeing a Naturopath/EFT practitioner who taught me how to tune into and heal long-buried feelings and fears I had shaped into metaphorical monoliths. And it hurt! It hurt to acknowledge all the personal pain I had swished aside over and over throughout my life and to perceive it from different perspectives as I peeled back the hard layers created by mistreating myself.
One year after arriving in New Zealand, I moved abroad, embarking on a six-year overseas adventure spanning Nepal, India, Malaysia, Thailand, and England. I continued my healing journey throughout this, using EFT, Yoga, and Meditation as practical tools. I learned to step back, to enjoy solitude in a joyful way instead of another method to flagellate myself with past regrets, other peoples’ criticisms, stupid decisions, woulda/shoulda/coulda’s. I started to allow life to unfold instead of forcing my way into it and manipulating myself into what I perceived to be acceptable to everyone else.
There were beautiful moments that helped me stay with this – as I let go of my fears of comparison and what others thought of me, I embraced calm and I was gifted with delightful serendipity – a woman I met in a monastery in Kathmandu invited me to stay with her family, leading to a short-term job just as I needed a financial top-up; a chance conversation on a tube ride in London resulted in a project created with someone who is now a life-long friend; an unexpected detour on our Himalayan trek led to meeting the man who is now my husband.
My journey of learning and loving life continues today. I don’t always get it right and I’m learning to appreciate that.
I am signing off my sharing with this treasured quote from Brene Brown, Braving the Wilderness: “Of all the calls to courage….braving the wilderness is the hardest. It can hurt the most. There will be times when standing alone feels too hard, too scary, and we’ll doubt our ability to make our way through the uncertainty. Someone, somewhere, will say ‘Don’t do it. You don’t have what it takes to survive the wilderness.’ This is when you reach deep into your wild heart and remind yourself, I am the wilderness”
Chatelle Jeram grew up in Auckland, New Zealand, the daughter of migrant parents. Having started her career in GIS, she moved abroad in 2011 to transition into a career focused around individual and community development; exploring this new direction as a therapist and project coordinator in Nepal, India, Malaysia, Thailand, the United Kingdom and currently New Zealand.
In 2016 Chatelle founded her own therapy practice Balance Therapy to counsel and support people on their personal transformation journey through facilitating the release of an individual’s limitations and fears. She loves reading, writing, camping in intrepid locations and dancing like no-one’s watching. Find Chatelle on Facebook and Instagram