Saturday 27 December 2014

Riding in Cars with Boys

For the most part, my life has been incredibly sheltered.

I went to a church which was about 5 minutes from home and was driven there by one of my relations every Sunday.

I went to a religious school in the middle of nowhere which I had a private bus drop me to a from 5 days each week.

Aside from that, I didn't really get out much since I'd been so overprotected I'd been taught to essentially fear the outside world and wasn't allowed to go anywhere without a trust adult to supervise me.

Having said that, I did have a friend at school who wasn't terribly religious and very quickly became my outlet to the outside world. Whenever I'd stay with her we'd hang out at her place or go shopping then meet up with a couple of her guy friends who I always felt incredibly self-conscious about being around since I didn't feel comfortable with guys in general.

Nothing ever happened though. She might have done a few thing without her overprotective mother knowing or finding out, but she was respectful enough to know that I had my limits and personal boundaries and I was grateful that she allowed me an 'outside' life with insisting I push myself.

The few times we did hang out with her guy friends or go driving around with them, it was me, her and the guy, I was never alone in a car with a guy whether her friend or otherwise.

I can barely count on one hand the number of times I'd been alone in a car with a male who I wasn't immediately related to. It wasn't even part of my family or culture to forbid anything like that, it was just my overprotective father and me being uncertain of how to effectively interact with the opposite sex.

There was the time I went to hang out with one of my friend's friends which ended awkwardly despite our mutual levels of intellect, and he and his brother dropped me off at the station. I wasn't terribly streetwise but I knew instinctively that neither of them would harm me as they bickered slightly as we traveled.

The very first time I was alone in a car with a guy who I wasn't related to was when I started working in my first job after moving out of home. He was the same age as me, a friendly guy who I got along well with even though we'd only known each other for a month or so at that stage.

Maybe it was his high level of confidence, or the underlying mutual attraction between us, or just the fact that he was a guy and I wasn't entirely sure how to be around him given my lack of experience, either way I couldn't help but feel more than a little nervous when the boss informed us that he'd be giving me a ride to our next location for a work event.

It was only a 10ish minute car ride, but when you're freaking out internally, 1 second is an eternity.

I sat there in the passenger seat feeling anxious and reserved, as as most people these days do, I played with my phone, grateful for a distraction. I was also glad that I'd received the results of the last assignment I'd submitted as part of my course and able to build a conversation around that the pass the time.

It needn't have been awkward really, but when it's new and unfamiliar you can't really help but feel that way until figure out how to make yourself more comfortable in the situation you've found yourself in.

After the first short trip, the next few times were easier when we'd found things we had in common to talk about. Conversation flowed easily and my nerves gradually disappeared.

Some time after that my boss offered to drop me into the city after work since he was going that way. I was a little apprehensive at first and texted my best friend at the time who told me to stop worrying and I was making a big deal out of nothing. She was right as I knew, but it still takes time to get used to being in close proximity to someone no matter how well you know or think you know them.

Since then it's gotten easier, granted the only people I've been alone in cars with are people from work or my immediate relations, but it's a start nonetheless.

Just recently I was in a car with a colleague for another work event, I'd never been with him before so I just took it in my stride even though there was absolutely nothing to worry about and I felt significantly more confident than I had before.

It sounds incredibly simple and something that shouldn't be a big deal, but when you've only known and experienced very little (relatively speaking) about the outside world, everything becomes an event or hurdle to jump over until you've got yourself in stride.

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