As a child I was never very outgoing; I was shy, disillusioned by too many action movies and just plain awkward in small crowds. I fondly remember the golf sessions to which my grandparents would take me every Saturday. From the very first visit to Lakeside Golf Course in Rugeley I was hooked, for my tenth birthday I was presented with a set of golf clubs, a trolley and a pair of golf shoes. I got rather good and after four years of playing the sport, fellow enthusiasts would comment on how fluid my technique was; this resulted in encouragement to play for the junior team at our local club. As a total introvert, there was no way I could gather the confidence that such a task would require – after all, I was shy, I was a loner and I didn’t want it any other way. Golf was my ‘thing’ that I did with my grandparents, to spend time with them, to create memories and to learn from them – introducing any third party would have tarnished the whole objective. The encouragement continued and as I backed away it inevitably grew stronger, leading to my complete dissociation with the sport. Such stories are plentiful in my early years; as a child I would much rather have walked away from something than have became a people person.
From time to time I reflect on those early years, at school I would sit at the back of the class, at martial arts sessions I would hope and pray that I wouldn’t be called to the front of the group to demonstrate any particular technique. In fact, my anxiety and fear of being noticed by people was so intense that at one time I couldn’t even catch a bus and endured a daily six mile walk home from my very first job, this social anxiety only contined for a further coulpe of years.
In early 2012 I was training a friend who was running the London Marathon. On this particular day we stopped at our local Sainsbury’s after our session to enjoy a well deserved coffee and a good old natter. On entering the store we saw a guy in his late teens wearing a charity t-shirt whilst riding an exercise bike, positioned in the very centre of the entrance. What a great way to raise money for charity, he was there doing something different, rather than the conventional method of invading peoples personal space and shaking a collection bucket at them. My initial thought was of admiration but of course as this is something that my anxiety would never allow me to do, a hint of bitterness soon appeared, as soon as my opinion was formed, we had passed the entrance and were walking upstairs to the store’s cafe where our exchange of hot gossip would soon take priority. As time progressed I would see charity fundraisers and automatically think of the inspirational guy on that bike at Sainsbury’s. Little did I know that I would have the confidence to challenge myself to do that very same thing, and then some, just a few years later.
As a much more confident person these days, I went on to cycle for ten hours over two days in my local Morrison’s supermarket. I enjoyed the experience so much that not long after, I cycled for 250km over another two days in that same Sainsbury’s supermarket.
Doing such things really helped restore my faith in people, ten years ago I would have assumed that I’d be pointed at and laughed at. In reality I was showered with words of encouragement and support for my charity event, asked questions about the route and even had more donations than I thought was possible. It just goes to show that staying in your comfort zone makes progression somewhat impossible, but thinking outside the box and doing something a little daunting is already progression in itself.
Since this event I have done similar community fundraising (as well as public speaking) for both Alzheimer’s Society and Teenage Cancer Trust. So by stepping out of my comfort zone, I was able to play a small part in funding support for somebody else out there – and that’s something I’m very comfortable with!