Today I visited the DW Stadium in Wigan for the final event with this years summer job on The Challenge. For those that don’t know, The Challenge is a programme run over the summer for young people who have just finished school. They spend three weeks challenging themselves in many ways, personally, emotionally, physically, in teams and it’s rather intense. All of the young people who ‘graduated’ today have been through the three week summer programme where they went on an expedition, learnt a skill and planned community projects. Over the weekends in September the young people then conducted their projects with the assistance of people like me, their mentors.
As with anything that involves adults around a certain age (as much as it pains me to stereotype) there was a big night of celebration planned. The ‘core’ staff had spent a year putting this programme together and many summer staff had put a lot of work into making it successful. Everyone was there with them to see the 2011 programme end.
I’m not one for socialising. It’s not that I dislike it but I tend to avoid it for several reasons. 1. I like to chat, clubs/very noisy bars and I don’t mix. 2. I don’t have friends to socialise with. 3. I hate not knowing how I’m going to get home safely, especially from a place I’m unfamiliar with at a time I’d be quite happily sat at my computer.
That’s not to say I wouldn’t do more of it if I could because there are certain kinds of socialising I’m more than happy with. Take this afternoon for example. A handful of summer staff (including myself) attended the second of four graduations. As the core members of staff had to work until the end we had about four hours of time to kill. So we went to a pub and ate lunch, sat chatting and generally enjoyed laughter and the company.
The other upside is the people I was with liked me enough to hold a conversation with me, to ask me questions (which I sometimes need in order to help prompt me to speak) and generally I felt part of the group not someone sat on the outside. Which has been known to happen on many occasions.
Once we returned to the DW Stadium we had a couple of drinks at their bar and I somehow ended up moving to a new group of people – well one I’d spent half the day with but knew less well and one who I’d spent some time with in September. We had a really enjoyable time chatting. Then we were joined by someone new, well I’d met her at training in June. She was lovely and we continued to laugh and joke and yet again I was part of the group.
We eventually moved on to Revolution. I’d never been in a Revolution bar before but I expected your average very noisy bar with little space to think let alone talk. I agreed to stay as Ed (the programme manager) offered me a lift home. Since my getting home was sorted the whole night felt infinitely easier. I went and sat down with slightly different people which lead to me being sat next to someone I dislike, but I handled that. I tried my best to be part of the conversation as much as I could…and I did a good job. I could have sat there silently and listened/watched it happen but I didn’t.
The Challenge have a few new staff members and I was happily sat next door but one to a lovely young woman called Emily (cute, lovely voice…but straight and has a boyfriend). She introduced herself which helped but I was intrigued enough that I hoped I’d find a way to talk to her anyway…and I did. I asked her about her life before The Challenge. Check me out, asking people questions and starting up a conversation. That’s not usually what I do.
Anyway, eventually I ended up on a table listening and watching and not participating anymore, so I moved. And thus I realised that I, Fiona Bond, mingled. That’s right. I spent the day with different groups of people and I enjoyed it.
In all fairness I had moved to a table with Helen and Michaela on it, who are both all kinds of awesome. In fact earlier when I’d told Helen I planned to go home she told me not to. She said I wouldn’t have a good enough excuse and she was right.
And you know what? I enjoyed it. It was everything I would want from a night out.
Plus, as short a time it was, I got to meet Tallulah (though maybe not officially) who has the most amazing voice…and to be honest, the face really matches it. ;P
Then having done all that I got my lift home with Ed, just me and him in his car which seemed a little awkward (I’ve had loads of lifts off Ed this summer except there’s always been others in the car too) but it was actually alright. I asked questions…I know, what have I done with the real Fiona, right?!
The only thing that makes me feel sad about the whole thing is no matter how much I want this to be regular and for me to have people I can spend time with in that way, I don’t. Ah well.
I still did it, when this morning I thought I wouldn’t. Proudness.