When I left my career of 17 years, a colleague wrote me a very lovely card. In it she said she had always admired my confidence.
I was a bit taken aback because if you were to ask me, I'd have told you that I was the least confident person on the planet.
Even this move - this pack-in-the-day-job-and-give-writing-a-go move - was not borne out of any sense of confidence that I was about to become the next big thing in writing. In fact it was fair to say that the decision to leave was the least 'me-like' thing I have ever done,
I am not confident. I am not courageous. I am not brave. Like many people I have spent a very deal of my life feeling a bit like an intruder in the room - someone who is there by fluke or as the token quiet Derry girl.
I have spent my life waiting to be found out and - at the moment as I find my way in this full time writing world, I wonder if now is the time I finally will be.
I have never felt more like the quiet, ill equipped, Derry girl in the room.
And believe me, I have made that role my own in the past. I spoke to an old acquaintance recently - someone I was at journalism college with- and we got on to the topic of how quiet and shy I was back then.
Yes, forging a career breaking news stories, interviewing politicians, policy makers and celebs - and I couldn't bring myself to open my mouth to the people I was studying with.
The former class mate told me my shyness was "painful to watch' at times - and I felt like screaming that it was more painful to endure.
It wasn't that I didn't want to fit in - to have the craic, to go out on the nights out with my classmates, to be privy to all the scandal that went on - it was just that I didn't think I belonged. They - my classmates - all were confident, talented folks with the personalities to ask the right questions.
I was the girl on the bursary who did well in all the exams but failed dramatically at the living the university life bit.
I have to say, I've carried that with me for the past 20 years. The whole way through my journalism career. I have always felt embarrassed for the girl I was - who didn't even speak up when someone was making fun of her to her face.
I was awkward and clumsy and really, if I'm honest, a bit frumpy. When I wrote Rainy Days and Tuesdays and wrote about Grace, not sure who she was and a terrible journalist because she hated answering the phone - well... let's just say there was more than a little me there.
I'm not much different when it comes to writing. Why anyone thinks being an author makes you brave, or confident is beyond me. There are few and far between authors I know - from the amateurs to the bestsellers - who aren't frequently crippled with self doubt.
If they are lucky - they can hide it. We're not supposed to say we're nervous. Or scared. Or anything less than utterly confident in our books.
We are supposed to be able to stand up now and shout about our successes. Boast our sales figures. Talk confidently about our craft.
I fail on all counts. I feel if I talk sales figures - people will think me a bore. I figure if I talk about my writing people will laugh and think "who is she kidding on with that nonsense?".
But I'm trying to change - because 20 years regretting a socially painful year at journalism college is/ was a big burden to carry.
I am trying to be proud of who I am. To speak loudly about who I am and what I do. I'm trying not to say "just women's fiction really' when people ask me what I write because that's insulting to me - and more so to my readers. I'm trying to own my story - including sharing the truth of my painful year at college (which actually normally just makes me cry when I think about it) so that I can move on and become that confident person.
The acquaintance I spoke with told me I should be living my best life now.
So I suppose I should give that a try for a change - and go forward bravely knowing that even if it has hurt along the way I've not given up.
I'm still trying.
I'm still doing.
And perhaps one day soon when I walk into a crowded room with confident people I will be able to stand up bravely and make sure they know me too. The real me. Not the token quiet girl from Derry.
Why Skirting the Issue?
For 14 years I wrote my Skirting the Issue column for the Derry Journal each Friday - I may have moved on, but I still have opinions!