Just in case you haven’t heard enough about me reminiscing of my time in Sheffield this month, let me be reflective one last time.
When I moved to Sheffield last year, I never intended to return. I was going to fly overseas to California (that changed in November) or finding a digital job in Bristol or Sheffield. Whatever happened, moving back to rural Wiltshire had not been part of the plan.
But, to quote God’s Not Dead, “God is good all the time. And all the time God is good.”
I am living out the concept of “There and Back Again” (thank you Tolkein) for the second time. Yet this time around, I’m going for it 100%. No slacking and grumping over low pay or not communicating with my parents. But before we take a look at why God is good right now, let’s see why God was good in Sheffield.
Being Part of a Big Church
Before my year up north, I had never been part of a church bigger than 250 people. Then I became part of St Thomas Crookes. Suddenly I found myself drowning in a congregation of 250 people. The whole church was around 1,000 people. Talk about becoming a little fish in a big pond. Absolutely. Freaking. Terrifying.
If you haven’t already, check out my post on social anxiousness for an idea of how scared being at STC made me. But being scared wasn’t a reason to back out of church. Instead, it gave me the courage to join a cell group, go for Alpha and even on the weekend away. The fear of people was what propelled me to meet people, even making friends.
Now, back in my small rural church, I’ve been given a chance to take that fear and turn it into this propulsion. Before, I was nervous about talking to almost everyone in my church. Even people I did know, I wouldn’t feel confident starting a conversation with. Post-Sheffield, I’m sitting during coffee with the older ladies in the congregation; I’m inviting myself to various groups; I’m even offering to write for the church newsletter. My fear about what people think of me is still there. I’ve just chosen to let it propel me into going for life anyway.
Dealing with Cultural Pressures
This year I have made friends with people from so many different cultures. Pakistan, India, Paraguay, Indonesia, and even America. Yet the biggest cultural difference and pressure that I learnt to deal with was the British rural-urban divide. Having been born and raised in small rural cities, towns and villages, I’m happy to classify myself as a rural girl. But I never realised how rural I was until I met fellow Brits who were 100% urban. At times, it was like we came from different realities. I felt like a right country bumpkin, under pressure to adopt the urban morals of my peers.
After a good long chat with my fellow rural girls, I realised that I was no bumpkin. All my rural life had done was give me a different outlook on life. I didn’t always know the latest slang or like grime music. I understood that birds weren’t always afraid of humans but I had to get used to seeing hijabis on a regular basis. I never thought it would happen but I began to understand why so many rural communities voted to leave the EU. The difference between rural and urban cultures seemed so stark that I could have been from a different country.
The pressure I felt to be more urban made me more decidedly rural. I became proud of my small rural town and its charity shops. I refused to change because of the pressures around me. While I adored living in Sheffield, the rural girl in me refused to be squashed out. Now I’m back in my small town. Am I anxiously seeking a way back to city life? No. Instead I’m all about enjoying where I am right now and who I am right now. Part of that means being proud of my rural roots. Sometimes it takes coming up against the pressure to be someone you’re not to make you proud of who you are.
Not Such an Introvert
Stick your hand up if you recharge best in your own company; if taking a bath or reading a good book is your idea of relaxing and re-energising. Now keep that hand up if, when you spend too much time on your own, you feel like you’re going to burst open. In fact, you’re so full of energy that you will go crazy unless you talk to another person.
That’s me. Only I didn’t realise it. I thought I was a typical introvert. I’m nice to people but it takes a lot before I’ll accept someone as an actual friend. After a busy day at work, I love to spend half an hour in my room on my own. No one else around to drain my energy reserves. But Sheffield was different. I lived in a very quiet flat that didn’t always talk to each other. Like, we celebrated if three of us were in the kitchen at the same time! It turns out that when you don’t see have human contact on a regular basis, even introverts can go a little crazy. From bugging my friends to just do something, anything, through to going shopping just to be around people, it was a surreal experience during the quieter periods. I’m pretty sure there were periods of more than 24 hours when I didn’t see another living soul… like I said, it’ll drive you crazy!
Back in Sheffield, I became an extroverted introvert. I’m never going to be the hostess with the mostess or able to spend all night talking to every single person at a party. That is totally fine. I need my alone time to recharge and balance out myself. I even celebrated my birthday with a solo lunch at my favourite bar and loved it! But I also need time with people, learning to laugh and cry and enjoy the energy I’ve built up. To experience all the joys that come from genuine relationships, whether they’re based on similarities or differences. Life is about the alone times and the times with people. It’s not about being an introvert or an extrovert. It’s about getting rid of the labels and learning to live as God made you to be. For me, that looks a lot like making time for the relationships in my life as well as for me on my own.
What I’m bringing back from Sheffield
Turning fear into propulsion. Holding on to my rural roots. Abandoning being an introvert. These are just some of the lessons I’ve brought back from Sheffield. I also found some awesome friend, ate some incredible food, developed new skills, and made incredible memories. Most of all, I’m bringing back from Sheffield a stronger idea of who I am and what makes me “ME”. God turned my fear into propulsion. He placed me in rural settings growing up. God made me to recharge on my own while also loving people. He is the reason I am who I am.
Even more importantly, He is the reason I am not who I was before Sheffield. That is the lesson I’m bring back from Sheffield.
The post There and Back Again || What I Learnt from Sheffield first appeared on CounterCultural. CounterCouture.