Just Say Hello by Nicola Allen

Look up, take a deep breath and just…say hello

The imaginary me sparkles. In my head, I am sociable. Because I am genuinely curious and interested in most things, I love talking to people and finding out about their lives. 

In reality, I am a huge overthinker. I want to talk to people, I really do, but I spend so much time worrying about finding the right words, making my tone sound friendly and wanting to come across as a good person, I often lose my nerve and decide not to bother.

Occasionally, though, when I am brave and decide to try, it’s always worth it

Last year, on a long train journey back from a conference, all I wanted was to get home as quickly as possible. I had a book, some music and a “please don’t speak to me” face. 

After a few minutes, I felt someone sit down next to me. I quickly glanced up and saw a man who looked like he was around my age. I remember thinking that he had a nice face, right before noticing that he was carrying a can of beer and seemed a little bit drunk.

He started fiddling with his phone, trying to find the charging point under the seat. He hit my leg and apologised for touching me. I looked up, he winked and smiled cheekily. I had a sense that he was going to be a talker. My brain immediately went into overdrive and my heart sank. If I was more extroverted this could be fun. Should I say something? What if he doesn’t like me? What if he thinks I am weird? Boring? Both?

But what if he doesn’t?

I took a deep breath, turned towards him, gestured towards his can of beer and asked, “good day?”

The next two hours flew, we talked non-stop; I couldn’t remember the last time I had laughed that much. I didn’t want the journey to end, but of course it had to. We hugged our goodbyes (something completely unheard of for me), and both returned to our respective homes. 

I thought about the journey in the weeks that followed. How did it happen? What was the difference? I realised that it was me. I started the conversation and I let myself go with it without letting my brain take over and make me doubt myself. I wasn’t afraid to ask the questions that were in my mind. I was happy to answer the many questions he had without worrying what he was thinking. And, I had a great time! 

The little voice that makes me doubt myself is still there, I think she always will be, but I’m learning that I can ignore her. Imaginary me sparkles, but sometimes so does real me.

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