Written by Roo Green

Voices

A geek by any other name

Roo Green has always been geeky. What a shame she wasn’t the sporty one. Wait, who said she wasn’t?

Illustration by Joanna Neary.

Illustration by Joanna Neary.

Growing up, I was geeky, brother one was practical and brother two was both baby and sporty. No, we weren’t some sort of shoddy Spice Girls tribute – these are the labels we were given by other people when we were younger.

Obviously there’s a fair amount of truth in them but the intention of labels is to provide a quick shorthand when summing up a personality. By their very nature they’re narrow, and clearly don’t tell the whole story. If you work this out early doors you won’t be restricted by them.

Unless you’re like me.

About two and half years ago I decided to use an app to try to get to the point where I could run five kilometres. I’d hit 40 and wanted to attempt to get healthy. So far, so cliched midlife crisis. But then, I only went and did it. No one was more surprised than me when I then carried on running, showcasing a cameltoe in Lycra. I would tell anyone who would listen that it was an achievement because “I’ve never been sporty.”

Except here’s the thing: it was bollocks. Admittedly unless ‘watching boxsets’ becomes an Olympic sport, immediately prior to my running I wouldn’t have bothered the back pages of the papers, but look back further and I had once been pretty engaged in sport.

How on earth did I forget this? Because if you’re not ‘the sporty one’ in the family, you can quite easily – if you let yourself – believe that this is a sign that you are not sporty AT ALL. The truth is I just wasn’t the most successful at sport. I am clumsy at times and about as flexible as a breezeblock – so early attempts at gymnastics weren’t terribly successful. BAGA Award 3’s backward roll to astride was the peak of my powers, and I’m pretty certain my hips never quite went back into place.

But I wasn’t half bad at racquet sports: I played badminton at primary school and tennis for my secondary school, plus I got stuck into house team games of netball, hockey and rounders. I wasn’t spectacular – but I turned up and got involved.

On leaving school, without the push of teachers yelling instructions, I gave up. Over time I allowed myself to believe this was evidence of an ‘unsporty’ personality; the truth got crowded out by a label, and one that gave me permission to be lazy. I now know that I simply lacked a motivation to be fit; once I found one, I could commit to panting and getting red in the face a few times a week.

“I’d been paying house insurance twice each month, an administrative error that I would have picked up immediately had I not been putting all my energy into avoiding taking responsibility for my cash under the ‘terrible with money’ label.”

As I continued to pound the pavements, I began to mull over what other labels had held me back and shockingly, some of them were ones I’d given myself.

I’ve always told myself that I am rubbish with money. It stems from when I was young. One of my brothers always seemed to be able to hold onto his birthday money and I spent mine as soon as I got it. This is from when I was UNDER TEN, when most kids would struggle not to splurge on treats.

Unbelievably this was enough to spark decades of fiscal fuck ups. It is no exaggeration to say I carried that around with me until just before I met my husband. I used that label as a get-out from ever truly taking responsibility for my finances. I was always overdrawn, never looked at the balance when at a cashpoint and failed to set myself a budget.

It took me the best part of two years to realise I’d been paying house insurance twice each month, an administrative error that I would have picked up immediately had I not been putting all my energy into avoiding taking responsibility for my cash under the ‘terrible with money’ label.

A chat with a friend made me realise that I didn’t need to be Carol Vorderman to look at what was coming in and then track what was going out. Within a year I’d made seismic changes to my lifestyle to get me back in the black, and it was NOT THAT HARD. What was difficult was coming to terms with how much money I had wasted – mainly in bank charges for being overdrawn.

Labels have genuinely limited aspects of my life, but being a grownup is often hard, and sometimes it is comforting to cling to what you think you ‘know’ rather than push forward and challenge.

The realisation I could reject labels, or even evolve and change enough to make them redundant is one of the best things I’ve done to move my life on. ‘Not good at handling change’ was the one I gave myself to protect myself from the potential rejection if I stuck my head above the parapet and pitched an idea to a magazine. It’s the shedding of that label that has put these words in front of you today.

As I pounded the pavements on yet another run, I asked myself whether anyone ‘not good at handling change’ could have taken on a variety of roles in their career and moved cities seven times (and house 12 times) since graduating.

I’ve come to the conclusion that labels are only good for suitcases, tins and clothes – don’t let them stick and leave you stuck.

@roogreen

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Written by Roo Green

Roo Green has worked in radio since all this was fields. She loves reading, eating and writing, and blogs at www.roogreen.co.uk. Paisley Park is in her heart.