Jocelyn Doyle explores the value in her intuition… just not on a Segway
I am 30 years old, and I’m very slowly driving a Segway along Lisbon’s seafront. I am quietly weeping.
This morning, my partner noticed a sign advertising Segway tours of the city. Hmmm, I said noncommittally, checking out our route to the museum we’d visit after breakfast.
As we sat down to lunch, he brought it up again. Oh yeah, I said, flipping through the menu, hoping he’d let it go. Knowing me well, he didn’t push it any further until I was halfway through my bowl of clams — sufficiently satiated to think properly, and reckless with the pure joy of a perfect meal. It’ll be fun, he said. Something different. They’re really easy to use. Sure we’ll just go and have a look at the place. There’s a tour leaving at 3pm.
I find myself undertaking a practice session around a courtyard. We have not yet paid for the tour. I can still say no. We drive around this cobbled courtyard, my partner zipping around with tangible glee while I make tentative, inelegant movements. After 10 minutes, I know it’s not for me. I feel untethered, vulnerable, oddly exposed.
You go on, I tell him. I’m just not into it. I will be so much happier at a little café with my book and a glass of vinho verde. He gives me the puppy-dog eyes. But there’s nobody else on this tour, he says. If you don’t come, it’ll just be me and the tour guide. It’ll be so awkward. Please come. I promise you’ll enjoy it once we get out there. I look into his big, pleading, annoyingly handsome green eyes and let out a sigh that comes from the depths of me. I pay 45 euro for a tour in which I actively do not wish to partake. We leave the courtyard.
As we cross the Praça do Comércio square, a child runs past me. I lose my one, shaky nerve, brake harshly and fall off. The Segway is unperturbed, standing absurdly upright. I’m fine, save for my dignity and the bruise that will later bloom on my knee. But I am, as the kids say, shook.
We turn right and head along the seafront. I’m grateful for the sea breeze on my face and the smooth surface of the bicycle lane below me. And yet: I hate this. I hate how it feels. I hate my partner for persuading me to do this. I hate myself for giving in. I hate the stupid Segway. As I roll sadly along, tears of indulgent self-pity rolling down my cheeks — tears I cannot wipe away, since my hands are occupied in clinging rigidly to the handlebars — my bastard of a boyfriend is having the time of his life, racing our tour guide up and down ahead of me, the pair of them cackling like schoolboys. Awkward my hole. I am very obviously a third wheel on this outing… which is ironic, given that a third wheel would actually make me feel much better.
This was not the only time I’ve ignored my gut because someone I love has wheedled me into doing so. The same thing happened when I was on holiday in France at 16, and my uncle convinced me to go scuba diving. I had a very strong feeling that I should not do that. Much, much later, I would understand this as a facet of my claustrophobia: I can’t handle any situation in which air is limited.
My uncle is without doubt the bestest, kindest person I have ever met. Yet, it still took courage to tell him I didn’t want to go diving; I had an uncomfortable feeling that I was letting him down, and I hated looking like a wimp in front of my cousins. Believing I was just nervous but was sure to love the experience, he convinced me to give it a go. Down I went.
My career as a diver was short-lived. My crappy sinuses made it impossible to pop my ears or deal with the pressure, so I developed a crushing headache just a few metres down — right before the panic attack began. I was back on the shore, hyperventilating and crying hot, embarrassed tears, a grand total of four minutes after we had set off.
The times I have listened to myself have always, always pointed to the right decision for me.
For instance, my gut has made it very, very clear that having children is not for me, and I am all the happier for listening. At 21, I heard my gut when it screamed at me in the darkness of another sleepless night, hounding me to leave the toxic, emotionally abusive relationship in which I was mired. I feel its ease, comfort and joy every time I’m around the kind, loving man I’ve now been with for 11 fantastic years (Segway-related bullying notwithstanding).
The few times I’ve ignored my instincts have always meant low-level disaster: putting up with shitty friendships far longer than I should have and ending up crushed with anxiety as a result; choosing an undergrad in Hospitality Management when I knew I should be doing an English degree; wasting valuable hours of my life crying in office bathrooms because of horrible working conditions; floundering in the French waters, unable to draw a breath; silently sobbing my way around Lisbon.
My gut may not speak to me often, but in my post-scuba, post-Segway life, I am determined to listen.