I have to confess the most difficult part of my sociophobia is being with kids. I like kids, it’s just I am scared to be rejected. I don’t know what to say and where to look. Besides if adults would at least try to be polite and choose words when they reject me, kids never do. They are very honest, never choose words and may even bite or beat me to be understood.

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The first time I saw my brother he was already two years old. He is half-Greek and his name is Lambros. He doesn’t speak Russian and I wish my Greek would be much better. Lambros is actually my half-brother but I don’t like calling him my half-brother as he is to me my real brother; the brother I wanted since I was born and as you know, all dreams come true if you really really want them to. For some of them you just have to wait longer and be patient and I was patient for 21 years but I got it in the end.. My brother Lambros is 7 and I am 28.

I have to win his love everytime I see him.

I decided to make the most of my birthday and spend it as out of my comfort zone as possible. I am afraid of heights and have been trying to fight this for years. When we were standing at the top of the slide I realised my brother was as scared as I was but on the other hand I knew if we wouldn’t do it then he would have this feeling of fear and regret.

“You first”, he said.

“Of course. But then we’ll do it together, ok?” He nodded.

I am sure he didn’t believe I would actually jump from this frightening contraption that made me think it was not designed for adults at all. My life went fast in my head as I was sliding down! The next moment I was standing on the ground still alive and looking up. Little devil was looking at me in amazement from the top. I climbed the ladder and this time we were sliding together with his feet touching my back and I could see he was scared. I began cheering and the next moment we both were standing on the ground. He was all shaking and almost jumping of joy.

We did it. We did it so many times our hair were wet and every time I climbed the latter to the top of this kids’ slide people who worked at the playground smiled and looked sympathetically.

“You must be very tired. Such a lively child.”, said a woman who observed our joy. I didn’t feel tired I just felt so happy. I secretly dreamt about going to the slide and having all the experience kids have but I was too old. No one would let me, so now I looked to my brother as he was the most powerful weapon I have now! I could go to a playground that adults weren’t allowed, especially if they are going to play.

At the end of the day I went even further and went to a children’s birthday party. There is a girl named Konstantina and she is terminally ill. She can’t walk or talk, neither does she understand what’s going on around her and she is only four. Konstantina had her birthday on the same day. I have to admit even though I am so sociophobic I really enjoy being around mentally ill patients. I am magnetised to them. Everything seems interesting but not only that, I also feel a strong connection. When I held Konstantina’s tiny body in my hands at some point she looked at me and I felt warm and good. She is so beautiful. She can’t understand words but she surely feels emotions as shown when we all were singing “Happy Birthday” she was smiling and felt happy. I wish she lived closer so I could spend more time with her. Maybe I should consider volunteering back in London as everytime I am around people like that I gain my inner peace.

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Back in the car my little brother was playing on a game he likes the most with a smart-phone. The game is about a cat which can copy and modify any sounds you make and he usually says some annoying phrases or sounds to annoy mom but this time it was “S’agapao Xristina”.. which in Greek means “I love you, Kristina”.

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Weather conditions were never a problem for DynaMike. Be it in the heat of Oman or icy Canada, he would still go out and juggle sharp knives sitting on the top of his 16-foot-high unicycle. He didn’t take the St. Jude storm seriously and, of course, never thought to cancel his performance in Covent Garden. It was a special day for him; his last performance in the UK.

 Michael Anthony Bonnici, 33, from Toronto, Canada, is a street performer going by the name of “DynaMike”. Mike has performed on the streets of 14 different countries, busked since the age of 16 and never had an ordinary job. However, he is well dressed, good-looking, self-confident and enjoys life as he puts it “doing shows for the good people of the earth”.

 Mike was sitting in a yard of St. Paul’s Church also known as Actors’ Church in Covent Garden. The crowd was cheering to the other busker performing with his music at the square in front of the church.

Mike was going to be next. He was joking about “the pseudo hurricane, which could at worst cause the fear-mongering” and he was taking videos with the smart-phone of the bright sky saying he could see an aeroplane there.

 Mike was doing gymnastics from a young age. He liked the attention when he was doing the tricks most children couldn’t do.

 “When I was a kid it was like a drug; I was hungry for it. You get all this energy from all sorts of people. Every little baby loves attention and as we grow up some of us become more or less dependent on attention and I was pretty dependent”

 After 17 years the reason Mike was performing slightly changed. He thought that street performing was bringing people together. He turned his head and looked at the church, which emanated music from the other performance: “You see, the people are clapping and having fun. On Sunday this church is much less busy than it would have been 20 years ago or one hundred years ago. When that happens you forget about your troubles with the energy around you. It’s a really uplifting cathartic experience”.

 Strangers are drawn to Mike; he smiled and asked two young lads passing along the yard how they were doing followed by “Ciao”. He learnt Arabic, Spanish and French while performing in other countries. This definitely helped in his personal life. He giggled: “I had a Spanish girlfriend Maria Cascales, a French girlfriend Monique Cosmique. And I had an Arabic boyfriend Mohammed Nazir Michelle Actabar… Just joking”.

 “Well, street performing is not secure but security seems to be an illusion anyway”, this doesn’t seem to worry DynaMike. He considers street performing as his future.

 “You know, you can work for 30 years at some job and lose your job two years before retirement, or the company goes under or this happens or that happens or the war, bomb drops, or you are in a car accident. Life is not secure.”

Mike doesn’t think about life in terms of job and free time, career and personal life. For him it’s all life: “I was born, I will die in the end and in between I am just alive”. Street performing for DynaMike is the part of who he is. It makes him happy.

 “I recognise myself as an artist who creates an experience that otherwise won’t take place”.

 Tonight is just another show of thousands in Mike’s career; because he’s done it forever it seems easy for him.

 ”When you are nervous you can’t hide it and the crowd feels it but if you do it several times you will realise there is nothing to lose. You can screw up, people will forget about it and never think about it again. So do it a bunch of times”.

 Mike starts his show and a big crowd is gathering in excitement. He is interacting with people in the crowd and making everyone laugh, juggling with a powered and working chainsaw while making jokes that, hopefully, with any luck he won’t cut half of his face. When he is already sitting on the top of his unicycle, the wind is getting stronger and plastic bags are flying everywhere. The rain starts and the hurricane doesn’t seem so “pseudo” anymore. But Mike juggles on.

It was a Halloween day and I decided to celebrate it out of my comfort zone photographing strangers on the streets on London.

It all started when I was passing by the street market near Westminster when I saw her, the lady-nutcracker. She was in a hurry so I followed her unnoticed to the doors of the hairdresser’s where she seemed to work. I turned around and continued my walk thinking how much I wanted to photograph her. I was ready to give up my idea being scared of rejection. Finally I managed to push myself out of my comfort zone.

I looked at the glass window of the hairdresser’s and realised they all were wearing Halloween costumes. My heart was beating, hands were shaking. In a couple of minutes there she was, happy to pose in front of me. Her friends joined us. I still couldn’t believe that a simple “Can I take a picture of you, please?” was enough to get what I wanted and feel absolutely fantastic!

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The red contact lenses one of the girls had made me feel excited to do some close-ups.

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I continued my walk feeling adrenalin rush and I wanted more. I met a couple of zombies asking for money and took some pictures of them. I absolutely loved the waffles seller who was desperate to be part of the photo.

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Then I felt the need to share my joy and excitement with my friends. I met one of my best friends for a coffee. We were sitting on the bench close to the office she worked and were talking. I showed her the photos proudly. They were not that many, but behind every picture was a memory of shaking me coming to a stranger. I can imagine my friend’s surprise when I jumped all of a sudden and rushed to a vampire passing by. I had no fear to be rejected anymore.

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By the end of the day I was so brave that I decided to go to my favourite café in London, Café 1001 at the Brick Lane. I am coming there for two years and didn’t make any friends, usually just sitting in the corner and writing something. I like the atmosphere of this place, music and short film evenings. I asked a woman on the cashier if I could take her picture. “Me, personally?” she replied in doubt “Why?” I told her about my tiny Halloween project and was sure she would turn out to be camera shy and refuse. But she didn’t! I took several pictures of her, we talked about the pumpkin she carved. She added me on Facebook and probably is reading this blog post now. What an amazing feeling it was to finally know someone from my favourite café!

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I remembered few days ago I was interviewing a street performer and I asked him if he was ever scared. I can’t forget what he said:

“When you are nervous you can’t hide it and the crowd feels it. But if you do it several times you will realise there is nothing to lose. You can screw up, people will forget about it and never think about it again. So do it a bunch of times”

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Today I was out of my comfort zone again as I decided to try and apply for a mentor program. I’m studying a Journalism degree so a few weeks ago I knew I could apply for a mentor. Now if I get a mentor a person will guide and help to build my journalism career. The problem was my sociophobia and complete disbelief I could get anything when there is a competition.

You see, Mentoring programme is a very competitive thing. I struggled for a while till I decided to give it a try and filled an 8-page-form. I remember there was a question to describe two events in my life that would show a commitment so I listed getting my Computer Science degree. It took me five years and I didn’t drop, so I believed it was a commitment. Now the second one was harder to find, but then I remembered my dramatic weight loss. I decided to change my lifestyle and went to the gym, started jogging, and maintained a balanced diet. This was my second commitment, so I sent out the form although without any hope it would go through.

Few days ago I received an invitation to the interview. The letter mentioned, “Please dress smartly as you would for any job interview”. Now this particular phrase made me feel really worried as I didn’t have any proper clothes for such an occasion but thankfully one of my friends was kind enough to go shopping with me.

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You can see in the photo above how I usually dress, the picture was taken at the radio studio.

That’s how I looked on my way to the interview.

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I was sitting in a waiting room 20 minutes before the interview. I wasn’t that nervous as I thought that the greatest thing about that interview was that they promised to tell me what went wrong. Two really nice women invited me in; one of them was named Thalia. I haven’t heard her name at first so I asked to spell it for me. I have this habit to make sure I can say the person’s name correctly, even when I don’t really need it. She mentioned that her name was Greek and as I can speak Greek a little bit it all made sense. I mentioned I could speak Greek a little bit so for a couple of minutes we were talking Greek and it was really nice. First time in my life my Greek knowledge was an ice-breaker! Then they asked me several questions, such as “What will I do if I go halfway through the mentoring program but not achieve something I was planning to achieve?”. I said that I would talk to my mentor about it though I mentioned that for now I have nothing and a mentoring program will give me a person who would spend 12 hours with me talking about my future career. They asked about my problems, why I wanted a mentor? I told them about my dilemma between my work as a journalist in Russia and here in Britain. I try to do both and because the culture and life here and there are so different I feel uncertain all the time. I mentioned different laws that apply to press here and there and, of course, they perfectly understood. My interviewer Thalia mentioned that Russia and Greece had something in common, both were great nations but go through a hard time right now. Then they asked me what kind of friend I am and what my friends appreciate me for. That was a hard one because I had to say something good about myself. It’s always hard to speak about your strong sides because it may sound too bold. I said that I liked being part of my friends’ lives and always was ready to help, listen to them, and try hard to find a solution to their problems or just to cheer them up.

At the end of the interview they told me their opinion. They said my answers were very informative and good, they enjoyed talking to me and as a result they felt I was the right person for this position. The weakness was they could see I was nervous and not self-confident. First, they suggested I shouldn’t nervously play with my hands and if I couldn’t help it then I could hide them under the desk. I did so straight away and what a relief! I wish someone would suggest it before. Then they told me about the importance of my posture so I spread my shoulders and both interviewers almost applauded me. The last but not least was my hair. They mentioned it looked like a curtain for my eyes are almost invisible and it was obvious I was hiding under my hair. I put my hair around my eyes and again they again cheered me up by telling how big and wonderful my eyes were. I was so happy to get this feedback that now I feel that even if I won’t get a mentor they still taught me a lot. Hands, posture, hair! I feel good I pushed myself to go to this interview and try!

Hello!
My name is Kristina. I am a journalism student and a sociophobe. Being out of my comfort zone is my future profession, for journalism to me is like bunjee jumping. I would never do bunjee jumping though; I get my adrenaline rush every time I go out and interview strangers. I like people, listening to their stories and I am interested in them. I’m not a sociopath, at least I hope so.  I’m just scared of those few moments before they agree to talk to me. Or reject, or look angrily or..
I came up with this idea to make the project out of my phobia today on London tube. I was passing by a street musician and the way she played was mind-blowing. I wanted to film her playing but I could not! I was terrified to just start recording without her permission having to ask her first which was even worse.
I almost left the underground when I realised I couldn’t live like that anymore. I didn’t want to miss opportunities anymore just because I am scared so I turned around approached the woman playing her guitar. I was waiting till she finished playing the song but I was shaking, my heart was pounding and I could hardly enjoy any of the song.
I did it. I asked her if I could film her for a couple of minutes. She smiled: “Of course, you can”. My hands were shaking so it was not the best video. But here it is. My small victory over myself.