My alarm went off and I looked at my phone:
Seeing as I had had so many doubts about going these gave me the push to get up, get my hair straighteners on, get dressed, have a coffee and the Red Bulls I had bought in preparation.
And then it was time to head downstairs and to catch the bus to the airport. As I said on the bus I was overwhelmed by what I was about to do. Overwhelmed because I was seeing my brother, because I was fighting my anxiety and the bully inside me to go. Overwhelmed because I was being brave and also because I was doing something for me.
I sat on the bus and realised that for the first time in a long time I had put myself first and I was my priority, and I was my own responsibility. I pushed away those motherly instincts I usually feel towards my brother and forgot that I tend to want to be the protector, and fully accepted that I was doing this not only for me, but for him. And as a result of that I needed to embrace the experience and let him lead the way.
The bus journey was simple and quick, and after grabbing a trolley I eventually found the Flybe counter, checked in and then got a bit lost finding the departures area.
I was so hot, I think this was not only due to it just being a hot day, but also due to the panic I was feeling.
As I went through security I set the alarm off (thanks to the buckle on my boots) and had to be searched. This was the point I managed to relax, believe it or not, and to be myself. As the lady started to search my arms I couldn't hold back and said "Cor, this is like a massage". Her reply...thankfully...was "Best thing is, it's free". I held off from telling her it tickled as she felt around my waist but as she finished my legs and said I was free to go I couldn't help but to thank her SO much. She laughed and said I was welcome. The thing was, being searched really did feel like a massage and I did then feel relaxed. And having a little joke with her made me have that little confidence boost.
I treated myself to my favourite perfume, some headphones and a make up brush (oops!) and once instructed to made my way to the train to head to the gate.
Since last year I have been a lot more confident when starting conversations with other people. It was obvious that the majority of people on this flight were going to watch the racing, so I looked around for clues with outfits (TT caps and hoodies) and listened into conversations.
As I sat on the train I had a conversation with 3 men. One of which asked me if I was going to watch the racing, as I replied yes his immediate response was "REALLY?!". And at this point I realised that this was an attitude I would face throughout my 5 days there. Not in a negative way, but more because this is a male dominated environment and I was fine with that.
With a delayed flight I made friends with a woman sitting behind me. We talked and laughed non-stop about ridiculous things, and made the man unfortunate enough to be sat two seats on from my chuckle a few times.
The flight was simple and the view from the window was stunning. I sat and listened in to others conversations, and read some of my Caitlin Moran book, snuggled up towards the window as the man next to me clearly wanted both armrests.
Landing was fine and I felt so emotional as we approached. Just seeing a small part of the island and knowing my brother was there...ok and also knowing that William Dunlop, my favourite racer, was on the same island as me was rather exciting.
The airport was tiny and only around 6 of us with luggage so I slowly walked to baggage claim and had my phone ready to tell my brother I had landed. I heard a knock on the window and ignored it. I didn't want to look like an idiot turning round when I didn't know anyone there. As the knocking continued I turned round and saw my brother. He had surprised me by meeting me at the airport. I put on my biggest excited face and mouthed "I'm here! I'm actually here!". My brother has a habit of surprising me but I didn't expect him to do it here. It was the best start to the 5 days.
I was able to share a taxi with two of the men I met at the airport as they were heading in the same direction and as I stood at the camp site with my brother I felt so happy. I didn't cry, I might have wanted to, but as I looked around I knew for sure that I was going to have a fantastic 5 days and not want to go home.