From a distance, someone can see me seated. Seated in my chair, the exact same one I did sit on approximately 10years ago. I am eerie calm. One hand comes up and holds above my cheeks. My head tilts to the right and I stare into the air. I let my mind go down memory lane. An amalgam of memories begin kaleidoscoping through my mind and in no time I’m back to those days.
I can see the skinny girl. Climbing down the school bus with little or no excitement. Unlike other pupils, she isn’t running to class but plodding. Her left thumb is halfway into her mouth and her eyes seem a little shiny; a sharp reflection of sunlight from the tears building up in her lower eyelid. Her backpack seems a little larger than that of the rest. Could it be because she’s carrying a whole library of books? Well from my observation she doesn’t like the company of people. Maybe she’s a little nervous and embarrassed around them. She finds it both relaxing and invigorating to occasionally seek the friendly company of books. She loves to read and write. Besides her diary, she has no real friends.
A few moments later the bell rings. She has to get her skates on to the parade ground. Everyone else leaves the classroom enthusiastically. Suddenly she sees herself as others in the crowd surely see her; a silent, solitary figure, standing apart from the rest. She looks out at the hoardes of singing, laughing, happy children and feels more alone than she’d ever felt in her so far life. In her angst she holds her skimpy uniform trying to cover her already exposed knees and thighs. She seems uncomfortable in it but what can she do? She’s got to join the rest at assembly. She rarely makes the front row, the back is where she loves to stand. Where no one can see her pale face, her small eyes and overly chubby cheeks.
Today is her turn to lead the school in the opening prayer. Before she even takes the podium, trickles of sweat have already formed on her forehead. Her fingers cannot stop shaking, one can mistake them for an alcoholic’s. Since she got to this parade she hasn’t lifted her face. She must have a lot on her mind. Soon she begins to make her way. Everyone stares at her snootily. Of course she doesn’t have savoir faire. She cannot walk with blithe disregard for what others think of her. Somehow, just somehow she has pulled all the stops and made it to the front. She looks resolute to pull this off but judging from how her colleagues are looking at her, surely she must be feeling skanky and soulless.
“In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost…” She begins making the sign of the cross. Her voice is quavery and barely audible. Someone laughs and in the twinkling of an eye everyone else (except the teachers) follows soot. Did she have an accent? Did she say something inappropriate? What was so funny? Was it her hairstyle that is less spiffy? The laughter arouses ire in the little girl and she begins to whimper.
And back to present…
The little girl in my memory is me a decade ago. The peculiarities of childhood of constantly moving through so many different cultures, of always being an outsider, may have made me extraordinarily self-sufficient but it had also bred a certain detachment, a sense that the world was a place to explore rather than truly inhabit. This manifested as a kind of shyness, even timidity. I agree with Scott Anderson. Writing is all I was passionate about. It was something I’d do all alone and nobody would get near me and I didn’t have to talk to anybody because of my shyness. It was the greatest activity for me where I’d be lost in my fantasy world. In this I would create a paragraph of a character that would help me deal with my shyness.
Andre Dubus III said, shyness has a strange element of narcissism, a belief that how we look, how we perform is truly important to other people. Shy people, like me during those days, will always fear social judgement, they’ll always ve afraid to make a fool of themselves and therefore tend to fall into loneliness. Deep inside them they have very very fascinating traits that mesmerize us when they are unravelled.
Today I have learnt to be outgoing as a way to protect my shyness. It was my first language but the moment I was thrown into the limelight of life I learnt how to cope with it. It was once my greatest stumbling block. I became paralyzed with it but now it has evaporated. The shyness one feels in childhood is often overcome with time. Think about it- there are those kids who hide behind their parents’ legs, but have you ever seen grownups do such a thing? Hiding behind people? No, it just doesn’t happen and if at all it does, seldom. Timid people develop social skills overtime.
A caged bird may be unhappy as it can not fly around but sometimes it is in the very cage that it sings best. Shyness is an inborn modesty that makes us able to live in harmony with other creatures and other fellows. Achievement will never come by denying it but occasionally by setting it aside and letting pride and perspiration come first. When you’re overwrought, tell yourself the truth; shyness is a strength to build on, not a character flaw to be stamped out. If you see a timid child and you begin to worry how they will survive in this world, don’t you worry. One day one time you will marvel at how that introverted, shy, geeky kid blossomed into a secure and happy adult. You will liken it to a metamorphosis. Yes you may stop and wonder, is it the child that changed or their environment? And you will understand that as an adult they get to select careers, spouses and social circles that suit them. They don’t have to live in whatever culture they’re plucked into. This is something I learned from a quote by Susan Cain.