but the thing i hate to admit is that i don't entirely disagree. this introversion, shyness, whathaveyou, has plagued me my whole life. nowadays some people find that hard to believe, or think "sure, maybe you were shy, to some degree. we were all shy once." not so, my friends. not the way i was/am.
the most awful part is that people always attribute "shy" behavior to one of two things: low self esteem or snobbery. neither of which is the case. both of which are appalling and insulting to have it blamed upon. it's impossible to explain that i WANT to meet people, i WANT to talk to people, but i can't even bring myself to make eye contact. i hurry through hellos, avoid small talk at all costs, and get out of there, back to the safety of solitude. I HATE SAFETY. i hate that i do this. but every attempt that i painstakingly make generally fills me with regret and anger, because i can't be genuine when i am in the clutches of this...handicap. whatever you want to call it.
it is ridiculous how powerful it becomes sometimes. i had no friends the majority of my childhood....until tenth grade, actually, when theatre kindly forced friendship upon me in abundance. i always sat at a lunch table alone, almost convincing myself i was content, until the mockery and taunting became too much and i moved my lunchtime abode into a bathroom stall. i would sit there silently and try to escape into books, hoping no one came in. hoping no one noticed me. .... hoping someone would. i later found out many of the people i went to middle school with thought i was crazy.
the funny thing is that once i have just one or two people i feel comfortable with, it is entirely gone and i am free to be myself. it is at these times that i like meeting people, that i feel free and happy and uninhibited. this is most of my life, now. and i forget what it's like the rest of the time.
until it strikes again. and it literally feels like a cripple of sorts. it is the giant, seemingly insurmountable crest standing between me and any would-be friends or even acquaintances. because i don't even have the will to try. it is very easy for me to deepen bonds once they are there. i LOVE people. but it is nearly impossible for me to begin that process unless they sneakretly seep through the cracks in my wall that i can't quite tear down.
my first semester at UVU i was successful in remaining invisible. and it was the worst. so come january, i was more determined than ever to overcome this idiotic little monster. i worked on stage crew for chess, and i literally outlined specific things i would do to build relationships. (e.g. "make eye contact for more than 3 seconds with 3 people. smile at everyone. say hello to 10 people. ask 10 yes/no questions. ask 5 open-ended questions.") i did. i wrote that. in my notebook. and i checked it off at the end of the day, then wrote a new, slightly more difficult list for the next day. it worked. at least, i talked to people. and they talked to me. and after a while we were friends. the problem was that i had to put on a facade to do this, and it took months for my friends to meet "real me."
what i try to do is focus on the other person, to make them feel loved. and it's the most frustrating when i can't even bring myself to do that. when i can't even express honest admiration. because again, i LOVE people. and it does not seem like that, because i hardly make an effort. i just don't want to fake it again.
i'm certainly not as crippled as i was in middle school. most days i fool people into thinking this is easy for me. honestly, i'm the only one who knows there is a problem. and if that's the case, is there a problem? is it all in my head? am i just picking at scars from years ago that have already healed over? i'm going to hope so. i'm going to keep listening, and try to keep talking. i'm going to pray that they come to me. and i'm going to hope against hope that someday i will shake off these shackles (like in forrest gump) and i will run, and this will be easy.
photo by stevie shale @ the great salt lake, 8.26.2010.