There was a point when I was shy- or described that way, at least.
The gradual loss of most of my sight from 6th to 8th grade played a big role in eroding my self confidence. Friends and I drifted apart. Hormones betrayed me and I became super sweaty- even though I tried everything to not be. I was growing out a terrible haircut and had holes in my shoes and weird pants. I was 5′ 7″ and towered over everyone for a few years there. And I was more interested in space than in New Kids On the Block. From a peer perception standpoint all of those things matter in middle school. They matter a lot.
It got to a point where my words just stayed constantly locked in my head and I started getting described as shy. And I was meek now too- because it’s hard to fight all of that all the time. Tiring. A boy I had a crush on spit on the ground in front of me once, so that he and his friends could laugh about how the weird girl stepped in spit. I just kept walking, head down and shoulders so slumped they might have been trying to meet in the middle. (Crushing- in the original sense of the word. At least I had the good sense to stop liking him after that) I was just generally having a difficult transition from child to whatever the hell it is that comes after. It’s hard being a teenage girl, let me tell you.
I had been an outspoken and strong willed younger child, I vaguely recall. But I had become really isolated and awkward. And one day- I decided to do something about it. I signed up for Theater Arts in 8th grade. I didn’t join because I thought it’d be fun- I knew it’d be a slog. I joined because I didn’t want to be like this forever. I needed to learn- not how to act differently- but how to be okay with being different, maybe? To find A voice, even if at first it wasn’t mine. To force myself to make a change, maybe? Something. I knew it’d help.
Now, I am NOT a theater fan. I have an intense dislike for it, actually. And oh, did my contempt show- that teacher hated me and I hated him right back. And I was so odd-man-out on that front because the rest of the students loved him. That was another revelation- I’d never disliked a teacher before. I’d never been disliked by a teacher before. I learned a lot that year, let me tell ya. (Years later I’d mention how much I hated that guy and people would gasp because he’d been their favorite. That happened more than once.)
But I worked hard in that class because I’d be damned if I was going to be behind the scenes- I wasn’t there to learn how to work lights or open curtains- none of that stagehand shit for me. So even with the teacher’s intense dislike of me… I could remember lines. I could project. I could do more then stare at the ground while grinding my toe in a circle… and so I got pretty prominent parts even if I’d ignore occasional stage directions. He never gave me the parts I wanted, mind you. Not even once. But what the hell did I care? I hardly wanted the ones I wanted, after all. And that part about ignoring stage directions? That’s why that teacher hated me. I remember once my character was some vapid movie actress- sister of the main character- but during this long ass speech I had to recite I wouldn’t use a compact with a brush to touch up powder on my nose like he wanted me to do. (Everyone knows you use a puff for that, you evil twink) He threw a god damn desk because of it during practice.
The true lesson was not that I was shy- it was realizing just that I had gone quiet. There was a difference, and it was an important one to learn. I’d still be awkward for years though- don’t let me pretend I wasn’t. But “quiet” and “meek” got crossed off the list before I started high school. I was on my way. I’d learned my lesson.