I still vividly remember the first time that being quiet felt like a bad thing.
I was in kindergarten, just 5 years old, and my teacher had come up with a way to quiet her classroom full of kids: whoever was the quietest would be selected first for “free time” (an end-of-the-day ritual where students got to play with toys and games in the classroom, while the teacher had some much-deserved downtime).
This is it, I thought. My time to shine. I can do quiet.
I sat there, cross-legged, still and silent, yet absolutely certain that I’d be picked first for free time.
But I wasn’t. And then I wasn’t again. And again and again, until every other child in the classroom – those significantly louder and more fidget-y than I – had been allowed to engage in free time except for me.
Once the last student was called, my teacher stood up, hands on her hips, and surveyed the room as if mentally patting herself on the back for a job well done, until her eyes fell on me.
“Crystal!” she said. “You were so quiet I didn’t even see you there!”
So quiet… she didn’t even see me there?
I’d done exactly what my teacher had asked of me, and I felt I’d been punished for it. What was worse: my quietness made it possible for my own teacher to forget I existed!
But I couldn’t help it. In school, I was simply quiet.
At home, it was a different story, as I’m sure my family will attest to; at school, though, and outside of my house, I was shy and didn’t talk much.
Although I think I’m better at masking my shyness now (I fully embrace the “fake it till you make it” mantra), it’s a trait that has followed me to this day. Sometimes, I just don’t talk much. I keep to myself. I spend time alone.
Despite the fact that I never would have guessed being a generally quiet person would impact my life, it has. It makes people forget – or not even realize – I’m around. It makes people worry I’m not having a good time. It makes people wonder if I’m simply unfriendly.
And yet, I am none of those things. I exist, despite the volume of my voice. I’m usually having a great time, even if I’m just observing. And I like to think I’m friendly (and even a little chatty!) when the mood strikes.
It’s just that my natural state of being is quiet and thoughtful. I do most of my chatting inside of my own brain. It’s part of being an introvert. Although I used to chastise myself for not being more outgoing, worrying I was weird because I wasn’t loud and I didn’t talk a lot, eventually, I realized: I’m weird for plenty of reasons, but being quiet isn’t one of them. I’m just as “normal” as everyone else.
And though some may find my quietness alarming, I can promise you this: I may be quiet, but I am having fun.
Photo credit Liz Welsh/Flickr