Accidental archive-stumbling across: I used to be very shy. And to a large extent, I still am.

"Books are very safe friends. When you read them, nothing changes between you and them." --Me at 19

But you know, the cool thing about friends is that they can change. And that you change. And that both of you can change and still be friends. It's a simple thing to learn, but there are many simple things that I'm surprised by.

One of the things I'm most deeply afraid of is that someday, I'm going to be lonely again. I now know, intellectually, that this is almost certainly not true; this was not the case for quite some time (and it hasn't gotten anywhere outside my brain yet). Until I was 12, I didn't know that people with whom to not be lonely with existed - life was mostly about being isolated in a crowd, and I would keep companionship with the books I read, and wish the authors that I loved weren't dead, or similarly unreachable - for a very shy child, a grown-up that you have to blindly write a letter to is very far away indeed.

Then I saw IMSA, and saw that there were people (kids, even!) I wanted to be with, and I knew I probably wouldn't get to go there as my parents were strongly opposed. But I fought anyway, because... I've never been particularly good at giving up. Two years later, I got the impossible. And I lived the next 3 years happy - but happy with a timeout, because I knew I'd graduate, and I didn't expect to ever find this thing-that-was-not-loneliness again. When we graduated a few weeks after my 17th birthday, I thought I'd just had the 3 happiest years I'd ever have in my life. But at least I'd had them - and I climbed my thinking tree out back over the school's pond, and cried, and cried, and mentally prepared myself to go back to what I was before.

And then I went to Olin, and found there was another place I could belong. And then it was "wait - there are these special places - how do I find these special places, please let me keep finding them - and when I find them, please let them let me be a part of them!"

And then I learned that I could make them. (Well, more precisely - help make them.) It's still taking a while for that one to sink in, but it is wonderful.

It surprises me when other people are surprised to find that I'm shy and introverted (though I have, a few times in my life, been surprised in turn by the same thing in people I greatly admire). It's usually painfully obvious to me that I am shy and introverted, but I guess that when I get excited (which is often) the magnitude of my excitement covers up a lot. Shyness and introversion are not the same thing. The introversion's never changed; I need to be alone to recharge, though I usually get those hours by not sleeping at night, by writing, and usually by doing both at the same time. (Making my writing world-readable whenever possible preserves that introversion time while guarding against over-seclusion.)

The shyness is something I still have a lot of, but less painfully so than when I was younger, and I hide the remnants better now. Over time, I'll (hopefully) look less visibly uncomfortable in public (and in photos/videos/etc), and (again, hopefully) be able to speak/present without needing to freak out privately before and after, and (really hopefully) have that be a result of less shyness rather than masked shyness. I'm content to keep on making steady baby steps in that direction. Had a recent large triumph in this arena in Singapore, actually - one that lasted a whole week. Still trying to figure it out, and will write more when I understand it better.

I think that my fear of loneliness recurrence and my shyness are somehow related, though they're not the entire picture. You only flinch when you want to protect something you think might actually be fragile. I still too often have that cringing-puppy "oh god, please don't hurt me, please be happy" flinch either visibly or inside when I manage to catch it fast enough to keep from showing. And how could anyone hurt me? They could leave me alone. And yet I'm still possessed of a strong wanderlust and sense of independence and often want to be left alone, because I need that space to think.

I don't think that's a pre-emptive "leave things before they leave me" reaction, as being left alone and being lonely are two different things. I think I need both - to be alone sometimes, and yet to not be lonely. I need to be able to be alone so I can introvert-recharge, and I also need to know that when I'm done, there's someplace I can come back to. That going away is for as long as I need it and as short as I want it and that I can decide to pass through the door in either direction at any time. That homes really are places that take you back no matter what.

This reflection ended up going in a direction that I hadn't planned, but that's the great thing about stream-of-consciousness typing.

"How can I know what I think until I see what I type?" --not-quite-Karl-Weick (Greg introduced me to the original quote, which replaces "type" with "say.")


The point is that people don’t really have points of view on things until they have had occasion to express them. And sometimes we surprise ourselves by the opinions we express on things we haven’t previously given much thought to. Clearly, having occasions to express opinions is a prerequisite for having opinions at all. (source)

I'm grateful that I ended up with writing as an outlet, because no matter how shy and introverted I am (or really, was), I could create a space where I could have a voice that at least I could hear. It's been... 12 years now since I really started doing that. (Thanks, Mr. Panitch.)

And... wow, it's well past 5am at this point. Time for me to be insomniac and pensive sans computer now.