In 1st grade I dominated the spelling bee. Among twenty something doe-eyed peers, I was brave enough to spell my heart out in front of class, but when it led to a school-wide competition against names I didn't know and faces I didn't recognize - and in front of hundreds of bodies, no less - I slowly withdrew. My last-minute decision to do so led to a mediocre substitute who got eliminated more quickly than I could spell the word circus. The lament! The decision wasn't last-minute because I'd only hastily decided I couldn't do it, but because I ran the conversation with my teacher over and over in my mind before working up the nerve to deliver the news. In 3rd grade, in a new class at a new school, my mom was surprised to receive a call from Mrs. Cooper asking if something was wrong with me because she hardly ever heard me speak. Attempts at buddying me up with some classmates failed awkwardly and I shrunk farther into my shell when I learned that a boy might've liked me.
My personality was starkly contrasting at home where I had no issues voicing my early feministic views when I felt there were gender injustices between me and my older brother. Belting out songs was not a problem either. I would sing into a microphone hooked up to a little portable speaker, the better to hear me with, as my dad caught every note on home video, nurturing my artistic impulses. And it wasn't like I didn't have friends. Our neighbors had children about my age, my cousins lived across the courtyard, and there were plenty of other kids in our apartment complex, but with each new, unfamiliar setting came anxiety and unease. Growing up meant growing apart. Fast forward into adulthood and not much has changed. I tend to get into my head and stay there a while. It takes some unwinding to get back into my own skin.
I momentarily felt lonely a couple of months ago thinking about the limiting effects of my personality on friendships I've garnered over the years. It's a vicious cycle - I'm myself around people with whom I'm close and I get close only to people with whom I could be myself - and there was a pang of envy for those who have the tenacity to foster deep relationships from such brief, superficial encounters. Sensibly I snapped out of it and reminded myself of the appreciable connections I do have and the opportunity to strengthen them.
I have a lot of goals not just for the new year, but for life, in general. To start, I want to recognize and express gratitude towards everyone who has helped to shape who I am and how far I've come. I have such a profound respect for those who see past my insecurities and celebrate my inner voice. You hear me even when I don't speak. You understand me even when I don't articulate. Your support and belief give me courage and confidence to become a better version of myself and I thank you.