Her post got me thinking about how painfully shy I was as a kid and into my teens. As a Seabee brat, we moved every two or three years, and every move was like having a tooth pulled without anesthesia. We had to leave all our friends behind and the house and the neighborhood we'd just had time to get really comfortable with. Making new friends was always hard, as the schools we went to were usually civilian schools. Almost all of the kids in those schools had grown up in that area all of their lives, and the friendships had been cemented long before we got there. I remember the year I was in the third grade, we moved THREE times-Rhode Island, Ohio and Puerto Rico (HA-I got to revisit MY motherland *wink*). That was a tough year, but it ended up being a blessing, because we got to spend an unprecedented four years in Puerto Rico once we finally got there.
We moved again in the middle of my seventh grade school year. That was a really tough time. We were used to a tropical climate and were very tanned, and we moved to northern Ohio in the middle of wintertime. I stood out like a sore thumb. To make matters worse, I soon developed a horrible foot odor problem. It either had to do with the shoes I was wearing, or perhaps the fact that for the last four years I'd been wearing sandals and suddenly I was wearing socks and shoes, but the stale frito/parmesean odor that followed me around like Pigpen's cloud o' pigpen offended even me. I tried everything-powders, creams, bathing in potions my grandmother would concoct for me...nothing helped. Needless to say, books were my only real friends for the remainder of that school year.
By the start of the eighth grade, my complexion had equalized so that I no longer stood out (I just realized as I'm writing this that I stood out the previous year because there really weren't many black kids at this public school at all-I can only remember ONE in any of my classes). I don't know if I got new shoes, or if my feet just acclimated themselves to our new home, but my foot odor problem had also resolved itself. I was ready to start the new year fresh. I lived in walking distance of the school, so I arrived early that first day and was the first kid to arrive in my homeroom. I picked a table in the back of the room and sat down and busied myself with my folders and notebooks and other little goodies in my new school supplies.
All of a sudden, this girl walks into the room, looks around at all the empty tables, and comes straight to mine and sat down. She looked directly into my eyes and said "Hi. My name is Christine McKee. I am sick and tired of being shy and not having any friends. What is your name?"
I was in shock, but I told her my name and we compared schedules. Now, this school was on a module system. The school day was broken down into fifteen minute segments (modules) and each student's schedule was pretty much unique. But the gods had conspired together, and out of the 700 or so students in the school they had created only TWO schedules that were identical that I was ever aware of-Christine's and mine. Need I say that our fast and deep friendship was absolutely meant to be?
As I grew older and made other moves, I kept that introduction in mind, and still do to this day. (I lost track of Chris over the years, although I could probably still find her-I STILL have her old home phone number memorized. Her parents probably still live there all these thirty two or so years later.) What I remember most was her saying she was tired of being shy and then just putting it out there. I think that is the only cure for shyness. You just have to be willing to put it out there, to take a risk. Because it is always a risk-a risk of being rejected, of being ridiculed, of getting your hopes up and then being let down again. But by not taking that risk, you are risking NOT meeting someone who might end up being that ONE person that you can let it all hang out with. And the thing that stuck with me the most was that she was feeling the exact same insecurities as I was. Over the years, I've found that probably 75% of the time, that is exactly the case with everyone I meet. Almost EVERYONE is insecure. I don't really have to imagine them nekkid to talk to them, because I finally realized that there are a lot more people in the world like me than there are the self confident people with perfect lives who never fart or burp or drip shit all over themselves when they are eating kind of people that populate the world in my imagination.
I have many friends now. And they are all perfect to me in their imperfections and their soap opera lives and their realness. And I think I can chalk it all up to that first day of the eighth grade, and a girl named Chris.
Don't forget to comment on this post for your chance to win a slightly used IPhone-details of the contest and a description of the phone are on the post. Good luck to all.
And now, a little lagniappe:
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