I’m a shy and introverted being, and have always been as far back as I can remember. When my dad took me to my first interview, I was all of four. The little me held on to my dad’s lap for dear life; I was certain the principal was a monster in disguise, and this interview was just a front to catch children.
The gentleman placed a colour chart on the table, and pointed out at the squares in random manner, while I whispered the name of the said colour into my dad’s ears. This is the only man I trusted, and would only tell him what I knew. “It is my supreme right to keep my knowledge of colours a secret, only meant for my dad’s ears.”
I flunked the personal interview and test.
It must have been a traumatic experience for my parents to see their intelligent, creatively-inclined but painfully shy last born, not make the cut for her admission to kindergarten. The road to ‘getting her an education‘ is already a bumpy one!
That is my earliest experience of stress caused by panic I caused to my parents. They tried a few local schools but our education system is full of assholes – they are trained to say No! “We cannot take this kid, she just hides behind you tugging at your trousers, or climbs onto your lap and replies into your ears. How do we know if she has any cognitive skills at all?”
My dad – the impossible optimist and a teacher in his early career – had a long talk with the first principal. He got him convinced that there is no learning hurdle here; this child is only shy. I guess writing and some drawing assignments ensued. It saved my life. I was cleared for Junior Kindergarten!
I am 40 now. From 4 to 40, nothing has really changed. I am awfully shy still, and yes I can write and paint to save my life!
In fact, if someone were to harm me like an assault or something, I choose to get my revenge by writing about it. It could take the shape of poetry or prose, but write I will. No revenge is as sweet as describing all the bad things I would do to that person. In hindsight, I believe my parents should have taken me to a counselor, or probably enrolled me in dance or martial arts classes.
Let me not digress. This isn’t about failed parenting, quite far from that in fact. This is about my anxiety that could be at best a reluctance to step ahead and say a ‘hello’ even if I’m dying to be friends with a particular person, and have already imagined a lifelong bond until death do us apart types, and at worst a sudden choking by this invisible monster, a feeling consistently experienced when I enter a party, a meeting or a group interview.
I had so many chances I blew cause I was too damn shy!
One time I nearly began gasping for air, my throat went dry and I forgot all about C and C++, programming languages I was supposedly good at. I felt like I was speaking but words were stuck somewhere between my head and my voice box.
I knew later this was a repeat stress interview, just like the trauma I underwent to get into kindergarten. Nobody cares if you know the right answers, they just want to see you speak while looking at their eyes.
The perks of being shy are none really. Like an old Hindi idiom goes: ‘Jis ne ki sharam, uski phuti karam‘, meaning ‘The shy ones mess up their own destiny.’ And I’m a shining example. I revel in my shyness. I also got sick due to it.
I used to avoid having lunch for a whole six months, during my very first job as a ‘Field Researcher’ with a market research firm, at the tender age of 17. You see I just couldn’t face the stares. People are really rude when it comes to staring at a girl eating her food alone. This is trespassing and should be treated as such.
But, the worst part was me choosing to store all my waste liquids in my bladder, because to empty it, I would need to use the loo – the keys to which were kept at the reception. This was a common toilet, shared by many of the offices in the nearby buildings.
Shyness just didn’t affect my overall well-being; it has kept me away from discovering new friendships. I hardly socialize with new groups. I prefer to stick to my old ones. But, some things are good with being shy – I don’t talk much and that makes me look intelligent. First time acquaintances are under the impression that I probably know a lot about the discussion at hand!
The other by-product is a focused channeling of my expression. There is no anxiety or a sudden welling up in my stomach when I indulge in creative writing or painting or just reading a book. It’s like my life is so happening – I’m writing this on a Friday night while relaxing Zen music plays on SoundCloud.
Party for one is my kinda life. My kinda Friday chilling out. At 40, there’s no changing that. In case your kids are shy, don’t yell at them. My parents never did, and see how I turned out! 😀