One of my favorite things about being a teacher is that I can share stories, poems, or essays that have shaped me or affected me in some way. When I first started teaching, I didn’t have a curriculum. I didn’t have a usable textbook, the teacher before me didn’t leave any materials, and my year stretched before me as a blank slate. At the time, that was completely overwhelming–I had to create absolutely everything, and I felt alone.
But, after I got my footing, I really enjoyed getting to share things that I felt were important. This year, I broke out a new essay by Garrison Keillor. It’s called “How to Write a Letter,” and it is amazing. The kids appreciated the humor, but I don’t think that the freshmen were too keen to go out an write a letter after we were through reading. Throughout the essay, Keillor explains that shy people write letters in order to be known. Here’s one of my favorite excerpts:
We need to write, otherwise nobody will know who we are. They will have only a vague impression of us as A Nice Person, because, frankly, we don’t shine at conversation, we lack the confidence to thrust our faces forward and say, “Hi! I’m Heather Hooten; let me tell you about my week.” Mostly we say “Uh-huh” and “Oh, really.” People smile and look over our shoulder, looking for someone else to meet.
So a shy person sits down and writes a letter. To be known by another person – to meet and talk freely on the page – to be close despite distance. To escape from anonymity and be our own sweet selves and express the music of our souls.
I identify with this section so heartily. I don’t write tons of letters to anyone other than Danny, but I feel like the desire to be known drives me to write in my blog. I’ve felt, throughout my life, that I don’t connect to others, and I often feel like I am misunderstood.
I’ve always been shy, and social situations make me anxious. I can remember being a little girl in Sunday School and sitting on the sidelines because I liked watching more than talking to other people. In my house, I was never made to feel bad about the fact that I was shy. I wasn’t shy with my parents, and when I was shy in public, they just loved and appreciated me anyway.
But, I feel like people aren’t allowed to be shy when they reach their teens, and I definitely feel like people aren’t supposed to be shy when they enter adulthood. Shy people are automatically deemed, “mean,” because they observe more than they entertain a crowd. Shy people are assumed to be stand offish or are accused of being uncommunicative or not vulnerable because they can’t bear to share every detail of their every day lives. Or, because we don’t like conflict, we can’t share differing opinions, and then, we are accused of hiding our true feelings.
Since college, I have consistently been made to feel like I am inferior, simply because I am an introvert. In college, people took it upon themselves to tell Danny that I wasn’t the right pick for him because I was too quiet and not the center of attention. In a social situation, one woman told me that she used to be shy, but her parents didn’t want her to be held back in society, so they taught her to beat her shyness. She then offered to help me as well. At school, Danny gets almost constant affirmation, but sometimes, I feel as if I could light myself on fire, and still, none of my coworkers would notice.
I have spent too much of my life and time beating myself up for my personality. And, even though I have made great, great leaps in my ability to converse with others, I still feel like I can never measure up. But, I am tired of beating myself up and adding this anxiety on my plate. I’m tired of apologizing for who I am.
So, I write. I write about lots of things because I have lots of interests. I am not just someone who likes to craft, and I am not just someone who likes to read. I am a deep thinker, a deep feeler, and if I may say so, I am a hoot. I love building into the lives of my students, and I love interacting with nature. I have lots of skills and talents, and I am capable of lots of things.
I write, hoping that someone, somewhere, will catch a glimpse of who I am and will understand some part of me. I share silly things about myself, hoping to make a connection, and I put my thoughts and feelings into the world, wishing that someone shares my feelings.
So ends my defense of introverts. Thank you for reading.