The memories of my childhood that stand out are the memories of me being painfully shy. It wouldn't be a stretch to have been diagnosed as a Selective Mute. I remember my years in elementary school being hesitant to start conversations or even just respond to others trying to start one with me. I have vivid memories of my family excusing this behavior by saying, "Oh, she's just shy." Days turned into months, and months turned into years of hearing, "She's just shy." That word got around and by then everyone treated me like I was shy. I don't know when it happened, but at some point I had taken their understanding as my truth. The idea that I was shy ultimately interfered with my education and social interactions with other children.
I distinctly remember the week before I started Middle School. I was about 12 years old and I had what I would call an "Ah ha!" moment. I remember thinking about how I was about to enter a new school where more than half of the children and all of the staff had no idea who I was. I was rejoicing in this. The anticipation of being new could maybe wreck a preteens confidence, but I was chomping at the bit to start the first day of school. I wanted the opportunity to eradicate shyness from my identity. I saw the opportunity in that first day of Middle School. I remember suddenly realizing that I should be the one making declarations about who I am. I understand that as a child it is going to be difficult to define who you are because who we are is constantly evolving. From birth to death we are evolving, but what is interesting is how much our world can make moves to pin us into a corner without us even knowing. We're being talked to in ways with assumptions about who we are. Why I mention this topic in my blog is that life for me as been this ebb and flow of living in my authentic self. I'm made up of many contributing factors, some bad - some good, but ultimately I get the final say of what sticks, right? This story is not to pick apart shyness or make any judgments about your shyness or what it means to be shy. The larger story is how the shy identity ultimately left me the day I decided it should go. Society, family, friends, social media, are powerful forces that can sometimes move you to pursuing a career you never really wanted, joining a sorority you don't really like, assigning value to stuff that you don't really need. Some of these things happened to me.
I say thank you to that brave 12 year Paula. Thank you for showing me that I can redefine myself at anytime, and that I deserve it - even at 40.