The Quiet Ones

You knew people like me in high school. We sat at the sides of the classroom, snug against the wall, rarely daring to be heard. Our marks were above-average, our fashion sense decidedly dated or dictated by what we received as birthday presents. We tended to be poor as jocks, soft of voice, timid in manners. We liked showing up on the last day before Christmas or Easter vacation, because we got to chat one-on-one with the teacher and other folks like us (of course, if you weren’t like us, you probably didn’t know this, but pipped off and headed to the mall or went driving around town). We saw all our crushes fall for the popular kids, and we cursed our looks and inability to fit in, and then we felt sorry for ourselves. And strangely enough, for all our supposed brains, we trembled, sweated and stuttered as we were forced to read speeches in front of the class. We were the watchers of the world, ill-fitting and uninvolved.

A recent post by Henry Sharam over at DIYPlanner concerning introversion and extroversion has me thinking about how things might have been.

If you’re an introvert with a bit of life experience under your belt, you know that thought that hits you when you drive pass a high school: “If I could deal with people then like I deal with people now, how much better could it have it been?” You’d be able to deal with the loud people. You wouldn’t be afraid to share your mind. You wouldn’t have frozen in your tracks when face-to-face with the secret object of your affections. You would have seized the brass rings.

That life experience generally comes bundled with confidence as you grow older, as you achieve a string of successes that reinforce your identity, self-discipline, and knowledge that you have something important to say. Yes, that’s all very nice, but still you wonder, what if you could have escaped the little mental and social traps of being one of the quiet ones — when you were young enough to really enjoy it?

7 Replies to “The Quiet Ones”

  1. There’s a somewhat different way to look at it, a little bit more liberating, that comes from the narrative therapy work of down-under pioneers Epston and White.

    Most of us view our lives through a series of narratives, and often these narratives are controlled by others. Parents, for one example. But there are always events that fall outside the dominant narrative. Yes my narrative was “shy and retiring.” But what about the time I came to jr. high wearing painted overalls? Organized a parade float? Went BASE jumping with my father?

    Now I can construct a new narrative incorporating, wildness, energy, unpredictablity. It doesn’t change my temperament (entirely) but it does give me a wider range of options from which to live.

    So I suppose, even better than a game of “what if” is a game of “remember when…”

  2. Good point. And more than that our history shapes us. Frankly I’m not sure that Doug would have become the man I love otherwise. When I first met him out of college I was convinced he was the last man I would marry, and then several years later I found out I was entirely right. 🙂

    jp

  3. I think that you are _always_ young enough to really enjoy it.

    All the time you spend thinking you could have enjoyed previous times more, is time you are not enjoying now. And that is the only time you can hope to enjoy, so why waste it ?

  4. “You wouldn’t have frozen in your tracks when face-to-face with the secret object of your affections.”

    Doesn’t matter whether you are an extrovert like me or an introvert, objets du coeur have the ability to turn even the most loquacious of us into gibbering, shy, mouse-like wrecks. Goodness, if I think back too much on the jaw-droppingly beautiful women who have come and gone in my life, passing me swiftly by because I was too shy or tongue-tied or (bizarrely) chivalrous to ask them out, I could hang myself…

  5. “When I first met him out of college I was convinced he was the last man I would marry, and then several years later I found out I was entirely right”

    Oh, JP, that is brilliant! 🙂

  6. Thanks Lee! I think Doug was just a little worried that people wouldn’t get the joke. But in case someone did take it the wrong way, no I don’t hate him, and yes we are married, and I am very glad he didn’t settle for that high school crush.

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