Something I need to work on: Talking to people.
When I was a freshman in high school, my school was two stories and logistically I had to have all my classes on the second floor. This left an opening in my schedule where I should have had a science class, and I ended up spending an hour every day tutoring a boy who had been shot. I tutored him in math, and I’m pretty sure I should never tutor another human being in math. I thanked God every day it was just a general math class and I felt blessed and privileged to be the one to help him. I hope I made an impact on his life.
Over time his teacher, Ms. B. and I got really close. Since she wasn’t teaching me, I’m not sure where that teacher/student line was supposed to be, but she became my mentor in this life. She was the first person that ever noticed something wasn’t right with my life at home. She pulled me aside and I felt safe enough to open up to her. She took me under her wing, encouraged me, loved me, provided for me in ways I had never been provided for up until that point, and basically helped me cope with how emotionally stunted I was. For the first time in my life, I had someone I could actually talk to, and when I wouldn’t or felt I couldn’t, she would make me talk it out anyway because she knew that’s what I so desperately needed. Teachers are the real heroes in this crazy mixed up world.
When the second semester of my freshman year rolled around, Ms. B. had talked to my guidance counselor about putting me in her other class, called Affective Skills, in my open hour. So off to Affective Skills I went. It was a very small class – no more than ten people – and we all came from what seemed to be what one would call ‘troubled’ situations. The class was VERY personal. The point was, we shared all about what was going on in our lives, what we’d been through, and what we could do to make ourselves better, more productive and well-adjusted human beings in society. The class was all about personal integrity, finding your personal power and growing with it, and the power of positive thinking. I saw very quickly why she wanted me to be a part of that class. That one class for that one semester changed my life.
Most of the time during class I was very quiet. As the weeks went by and I got more comfortable, I came out of my shell, but I’ve never been the outgoing girl in class. I was more the quiet one in a corner wishing I wasn’t in that room and could be working alone on my own. Naturally, Ms. B worked this out of me and I was more active than normal but still not as vocal as I could have been. However, this wonderful thing began to happen to me… I would sit in this class and she’d teach that day’s lesson and I wouldn’t say a word at times. But every day, on my own, I’d go home and write a poem about whatever it is we learned that day. I’d take it with me to school the next day and my words would blow her away. I did this every single day without fail for that entire semester. So, if I wasn’t talking, this is how she knew I was listening, and not only was I listening, this is how she knew I heard her. Because of the way I soaked up every ounce of this class, she began referring to me as her “Little Sponge.” When I couldn’t speak, the written word had saved me, as it continues to do today. The written word has never failed me.
I need to find a way to grow out of that dependency.
Last week, I had brunch with my sister and my Susan. It was a lovely brunch and I am glad we had that much needed time together. I got Susan up to speed on everything going on with me and the conversation got pretty heavy and involved. It was a very one sided conversation because, well, even though it’s not an excuse, I’m not good at talking to people. I revert so quickly if I talk to you in person, no matter who you are, and it’s not something I’m proud of. I realize that this action leaves people to wonder if I actually hear them. They know I’m listening, but am I actually really LISTENING? Do I HEAR you? I do. I hear you. I hear all of you. All of the things Susan talked to me about that day were things I need to hear and be told in such a way. My brain sat there and soaked up every word she said, even if I didn’t know what to say in the moment. That’s how I work. My Person calls it “marinating,” I marinate on on every word, absorbing it and taking it in as the “Little Sponge” I’ve always been.
I want to break that this habit. Not necessarily being the sponge, because I think it is vitally important that voices are heard, since so many aren’t. But after we left Susan the conversation continued in the car and even then it was hard for me to talk to Janice. And she pointed out that if I can’t even have a conversation like this with my best friend, how could I move forward? I didn’t like that. I don’t want people to think that I don’t trust them, especially the people I love the most in the world. Because in the case of Janice and Susan and several others, that is so far from how I really feel. I’d trust them with my life, with anything. So all of this has been “marinating” in my head for over a week now and now I really just want to do my best to fix it.
Since then, I’ve gotten organized and began taking even more steps in bettering my life as I need to keep doing each day. Walking this path however, requires me to do things I’ve never done before as well as things I’m too scared to do or plain just terrified to do because I don’t want to talk to anyone. Like today, I had to call businesses and government agencies eight times. Eight. By the time I was finished I was almost in tears. But you know what? I’m glad I did it. I had to do it. No one is going to do any of this stuff for me. They may help and be supportive when I need it, but change has to come from me. Change is coming from me because I want it.
I don’t want to be scared anymore. Verbal words are just words. They’re the same words written out before me. They’re the same words that have always saved me. So why am I so scared of my own voice if it comes in a different form? How do I change it? Janice says I practice. If I actually have to practice having conversations with people out loud, I will, because this is ridiculous.
I’m jumping in. Talk to me.