“Writing is something you do alone. It’s a profession for introverts who wanna tell you a story but don’t wanna make eye contact while telling it.” —John Green
As a fairly-reserved introvert, I am one of those people that if I was thrown into a room chock-full of strangers, I wouldn’t really talk to anybody unless someone spoke to me first. It’s not that I’m antisocial or misanthropic or hostile towards those I don’t know—I’m just an introvert. I’m friendly, but I’m not initially outgoing. Until I’m comfortable in an environment, you won’t hear too many words coming out of my mouth. Don’t get me wrong—I like people, I really do; and once I become good friends with somebody, I have the tendency to get pretty crazy and weird around him or her. But even then, I don’t always say what’s on my mind. And even though I enjoy people, quite frankly, at the end of the day, people really wear me out.
Over the years, my reserved nature has posed a few problems for me. When I was younger (in elementary school), I was painfully shy, and I’m not kidding when I say I didn’t talk to anybody unless that person first approached me several times. I had fun with the friends I made, but I could never make full eye contact, and talking to anyone older than me (besides my parents and close relatives) made me want to run and hide. So from that standpoint, I’ve come a long way. But still. Throughout my middle school years, I was known as the quiet one that didn’t talk in class and never really went to social gatherings. (Even my teachers told me at conferences that I needed to talk—quite the opposite of what they told half of my classmates.) Some of my friends were able to recognize other traits in me (such as my odd sense of humor and friendly personality), but to those who weren’t friends with me, I wasn’t noticed much. This was all 100% fine by me, though, considering I didn’t (and, to be honest, still really don’t) like being the center of attention. As I reached high school, though, I realized that I needed to start speaking up a little more. As much as I hated (and, again, still hate) unnecessary attention drawn to myself, I knew I couldn’t just sit back and observe everything around me and take whatever was thrown my way.
Thinking back, I’ve always been fairly opinionated, but privately so. I rarely added to class discussions, I didn’t volunteer personal opinions, and I avoided any situation in which I would be forced to share my feelings or emotions. Now, however, as a senior in high school looking into the future, I have come to realize that having something to say and actually saying it are two different things, and they require two different skills. The former—the one I’ve almost always had down—requires only brain power and the ability to think individualistically. I never really had a problem with that part. The latter, however, is a skill that some naturally possess; but others, like myself, must develop and cultivate it. For those who are more outgoing and extraverted, the whole actually-saying-it thing seems like second nature. But for me, a reserved introvert, gaining the courage to speak up for myself has taken some time—and if I’m honest, I haven’t completely mastered that skill yet. I still sometimes bite my tongue when I have a thought in class; I still don’t always stand up for myself when I feel I’ve been wronged; and even though this has happened countless times and you would think I’d have learned my lesson by now, I still constantly miss opportunities just because I wasn’t brave enough to speak. This, of course, leaves me with thoughts of “what if” and “maybe if I had just” and a sundry number of others. Those types of thoughts are never enjoyable to dwell on, and each time one surfaces, it’s almost like a little slap in the face; because in those situations, I can’t blame anybody but myself. Though my sinful human nature desires a scapegoat to point fingers at, it’s nobody’s fault but my own that I didn’t speak when I should have.
But now I’ve come to realize something else: The past is over, and there is absolutely zero benefit in dwelling on it. Sure, maybe I let an opportunity pass or got hurt because I didn’t speak up. But there’s nothing I can do about any of that now, and if I can’t change it, I’m just wasting my time and energy thinking about it. Yes, I regret not speaking at some points, but the only use those regrets are now is serving as motivation for my future. Maybe I avoided speaking to that really shy attractive guy at work because I didn’t think he would like me and am now wondering what could have happened, but I can’t go back in time and change my actions. I can, however, talk to that other really nice and attractive guy and see where things go—if it works, it works; if it doesn’t, at least I know I tried. Trying and failing is never fun, and sometimes it hurts; but the pain and regret of trying something and failing is minuscule compared to that of never attempting something and always wondering what would have happened if I would have just been brave enough to speak.
And with that, I leave anyone who reads this with this: Don’t let the fear of failure or rejection or judgement prevent you from saying what’s on your heart and/or mind. It’s good to have a filter and not just blurt out random expressions at inappropriate times, but if you’re anything like me, that’s not really an issue for you. Ask out that hot guy you’ve secretly liked but been too scared to talk to; raise your hand in class and share your opinion; politely confront someone who has hurt you. Don’t let opportunities pass you by, or you’ll spend a very long time wishing you would have said something when you had the chance.