Aunt Jojo likes to tease me about our friendship that almost didn’t come to be. When we were about eight years old, Nana and Jojo’s mom decided that she and I should be friends. They arranged a playdate and Jojo came over for what I’m sure she was expecting would be an afternoon of fun. After all, she had seen me a Hebrew school on Sunday mornings acting all giddy and silly and full of non-stop chatter with my childhood best friend, Liz.
Instead, what she got was a playdate dud.
Aunt Jojo, who has always been outgoing and friendly and quick to make new friends, spent an afternoon with someone who barely said two words.
When asked how our playdate was, Jojo told her mom, “I don’t think Bev likes me.”
While I can’t be 100% sure of what was going through my 8-year-old mind that afternoon, I can guarantee that I wasn’t so unfriendly because I did not enjoy Jojo’s company, but rather because I afraid of being myself in front of a new person.
That loud, boisterous, fun girl that Jojo saw when I was with Liz turned into a very different person around those who she did not know as well. It was not a reflection of the company, but instead of my own tendencies to be subdued and quiet around new people.
It is no wonder Aunt Jojo thought I didn’t like her.
Looking at your mama now, you would probably never guess that I was ever like that. It took me over a decade to outgrow that shyness.
That personality trait, fortunately, never entirely held me back. I dove head first into opportunities where I didn’t know anyone. My first summer away at sleepaway camp when I was nine; a 5-week trip to Israel at the age of 15 when I was a self-conscious teenager with bad skin; a semester in Madrid living with a host family that did not speak English; a move to Boston, over 200 miles away from my family, and with only three friends in the area.
And yet, there are moments I look back on that I regret that resulted from being so reserved around many people.
I was a good student, but I imagine I could have been a great student had I pushed myself to share my ideas and speak out in class. I probably could have been a leader had I not been afraid of saying something wrong and looking stupid.
Sometimes I see that shy little girl in you. I see that you can be a reserved around new people, though you definitely thrive in one-on-one situations. (By the way, I absolutely adore that you’ve hit that stage where you talk to and play with your peers. Right now it’s one of my favorite things about being a mom of a two-year-old!)
I just want you know that while there is absolutely nothing wrong with being shy — and in fact I think it’s an asset to be observant of those around you, as you seem to do — I don’t want it to hold you back.
I want you to always be yourself and to be comfortable in your skin and to speak your mind and share your thoughtful, creative, insightful thoughts.
(Ok, you may only be two years old right now, but I have faith you will think many thoughtful and creative and insightful things!)
Don’t let the fear that you might be wrong — and we’re all wrong at least some of the time — or what people might think of you get in the way of being the strong, intelligent, imaginative person I know you will be. Allow yourself to meet new people and put yourself in new and strange and maybe even uncomfortable situations. The people who are worth your time and energy and thoughts will respect and appreciate what you have to say.
And you could end up making a lifelong friend from it.
This is month four of the “Who I Am” project. This month the prompt is “How you have changed since you were a child” and like my previous posts, I wrote this as if I were speaking to Eve (and any other children I have in the future).
The “Who I Am” project is a year-long monthly series that my friend Dana at Kiss My List started, as a way to create a virtual scrapbook of your life to tell your kids, grandkids, spouse, friends, or whoever who you are. You can link up our posts, which goes live the third Tuesday of the month, on either of our blogs, and sign up to receive the prompts at the beginning of each month via e-mail. The themes so far have been Childhood, Love, and Quirks & Habits.
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