In Defense of Shyness

When I was nine years old, my family moved to Perth, Western Australia. I moved from a school with just over 200 students to a school in the city with three times as many. The school’s difference in size was incredible to me, but the difference in my grades with the other students was also enormous. Before I arrived in the city, I had never used a computer. I couldn’t even tell you what the internet was or how to use it. But the city kids were miles ahead of me. My grades, aside from spelling, were all below average. And my shyness was on the rise. My nine-year-old logic dictated that fewer people would notice how far behind my grades were if I didn’t try to answer questions in class. So it was best not to try.

The biggest difference between the other children and me was that I was still a child. I loved to play games at lunch and recess. While I didn’t mean sports, there were plenty of them. But there were far fewer children playing games that required imagination. My first school had a lot more pretenders than usual. They played hide and seek, cops and robbers. Pretend we were all tigers. Pretend all the locusts in the area are lava. Pretend the Death Star is on the playground. Create secret societies. Run into obstacles at high speed.

This was the place I had left behind, and it was the place that shaped me. It was a bit like a circus, and it was my circus type. However, in the big city school, I remember feeling acutely aware of my grades and a vast difference in how I spent my break. And man, did it make me a shy, hyperaware-overthinker way too concerned about what other kids thought of me. The other children did not share my opinion.

My mum discovered that there was an area town hall that offered a two-hour drama class every Saturday, just a few months after the move. Although I had no idea what a drama class was, I did go in reluctantly because it offered a lot of games and was not fancy. I was accompanied by about ten to twelve children in what seemed more like a scout group than a town hall when my mother left me. The kids are excited about class and eager to meet each other. Our kooky-looking teacher was the first to call out:

“Ok, everyone! Let’s be WHEELS strong>

Every single child ran around the room immediately. They weren’t trying to appear like wheels, but they ** wheels. Some kids were spinning, some doing cartwheels, some doing the train-arms thing, a backstroke-while-running thing. They didn’t ask questions, didn’t roll their eyes, and didn’t laugh at anybody else. Although we were all hilarious, that wasn’t the point. The point was clear. These children understood the purpose of the task. They also knew how to get maximum enjoyment from seemingly insignificant things.

It was clear that questioning it is not fun.

It’s easy to do it, even if it isn’t perfect. This makes it more enjoyable.

Never have I ever been asked to be anything else by a grown adult. There was no right or wrong way. But I understood it to be fine, as long as it was something I committed to. I thought immediately:

“Yep. “Yep.

At that moment, we were all one – a group of children who loved to pretend to be wheeled in a small town hall in the middle of the most remote city in the country. My new circus was my favourite thing about it. I was able to do whatever pretend things I wanted. Because I found a school where imagination is encouraged, I was no longer self-conscious about school. Space Jump, Zip Zap Boing, Zip Zap Boing, Bus Stop, Gibberish, and later on the scenes can make it difficult to think about yourself. The teacher encouraged us to try, fail, and try again. You can’t do wrong. I was able to answer school questions because I didn’t mind answering any questions and felt comfortable giving it my all in front of everyone. Gradually, my grades improved, and I felt the acting bug deep within me.

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