LOUD!

If you met me in person, you would notice how quiet and shy I can be.

But in reality, I’m loud. I mean, LOUD.

I eat loud, I type loud, I laugh loud. I’m a loud person.

But I’ve been trying to live my whole life quietly. Not to take up too much space. Not talking until spoken to. Being reserved became a way of life for me.

So, I’m finally embracing being loud. And you should too. Because living out loud is what you were meant to do. You weren’t made to sit in a corner and whisper. You were meant to stand up and shout.

So, don’t hold back. Especially around me.

TURN IT UP TO 11!

(F)e-mail

Everyone knows that there’s a double standard in the workplace between men and women. And if you don’t know, you A) have never worked with the opposite sex or B) truly don’t know there’s a double standard, so you shouldn’t be reading this blog. You should be reading every feminist text you can find.

But let’s just say that we’re all on the same page, and we’ve all noticed that men and women are treated (and paid) differently at work.

Where are the differences most evident? In promotions? In conversations at the water cooler? In the lunch room?

No, it’s in our e-mails.

When I first started working, I wrote e-mails that had sentences with question marks implied at every turn.

They looked like this:

Hello?

Um, excuse me? Do you mind doing the thing that you said you were going to do four weeks ago? I know you must be busy, but I’m sorry, do you think you could get it to me? When possible? Thank you? I really appreciate your work? Thanks for not yelling at me?

And yes, maybe that’s just because I am a very timid and shy person to begin with. But I’m also a woman. And I feel the same at work that I do in daily life: like I’m not meant to be there and I’m taking up space. My e-mails reflect that.

And this is a sentiment embedded in women since the day that we are born. Chimamanda Adichie points out in her book, Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions, that little girls are constantly pulled back by their mothers, asked to “play nice” and “sit still,” whereas little boys are given free rein of the playroom. (And what is an office but an adult playroom? Where we are all free to interact with our surroundings and work on what we are best at?)

So, what do my e-mails look like now? They’re still nice. I understand that it’s not fair to take out my frustrations on an unsuspecting stranger. And as sad as it is to say, people do respond more nicely when you are nice to them in the first place.

But I beat around the bush a lot less. I ask. And in very rare and desperate times, I even plead. I do not demand. I’m not as confident in myself yet. But maybe someday, I’ll conquer my inbox in the same way that the vikings took new land: completely.

Life Isn’t A Poetry Reading

This is what normal small talk is like:

“Nice weather we’re having.”

“Yes, but I heard there will be thunderstorms on Thursday.”

“No? Well, I knew it couldn’t stay this hot.” 

And this is what small talk is like when you talk to me:

“Change either upsets me or thrills me. I cried when my childhood swing set was taken down, but have dyed my hair blue, black, blonde, and red at different times in my life.” 

“But I’m not afraid of change. I’m afraid of being here, being alive, for years and years but then realizing that my life hasn’t really been worth anything.”

As you can see, I’m pretty comfortable talking about anything with anyone. (This blog is evidence of that). I wouldn’t really consider myself an open book because I’m still fairly shy, but I do let it all out there when I feel safe. 

I mean, I’ve been reading my own poetry to crowds ever since I can remember. I’ve been revealing some of my innermost thoughts to a live audience for most of my adult life. 

So, why shouldn’t it be any different in my everyday life? 

Oh yeah. Because it 100% weirds people out. 

My mom has always said that I “speak my own truth.” That is, I like to tell you what I think about something. But not in a Simon Cowell way. Just in a “and that’s my take” kind of way. And I can’t really be any different. 

But like I said, people find that weird if it’s not in blog format. 

But do you know what I say? I say let’s cut  to the chase. Let’s be brave. And say what we really feel. Let’s tell our own truths. 

So, when someone starts talking about the weather…

Don’t say “isn’t it nice out?”

Say, “isn’t the sky so blue and beautiful today?” 

Yes to Death

Here’s how I make a new friend:

First, locate a person who is as shy or more shy than I am (difficult).

Second, run through a list of compliments I can give so I can start talking (medium).

Third, agree with everything they say (easy).

For whatever reason, that third step is really important. I don’t know where I got the idea, but I’ve always thought that people would only like me if I was incredibly agreeable. If I said yes to everything they said.

I hear myself saying, I can’t believe I found the only other accordion player in the United States! or What a coincidence! I love Nickelback! (I’m just kidding. Everyone would know that I was lying if I said that.)

Now, you have to understand that my intentions are mostly good. People bond quickly when they have something they like (or hate) in common. Which is why I like to be front and center when a person divulges their interests. And really, I’m not trying to deceive them. I’m just trying to establish a friendship. Most of the time, I really do like what they like.

But there are times that I don’t. I don’t know if it’s a fear of confrontation (which I have) or just a fear of being left out (which I also have), but I refuse to let anyone down when they talk about their preferences in that way.

And it’s taken me an entire lifetime to figure out that you don’t have to like everything someone else likes to be their friend.

In fact, discussions and conversations take more interesting turns when there is a difference in opinion. Not that you want to invite conflict necessarily. You should want to offer another perspective. Your perspective.

Because remember, your ideas and experiences are unique. The fact that a person travelled to the same country as you does not mean you’ll have a similar experience. The fact that a person grew up in the same town as you does not mean you’ll have a similar experience. Heck, a person (your sibling, parents, etc.) could have lived in the same house with you, and they still may not have had a similar experience. That’s why you should always be willing to share yours instead of simply agreeing with how someone else sees the world. There’s room enough for everyone to share their stories.

So, I’m still trying not to “yes to death” anyone anymore. But that’s not just an expression–you can really kill a friendship if you don’t have anything else to contribute than a nod and a smile. Push past the “yes.” You may find yourself in surprisingly more agreeable territory.

In Fear of the Awkward

There’s a lot of motivating forces in the world. There’s pride, of course. But then there’s money. And I suppose love. Maybe even revenge (if it is served cold).

But really, I think there’s a specific one that trumps all: awkwardness. If someone feels that a situation is going to be awkward at all, they avoid it like it’s the plague, Ebola, and adult responsibilities rolled into one. People will avoid a certain store if they feel that they will see someone they know there. People will put their heads down just so they don’t have to address someone walking on the same side of the street. I mean, people are afraid to make a doctor’s appointment, for goodness sake.

And guess what? I count myself among you. I am actually the queen of awkward. Your oblivious ruler, reigning not with an iron fist but one clenched in frustration when I say something utterly stupid.

Oh, sure, I’m so “off-the-cuff” on this blog, but ask me how the weather is and if I don’t stutter, I’ll say something incredibly weird and inappropriate. Then, I’ll think about it for the next three years and blush every time.

Sure, I’m making light of this now, but really, it is crippling and sad. I have to rehearse my food order so that I don’t say it wrong. I am constantly being told to speak up. I am always sighing and cringing after every social interaction ever. And I’ve never known what it’s like not to feel this way. Instead of ruling my life with fear of the unknown, I’ve chosen to shape my future with the fear of the awkward. My  life is a bad romantic comedy on steroids, all bumping into someone four different times, trying to dance around him or her, and then finding yourself face deep in his or her chest yet again.

Now, I could tell you that I’ll overcome this in the next five years, and maybe, so will you. I just have to tell myself that “people are just people,” and there isn’t anything to be afraid of, right? But that’s the thing about fear: it is completely irrational. And the problem is that every situation is going to be awkward if you continue to think too hard about it. We all just need to let ourselves go to let the situation and conversation flow, man.

I know, I know. Easier said than done. But if you try to think a little less during all of your “awkward” experiences, you may find that it really was all in your head.

Be Quiet!

Today, for the umpteenth time in a million encounters with people I’ve barely met, I was asked the following question:

Are you always this quiet?

And even though I am always preparing myself, subconsciously, for this moment, I haven’t come up with a snarky answer yet. Maybe it’s because I really am this quiet. But in all actual fact, what am I supposed to say? Yes, I am this quiet, but now I’m sort of not because, you know, I’m speaking.

Except, today, I finally had a sort of rebuttal for the world: what is wrong with silence that everyone is so uncomfortable with it? Headphones and cellphones are in our ears more than sound itself. Doesn’t anyone notice that someone has to do the listening while others do the talking? Why do we encourage people to speak when they have nothing to say? What, I ask you in my loudest voice possible, is wrong with being quiet?

Personally, I have never been one for small talk, and it seems to have run in the family. My grandfather, an incredibly successful and powerful man, was incredibly irritated by talk of the weather or of nothing in particular. And so am I. Why try to fill the silence with words that don’t mean anything when you can wait a few more seconds and craft something profound? Why be loud when you can be quiet? Has the Internet, with its pleas and encouragements to divulge what we’re thinking, completely ruined silence for us all?

Without commenting on these greater societal ills, I can only make a stand for my own issues. I am quite aware that my silence stems from a small word that can cause big problems: shyness.

This, mind you, is not the same thing as being introverted (although I am introverted as well). Introverts have been recently championed online as the underrated counterpart of the extrovert. To be an introvert, one simply needs to seek alone time to feel “recharged” and “energized,” whereas extroverts seek people to fill that need. Two sides of the same coin, really.

Shyness, however, is a horse of a different color. (Although, not a loud color because the horse does not want others to notice him, because, you see, he is shy.)

Shyness is simply believing that what you have to say is not meaningful to the conversation. Or, shyness is the general feeling of anxiety when one thinks about speaking in a conversation. Essentially, you would prefer to let other people talk.

Of course, shy people’s lives are punctuated by others encouraging them to “speak up,” when they’d prefer to dig their own grave and lie in it right then and there than draw any more attention to themselves.

All I can say is that there are many, many, many types of people in this world. And there is, and always will be, a place for shy people. When everyone else is too concerned with hearing themselves talk, we will keep the silence golden.

And actually, I encourage everyone to be a little quieter. You may hear something you’ve never heard before because you were too busy talking. In fact, you may hear a shy person trying to finally speak.