On the first day of my last term of college, I found myself in a class with someone who went to my high school. We were acquaintances (Facebook friends) rather than actual friends, but not unfriendly by any means. In an effort to squash any potential awkwardness, I took it upon myself to sit next to her and start a conversation. Conversations came easily as we shared stories about our study abroad experiences. For the next few weeks, we continued our casual, in-class relationship until one day she said to me: “Oh my gosh, Annie! You are way louder than you were in high school! I didn’t think you talked at all before!”
When my former high school/current college peer made this exclamation, I felt humiliated and unable to think of an adequate response. She did not have any malicious intent, but I have heard some variation of these statements since 6th grade, (junior high, man). Some of these variations have included:
“OMG Annie, you swear/drink/speak?”
“I have never heard you speak outside of class!”
“Have you ever had a boyfriend? You’re so quiet, I can’t imagine you kissing someone!”
Admittedly, during my younger years, I was quieter. I wasn’t the loud, funny one in class and I was never found screaming down the hall during passing periods. Apparently, being quiet during school and caring about your grades makes you a brainiac and incapable of cussing, making friends, or kissing a boy. I did get excellent grades but it had more to do with my strive for achievement than my being an anti-social genius who preferred studying to hanging out. Actually, I spent 90% of my time outside of school with my dance group, where I had a fantastic group of friends who would scoff at the idea that I was quiet.
Having a label like the one that has followed me around for years is debilitating. Speaking up generally prompted my peers to make snarky comments that always snapped me back into my quiet status quo. For a long time, it simply felt useless to fight it. Why bother when I had good friends who knew who I really was and did not make me feel bad for it? Why bother when I knew that college was right around the corner and nobody I met there would have those false pre-conceived ideas about me? When I started college, I embraced my clean slate and met so many people who accepted me exactly as I was. So, you can imagine how discouraging it was to be reminded by my classmate that people still think I am a shy, nerdy, never-been-kissed goody-goody.
Despite my quiet nature in high school, is it unfathomable that I might have changed, matured, and opened up during college? In truth, any one of my friends will tell you that the shy girl from high school is not who I am nor who I was then. It’s time everyone knew that I will no longer stand to fit into the mold or category that someone else has set for me. I am sarcastic, moody, openly-weird, and have strong opinions. I can talk your ear off and sometimes I can even be funny. I can get a spontaneous tattoo and drink a few too many margaritas with the best of them.