Saturday, March 30, 2013

Paralyzingly Shy

Until I was about 5 years old, I shied away from talking to anyone outside of my immediate family, meaning I'd only talk to my mom, dad, and two older brothers (Jake was born when I was five).  In public places, I would literally hide behind my mom if someone tried to talk to me.  I wouldn't even talk to my grandparents!

I'm told that I once played a game with my Grandpa Taylor; he reported to my parents that "he's smart, but he sure don't talk."  I'm also told some of my extended family thought I needed to be tested (you know, to see if my brain was working right and I had all my chromosomes).  Much of their fears were alleviated when the following happened, which I feel appropriate to share today because my Grandma Nay's birthday is in a couple days:

We were visiting my grandparents home in Utah.  I was alone in the kitchen, fascinated by a bird outside the window, when I heard my mom approaching from behind.  I excitedly told her about the bird and that she should come look at it, too.  I turned around to see her reaction, when, shockingly, I discovered that it was my Grandma Nay whom I had spoken to, out loud!  I quickly recanted my excitement and whispered "I'm sorry!" and left the room.

Now, I know I said in my first post that I wouldn't share lessons learned or successes that have followed, but a friend, providing his feedback, pointed out that if I don't, I may depress my followers if I share failure after failure, especially since not all fails are humorous.  So, in case you don't know me, I've since overcome my shyness.  

My mom was especially afraid to send her wimpy, whispering child to kindergarten.  In the first week or two, she received a call from my teacher.  Thoughts of what the teacher would say about me and how I was too shy to succeed as a student began to enter her mind when my teacher reported that I had gotten in trouble for talking too much to a friend of mine during a lesson.  My mom expressed her happiness that such was case, confusing and perhaps frustrating my teacher.  I've been steadily getting less and less shy ever since.

I was recently at a conference about teaching and learning "social innovation" in universities.  .  We were able to meet lots of people doing great work in the world.  One of my colleagues from the Ballard Center mentioned that he wished he could work for a man we had just met.  I told him we'd make it happen this summer through the on-campus internship program I run.  The next day at lunch, we saw the man walking by, so I told my friend we need to act now.  Without hesitation, I yelled out the man's name, "TED!" and got his attention.  Meanwhile, my friend's jaw dropped with horror that I had just called this man by his first name.  Nonetheless, he got up with me and, after our our pitch on the Ballard Center's on-campus internship program, Ted agreed this sounded like a great idea.  I decided I should get more partners for our program before the conference was over, so I skipped the rest of the day's workshops and talked to several people with varying success, some of which we'll start working with in a few weeks.

I think it's safe to say I'm no longer shy.

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