I used to be a pretty quiet kid.
I remember it was my sister who was the outgoing one. She had curly blond hair and was friends with everyone. I don’t remember having so many friends. I wasn’t any good at gym— not a single sport— and I was never picked to jump rope. So I smuggled books outside at recess and read by myself. I don’t remember this as being a bad thing; it was just who I was.
In high school I started to talk. I remember when I discovered that I could fill an awkward silence. I saw the look of relief on someone’s face when they realized they would not have to think of something to say. I remember feeling sorry for teachers when no one would answer questions. I got in the habit of talking to get the discussion going. I felt I was being useful and the habit continued.
By the time I was in college I would have described myself as an extrovert. I was outgoing and full of stories and proud of the fact that I could talk to anyone at any time. As an adult, this was the way I saw myself. This is the way I have behaved and this is who I have believed myself to be… until very recently. For no particular reason, I have started being the quiet one again.
Part of it may be that I meditate now. Meditating quiets my very busy brain and once it is quiet, it seems easier to keep it that way. Part of it is spending so much time alone, studying in my little room. Some days I will be alone all day until one of my housemates comes home and I meet them in the kitchen while I warm a cup of coffee. The microwave hums. I find I have nothing to say.
“Ding!” says the microwave. I go back to my room.
Last night I went out with friends for a drink after class. I almost never do this, but two women I enjoy organized a trip to an old log cabin where drinks were served on a wraparound porch and I thought that sounded like fun. I bought a hard cider and sat on a bench surrounded by people I don’t know well, people who know me only from class. The conversations started about sports and former careers and music. At first I struggled to find things I thought I ought to say. But I was slow. I didn’t speak at once. After a few minutes, I lost the urge to say anything. Instead I listened. I listened to these people as they filled in the silence. I drank my cider. I found I was very, very relaxed.
I wondered how much I missed, all those years when I was so busy filling up silences, when I was so sure I was doing everyone a favor by opening my mouth. Last night I sat still and I wondered if I really had been talking for any reason other than to make myself less uneasy.
I said my goodnights, eventually. I gave everyone a hug and I headed off on my moped. I came back to my quiet room where there was no expectation I would have anything to say to anyone. I made a cup of tea. I lit a candle. I lay on my bed and looked up at the ceiling. I wondered why I was so quiet. I wondered if maybe I had been the quiet kid all along.
Till next time,