Monday, November 01, 2004

I'm Shy (No, Really!)

Yes, I'm a shy person. Now to some people who know me, this might comes as a surprise. I mean for one, I'm someone who appears to know a lot of people. I also attend public events like gaming and anime conventions (and yes, know some of the people who participate in such events). Did I mention that I'm someone who actually tells other people that he's a stalker? And if you don't know me, well, you might be wondering why I have a long friend's list or numerous link to other bloggers. So claiming to be a shy person is something other people would find hard to believe.

Yet it's true. I mean I know people who are naturally charismatic, who manage to strike a conversation with anyone, anywhere! An example of that is my friend Elbert. Now Elbert may or may not have been born that way. I can only be certain of myself. And I can assure you I was far from charismatic. I was the kid who often had snot dripping out of his nose and was buck-teethed whenever he smiled. I was afraid of initiating a conversation with people, even if we had a common interest. I mean whenever I saw a kid who went to the same school as I did (easily identifiable because of the uniform we wear), I'd silently hum our school anthem just to get his attention (sorry, didn't work, I was probably humming too softly). And don't get me started with girls. At age ten, holding a girl's hand was taboo. The fact that I went to an all-boys school (never mind the fact that an all-girls school was a street away) didn't help either.

You might be thinking that was just my childhood. I'd soon be the outgoing person you know now. You're wrong. At age fifteen the only friends I knew where those from my school. As for girls, the only ones I knew (let alone talk to) where those from Sunday School. It was so bad that during my freshman year, I didn't really meet anyone during our Acquaintance Party. When you're in a room full of strangers, dancing alone can be justified by saying you're dancing with the group. I found myself so pathetic that I cried after the event and swore to myself that I'd never end up like that again. Not that my situation was any different the year after that. It was our Sophomore's Night (which is pretty much like a prom, except it happens during your sophomore year) and the girl I asked out was a friend's sister, who happened to be attending Sunday School (there was also this girl from Sunday School that I asked but she declined). I didn't know her well, but she was probably the closest thing I had to a female friend (in the sense that I knew her name... and that's probably it) at the time. Perhaps what was even strange was the fact that our table, instead of a boy-girl-boy-girl seating arrangement, instead had a boy-boy-boy-girl-girl-girl setup, and we were actually the only ones in the room who were in such a situation. So as you can see, I was still shy six years ago.

But incidentally, it was during my Sophomore's Night that I took my first step in going out of my comfort zone. Remembering the events of my Acquaintance Party, I promised myself that I'd change for the better. Incidentally, my date, who happens to like anime, struck a conversation with one of my friend's dates who also happens to like anime. They were talking most of the time during our Sophomore's Night so I didn't really have to talk to my date much. My friend's date though was actually pretty and since she shared the same interest as me, I thought I'd get to know her more (or more importantly, find out how to get in touch with her in the future). I wasn't really successful but it was a big step for me. I reasoned out that hey, I'm lonely now anyway. If I make the attempt and get rejected, what do I have to lose? I did find out from her that she frequented a certain chat room and so I eventually went to that chatroom and talked to the people there. To make a long story short, I gained new friends aside from the existing ones I had. My romance was far from successful (and in the succeeding years, continues to be that way) but at least I got to meet new people.

Since I'm a glutton when it comes to rejection, I found a job working as a storeclerk for Comic Alley one year later. I really loved anime and playing card games. However, I didn't love talking to strangers. But hey, that's what the job entails. So you do it. I was perhaps the most unpleasant storeclerk you'd ever seen. I never smiled. I didn't sound cheerful. Even until now, I'm known for my monotone voice (if I was an actor, I'd say my acting talent is up to par with Keanu Reeves). But strangely enough, I met new people and made new friends. Perhaps the most important thing I subconsciously learned while working at Comic Alley was how to be transparent. I mean I encountered lots of customers. When there was a customer who caught my fancy (either because they're pretty, or had the same passion as I did for the hobby), I was eager (perhaps too eager) to be their friend (and perhaps that was why I made a good storeclerk in the end), and the customers knew it (but unfortunately, the opposite was true as well). Thankfully I made more friends that enemies but I probably concentrated too much on the latter. I was still afraid to meet new people.

College was perhaps the best time for me. I was in campus full of strangers, and I was only too eager to make new friends. Not that I'd take the initiative to do so. Other people usually did that for me. And that's actually how I got to meet my college friends. I wasn't the one who was approaching them, it was they who were approaching me. And I can understand why. You're in a new place, in unfamiliar territory. Nobody wants to live alone. So you do things which you wouldn't normally do. Such as talk to strangers. And when I noticed this behavior, I also thought of doing the same. I mean why not? Everyone else is doing it. Besides, adversity is perhaps one of the best ways to bind people. And being a freshman in college seems like a daunting task. I built bridges with people. And other people were only too happy to oblige.

It was also during this time that I made goals for myself. My mission was to eventually know everyone in my batch (that's what stalkers do!). But I'd take it one step at a time. For me, that meant befriending someone new every week. That was the minimum. And hopefully, after 208 weeks, I'd make 208 new friends at the very least. Sure, that's not the entire batch, but that's still a lot of people.

Mind you, I wasn't in it to take advantage of other people. I was in it simply to make new friends. Because I know what it feels like to be lonely. I don't want to feel that way ever again. And more importantly, I don't want other people to feel that way too. You'd be surprised at how much you can change a person's outlook for the day by just saying hi. And surprisingly, how I changed by saying hi to other people. Because I really do miss you, my friends. You're the reason why I am who I am today, you're why I continue to live on.

In case you don't know, you're all special to me, each one of you. I'd like to thank you for being my friend (and taking the time to read this). I mean as a human being, the best I can ask from others is to be their friend. And you guys and girls took the time to say yes. There's nothing more a shy guy can ask.


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