When I was a child, and much to everyone’s disbelief, I was very shy. This was a combination of a bad home life, which built insecurities and just being shy. I was teased horribly because of this, some kids picking on me because I was quiet. There are scarring memories of some of those early years.
I remember this other girl in my class with red ringlets, saddle shoes and a school uniform. In retrospect I feel sorry for those transplants from England who wore their uniforms, not realizing how they would stick out instead of blend in. Calgary in those days have very few private schools, at least in the area where we lived.
Margaret Parsons was probably shyer and more awkward than me. I took a good look at her one day and thought, if I stay the way I am I’ll be like her. Or I can change. The change was at least twofold. It involved building a harder shell about myself so the jibes of the insensitve couldn’t get through. I became a bit of a joker, and teased my friends. I almost did this too much and hurt a few feelings before I learned to temper the humor.
The first stage started happening in grade 7, which was the beginning of junior high for us. The second stage was in grade 9, the last year of junior high. I started to wear brighter colors besides soft blues and beiges, believing that if I brightened my look it would bring me out more. And in fact that’s what happened. Grade 9 was still a bit of the process of become bolder and by the end of high school I was more outgoing.
I continued this into art college. I hit a plateau for a while of being less awkward, more fashionably secure and sociable to an acceptable level. But if anyone had ever told me I would act or read anything in front of a group of people, I would have laughed and said impossible.
Eventually, as I began to write more I thought of reading my poetry. The prospect was terrifying but at a fairly small venue of the Burnaby Writers’ Society I got up and read a couple of poems. I’m sure I stammered, I turned beet red and my throat became so dry from nervousness that I actually choked on my words. But I did it, feeling mortified but also brave.
After that first leap, I continued to read. I continued to wear bright colors and today, if you ask anyone, no one would think I was ever shy. Perhaps I’m too bold in some ways but I made a conscious effort to change myself. I’m still going through that process. In fact, I think it never ends. The changes are different now and don’t involve colors as much as redecorating the interior.