My entire life, I’ve been accused—and rightly so—of being in a shell, of being shy and reserved; but to be fair, I have grown over the last five years. Being in a mature relationship with someone (among other things) changed me, gave me the confidence, opportunity, and drive to meet people and talk to them. That process (re: my first relationship) started during my senior year of high school, five years ago, and I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything, despite any bad that happened to come with all the good.
Today, I retain all that I’ve learned about relationships and communication in general, even though I happen to be single now. I’ve made a fresh start in Baltimore, where I’m attending grad school and where I get to start out with no one knowing me. I get to reinvent myself here. Rather, I get to be the me that I always wanted to be, which really only means that I’m a more social person from the moment people meet me, not years down the road. Before, people knew me as the guy that was quiet but had “come out of his shell” a little. Now, I’m already at that “come out of his shell a little” phase, so I’ve set the bar higher in Baltimore.
For example, in undergrad, I was always the guy that didn’t say anything in class, or at least didn’t say much. So I never really got very good grades in participation so long as “participation” meant “discussion” (I loved classes that included blog entries and emails to professors as participation, because I could do that easily). Now, I feel like I do pretty well in discussion, for the first time ever, so I’ve started with a higher precedent that I should be able to follow easily.
Which brings me to tonight. I went out with some colleagues after my Fiction I class tonight. We sat around in a bar (actually, a couple of bars) and talked for hours. I loved it. We talked about class a little, but we also talked about movies and TV, sports (not my thing, but it didn’t last too long, so that’s okay), city life, books, haunted houses (we’re planning a trip), and so much more. We’re all in the getting-to-know-you stage, and that’s exciting right now. But even when we do know each other, I feel like there will always be something to talk about. We all have so much in common, and maybe that’s because we’re all writers. It’s refreshing, and it underscores a major selling point for a grad program: everyone in the program is on the same (very focused) path. As such, everyone is there because the program offers one common subject he/she is passionate about.
The main point of my telling this story, though, is this: during one conversation at the bar, a girl actually told me that I do pretty well in class discussion! I was shocked but quite proud to hear this. If only my high school humanities teacher could see me now (he factors discussion/participation into students’ grades, as part of his taste-of-college approach). I feel like my hard work is starting to pay off, and her comment is a sign of this. For the first time in my life, I’m putting myself out there by going out and networking/talking, by speaking up in class, and by talking to people I might not have talked to before I came here.
Thus, I think being in Baltimore is going to do wonders for my communication skills, but even more so for my writing abilities, because writing realistic characters means knowing how they should communicate. In this regard, I feel like I’m learning just as much out of class as I am in class. In other words, it’s not just the college instructors I’m learning from; it’s my fellow classmates/writers, my colleagues, my friends.
My friends. Plural! With an s! Imagine that. 😉 And I made them all on my own, not through a significant other.
To an extent, I suppose I’m still in a shell and always will be; I’ll probably never be the life of the party or the class discussion leader, but I’m actually okay with that. I’m finding ways around it, finding ways to be fun and interesting organically. Naturally. Moreover, as time goes on, I’m realizing that we don’t have a shell. Or not just one, anyway.
We have many shells, and I just recently moved into a new one in Baltimore. It feels good for now.