A number of people know that I’m shy to some people while talkative and open with others. I pinned it down to being overly considerate, as I’m always thinking about what the other person is thinking of me. I’m uneasier and shier about people I don’t have a reputation with, because I feel like I have to spend more time carefully forging that repuation.
However, I realize that that reputation varies depending on who you talk to. To some people, I’m a shy little Asian boy who ghosts through math class. To some people, I’m that voice that chips in periodically to regurgitate a part of our homework. To some people, I’m a nice, kind guy who’s there when you want to unload your stress (not that way, though I wouldn’t mind). To some people, I’m a crazy, perverted, strange sound-making boy who sleeps a lot during class. There isn’t a role I feel most comfortable in; I actually feel suited to all the roles.
It was when I mentioned that I could toggle perversion that I started to wonder why I was able to do that. I thought it was because I was good at controlling myself when the situation dictated. Some people were fine with that characteristic, and so I let it run wild. To others, I just wasn’t sure, so I didn’t let on that I could be that sarcastic or that random.
But why didn’t I let on? If it’s part of me, shouldn’t I just have expressed it and let the people who didn’t like it leave? No, time and time again I choose to only act how I think other people would like me to act. When someone meets me, I’m fairly reticent. If they’re younger, I’m more inclined to act like an experienced teacher who has a student that needs help. If they’re older, I do everything with deference and extreme respect. It isn’t until I recognize teachers being supportive of whatever I say that I speak more often and more freely. I’m a sleeping ghost to some teachers, while to others I’m a sarcastic, insightful kid who’s always paying attention and maintaining eye contact. It isn’t until I feel that they’d accept me that I show me.
Because acceptance is what it’s all about. Fuck “being yourself.” I want to be liked. Being the shy Asian kid is the safe route. It seems that all this time, I preferred losing potential friends than risk making enemies. After all, not everyone likes people who crack perverted or morbid jokes. To the pruder people, I simply shut my mouth. They don’t especially like me, but they don’t hate me, so I haven’t burned any bridges I might need in the future. That safety comes at the expense with many people, higherups especially, regarding me as even more boring and dry than I really am.
I don’t know what enforced this philosophy in me, and I don’t know how to undo it. Sometimes, I’d like to. Though I don’t mind being small, I tend to have a lot more fun when I’m making sarcastic and perverted jokes, talking about random stuff that probably involves ninjas or death, and making random sounds. That’s why I cherish my good friends so much. Out of the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people I’ve met, they’re the ones who made the effort to probe and uncover my personality.
That’s why I’m afraid of losing them. Because some time every day I have the feeling that it’ll never happen again. That over the years, they’re going to fade away, and luck will turn against me such that I fade into obscurity. In college, I won’t be sarcastic Steven, I’ll simply be that kid who didn’t talk very much. And with all the bridges decayed around me, where would I go?
Yet somehow, even though I only had a single acquaintence in Stuyvesant, I was able to find good friends among the 800+ in my grade. I was able to find a whole range of people that I liked, and that liked me. It worked out. So about college, and the life beyond it…I’ll cross that bridge when I get there. It’ll all work out. I know it will.