Sunday, December 19, 2010

Shock and Awe

"But I thought you were shy.." the guys said last night. I put my hand on the knee of one of them as he was sitting in front of me, looking him deep in the eyes. "I thought you were shy."

I was a shy kid. I was a shy teenager. I'm still quiet when I'm not comfortable, but I'll talk to anyone about anything - as long as there's a topic and not small talk. I never really got the hang of small talk.

I remember when I was younger, in class or with friends. I'd make a critical comment about something and people would stare at me, no matter if they'd said the same thing themselves. I was told that because I so rarely said something bad, it was so much worse when I did. I was supposed to be nice, that's what they were used to. I settled for nice. It was just easier that way.

When you grow up in a place like this, a small town where "everybody knows each other" people really do seem to think they know you. Even if they haven't seen you since you were fourteen, they still think you're the same person you were back then. Most people don't change a lot, myself included, and we're all guilty of assuming people are they way they always were.

So when that guy said "But I thought you were shy" when I had my hand on his knee and looked him in the eye, it wasn't because I did something shocking. I had simply raised my voice (quite a bit - pretending to be a teacher for a few months, and being around noisy kids all the time, has had an unwanted side effect) to get the attention of the three or four twenty year olds in the room - I wanted to ask them if they knew where the kitchen was. Getting someone's attention is always easier when you give them a poke, and getting an answer is easier when having eye contact. And when you get a little loud.

How quiet must I have been to make guys six years my juniors think it's shocking that I can actually raise my voice?

I'm curious how people think of me today.

And I can't help but wonder.. have I really changed that much at all?


  1. Hey Apples, nice post. I think I see a little about what you're talking about, though I didn't grow up in Norway. I grew up in a small, cold town, though, where, if everybody doesn't know each other, there's at least a small-town atmosphere that has people somewhat afraid of the outside world. I'm back now after more than a year's absence - back in the parents' house. Back to see the parents, brother, and sister-in-law, who all seem to have gotten along just fine without me, of course. Nothing's changed. When I decided to escape this place all those years ago, that was the reason - if I stayed, I wouldn't change either, I wouldn't grow. I'd regret it. Thank goodness I did get out before it swallowed me up. I don't feel regret at all about leaving, but doing so essentially entailed that I rejected this life that my parents had worked hard to allow me. Here there was a good education, a stable community, and the chance to have hometown friends for life. Some people have one of those but not the others - some have none at all. I feel awkward now in my hometown but feel obligated to return every once in a while, even though I don't enjoy it. If I have kids someday they will not grow up in a similar place, that's for sure.

    Merry Christmas!

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