From a young age, I was defined in the eyes of many by one word –Quiet. I remember being around 7 or 8 years old and doing an exercise where we were given photos of ourselves stuck in the middle of a blank page and other students had to write characteristics that describe us around the edge. I remember looking at mine and all I saw was ‘quiet’, ‘quiet’, ‘quiet’, ‘quiet’ written over and over again… except for one ‘friendly’ written by my best friend at the time- the only person I really spoke to. And like that I was seen only for my natural quiet nature. Other characteristics? They seemed to go unnoticed, uncommented on- simply because I was quiet.
There was a time when I was young, care free and would regularly spend my time playing detective games by myself. I was perfectly content in my own company, but unfortunately it didn’t stay that way forever.
The first time I was bullied for being a ‘loner’ I was around 6 years old. And from then on, everything changed. I began to internalised everything, becoming fearful of saying the wrong thing out of a fear of social rejection. I remember there was a point where I would over-think something as simple as saying ‘hi’ back to someone. By the time I was ready to reply, the moment had passed- they had moved on, chalking it down to me being rude.
At the beginning it didn’t bother me when people would ask me to talk to them. In a world designed for extraverts, people get curious when you don’t speak much. They simply don’t understand that some people don’t have the same desire as them to be social and loud all the time and can find social interactions draining. However, in secondary school curiosity became constant hounding by people commanding me to speak like I was a dog they were asking to perform a trick.
Some people decided to ignore my presence and would talk about me in front of my face. Some treated me like I was infected with a terrible disease and would literally dive into the walls in the corridors to make sure they wouldn’t come close to me. Others took my quietness as a sign of weakness, an easy target- and would spread rumours around the school about me, under the impression that I would not defend myself. Others took advantage of me in other ways for similar reasons.
Creative outlets have always been an important way for me to express myself and direct my emotions into. For years my fictional universe surrounding the story I was writing –Blood Moon- became my main escape from reality where my fictional character was able to say the things I never dared to speak and have the friendships I only dreamed of having. In my darkest moments, I turned to song writing as a way of expressing how I felt. Being bullied led me to dive into acting. I figured people would judge me regardless so I may as well go all out and anyway, judging people for playing a character is pretty silly.
Over the years I have pushed myself to use my voice. I joined debate club and competed in competitions – the experience was not without panic but I did it. I competed in the internal and regional heat of ARTiculate – an arts based speaking contest. I took the Level 8 English speaking board qualification alongside my A levels, leaving sixth form with a distinction in that and an A* in A level Drama.
I want to speak up for those who have had similar experiences to me and do what I can to make this world a better place for quieter people. I want to live in a world where people understand that some people are just naturally quieter and prefer engaging in social interactions less. I want it to be acceptable for people to communicate in different ways besides orally and to use scripts and prompts- improv is not for everyone. I want to live in a world were quieter strengths are recognised and ‘quietness’ isn’t seen as a weakness or negative thing. I want quiet people to feel accepted and comfortable in their own quiet skin. This, to me, is Quiet Connections mission and one I am glad to be part of.