When I was younger, I couldn’t even buy something from the sari-sari store because I was too shy to talk to the tindera. My diary was filled with sentences that went “(Insert name of classmate) talked to me today.” or “(insert name of classmate) knows my name.” My mind was teeming with imagined conversations, which were attempts to recreate scenarios where I actually talked, erased some comment I stupidly made, responded with something witty and smart, or even cracked a joke.
It was a crippling sort of shyness that hindered me from expressing myself and connecting with people. I’d try to clear my throat and attempt to say something. Screech. Stop. Silence. My shyness would let me hear a brake screeching to a halt, gridlocked in the traffic of doubts, ensuring that my voice would be there, on a standstill, jammed at the back of my throat.
I was afraid. Terrified that people would say that my idea was stupid, or worse, that they wouldn’t say anything at all. The response of dead silence after I enthusiastically quacked about something was like a big yellow school bus smashing into me as if I weren’t there. Silence would end when someone has said something completely unrelated to what I just said. Everyone would chime in on that interesting topic, painfully leaving my comment in the dustbins of awkwardness.
When I entered high school, I promised myself that when I graduate, I would no longer be shy. I had no idea how this would happen, or if it even was possible. One day, I got left by my school bus. I asked my friend if she could bring me home. She said, “Sure, but I’m trying out for the debate club. Why don’t you tryout as well so you won’t waste your time waiting for me?” I thought it was impossible that I’d get in, but I thought to myself “I’ll just go in there, make a fool out of myself, then get out, and they’ll never remember me anyway.” It was such a surprise when I found out I passed the debate club.
Debate changed my life. From a little girl who couldn’t talk to a saleslady, I became a confident woman who could speak to a crowd, and make them think, make them laugh, make them feel the pain of victims, make them picture the anguish of war—make them listen. Debate opened me up to courage.
I loved debate so much that I continued until college. I entered the Ateneo Debate Society (ADS), the most awarded debate institution in Asia, consistently ranked as part of the top ten best debate institutions in the world. I competed in several national and international debate tournaments. I was champion of the College of Saint Benilde Intervarsity. I got to the semifinals of the National Debate Championships twice, and I also reached the finals. I ended my career going up the stage to receive the United Asia Debating Championship award for fourth best speaker in Asia. As I got up on that stage, Steph said that I looked like I won the Oscars, but on that night, I won something more. I won my battle against my shyness. I won the battle against myself.
The first time someone said, “Ikaw, Jasmine, shy? Yeah right,” it completely blew my mind. I remember that little girl who couldn’t speak, who couldn’t get friends because they thought she was a snob, but in reality she was just too insecure to have any power to express herself. I remember that girl who felt helpless because her identity was something she didn’t want, and she didn’t know if she’d ever be free from her own self. If I could talk to that little girl, I would tell her to hope, to hold on, because time will come and she will be free.
For more inspirational posts, click on these links:
- To Shift or Not to Shift
- Lessons from Ms. Luque
- Choosing the Non-itchy Dress
- That Isn’t Success
- Snippets of Dreams
- All the Quotes I Love
Check out my other blog categories.
Age of the Diary by Jasmine T. Cruz. If you like this post, please subscribe to this blog. Follow Ja on Twitter: ageofthediary. Email Ja at: email@example.com.