I want to share my experience of the public school system having social setbacks. I grew up with and still have extreme general and social anxiety. I also have a disorder known as Selective Mutism. This is defined as a disorder in which a person who is normally capable of speech cannot speak in specific situations or to specific people. Although never diagnosed, I would go as far to say I am on the autistic spectrum.
Everyone’s school experience is different. I grew up and attended school in Texas. I attended a preschool that I don’t remember much about. My mom worked there and so it wasn’t too bad. People thought I was very shy. I hardly spoke and hid behind my mom when I could.
When the time for kindergarten rolled around, I refused to attend due to nasty rumors that spread throughout the preschool halls. Teachers are mean was the scariest one to all of the 4-year-olds. In result, my mom decided to home school me. I am entirely grateful for the experience but will say that my social development was severely stunted.
I should mention I was an only child. My dad had to work long and hard hours in order to make our lives as comfortable as possible. When my mom got pregnant with my sister, school became more dispersed.
My parents decided I needed to go to school with other kids. So when the school year came back around, I went to my 3rd grade classroom and sat in a front seat (terrible idea). My memory of that day is quite blurred. It was one of the most terrifying experiences of my 8-year-old life. The teacher spoke to my mom that evening and suggested I do 2nd grade over to fine tune my social and academic skills that were required of 3rd grade.
I ended up being homeschooled another semester before trying 2nd grade at a different school. I made it through the whole 2nd semester of 2nd grade. I was proud. I was very quiet and only had one friend. She was bossy.
Let’s skip ahead some. I went back home to school for 3rd and 4th grade. I was technically able to start 6th at the age and academic level I was. But I went to 5th instead to continue my social development before entering middle school.
I started 5th grade. It was good. I was still quiet but my anxiety about school had lessened. I had good teachers. And I made my first real friend. Her name was Brandi. She let me braid her long blonde hair and we would swing on the playground together. It was this year that I found out I wasn’t actually shy and there was something mentally holding me back. I wanted close relationships with kids my age, but was just not able to show it.
6th grade came and it was much of the same. I learned to play an instrument and joined the band. It was band that gave me a true sense of purpose in school. I attended band camp that next summer, meeting kids I still know today.
7th and 8th were smooth and easy for the most part. Some kids were mean about how quiet I was. They would follow me around waiting for me to speak. But I never did. Can you even talk was a question I got often from my peers. My anxiety grew but thankfully middle school life is never as bad as it seems to a pubescent teenager.
High school. I was lucky. I was a part of the marching band 3 weeks before school ever started. I had a chance to make friends. But band was all I really had going for me. I started to get very depressed. I started to skip lunch and spend my time in the library writing a book I still have not completed.
Sophomore year got better. I made new friends. That really helped. They understood me and still enjoyed hanging out with me even though I didn’t contribute to the conversations much. Junior year was even better. I learned to drive and I was able to be with friends outside of school. Senior year came quickly and I was well-known by many. I had somehow maneuvered my way into the top of the band, the creative writing club, and ranked in the top 25% of the senior class with a GPA of 3.7. I appreciate the teachers who saw my social instability and without pointing it out, helped me overcome my fears. In the end, I enjoy having both public and home school experiences. I feel it is these experiences that have shaped a good deal of who I am today.
College. It was like starting all over and I was in the preschool halls again. But this time the real world was waiting for me. I was discouraged that I wouldn’t make it through college. But only for a short time. I grew close with my dorm roommate. It was a tedious process, which making friendships is not supposed to be. However, I am extremely happy that I did create such a strong bond with another person and we can still speak to one another today like we did when living together. I learned how to push myself to be more social. I joined various clubs. I found a job on campus. I asked questions in class. That last one was something I never thought I would do. Thinking back to that one day in the 3rd grade classroom, I could only smile at how far I had come.
My internal drive to be better than I was the day before has kept me climbing the ladder of life. I have taken speech classes, even though I knew they would be tough, to help in projecting my voice in social settings. I have gone through the process of job interviews, even with no intention of taking the job, to practice eye contact and small talk. I have talked to kids who seem to have the same adversity to speech as I did and remind them how well they are doing. I find a little compliment can go a long way and improve their self-esteem. I remember that not being able to verbally express myself created an idea that I was forgotten. I didn’t want that for the children I supervised.
The lesson of this is NOT that I now have an easy time in social situations. Because I don’t. I have to mentally prepare myself to go to work or events I know many people will be present. Talking about things I know little about makes me feel very insecure and childish. My anxiety gets me time to time but I have been able to notice when it will be bad and take the necessary steps to lessen the effects. The lesson of this story is, if you know yourself well enough and are willing to try new things in order to overcome your obstacles, then you will succeed.
Look at me now. I have graduated college, moved out of my parent’s house, found a person I connect to and been able to live with him, gotten a job that has minimal stress and even made friends there. I have found the things in life I believe are worth working for; one of them being this blog. My lack of wordiness never meant there weren’t words floating around inside my head. They were just waiting for the right time to break out and tell our story. With The VOX, the Latin word for ‘voice’, I can finally express all that I find truly amazing.