When I was young I was a show-off. I was almost a class clown but not quite. Being the baby of the family, I couldn’t really help myself. I loved attention and would go to ridiculous lengths to get it.
I have many examples. When I decided I was going to learn to play the trumpet I practiced all the time, in my driveway. My neighbors were probably extremely grateful when I finally got good at it. Once I dragged a milk crate full of very heavy petrified wood to school for show and tell because no one else even knew what it was. Talk about a terrible decision! My classmates were suitably impressed but I was exhausted by the time I got to school and even more worn out by the time I got home.
If I could have been any superhero ever, it would have been Storm. I spent many hours running up and down the block pretending to fly. Somehow I managed to do this loudly. Of course when my best friends and I decided to lip sync and dance for the talent show we practiced in the front yard for weeks to music that I now think is awful.
Eventually I stopped wanting all eyes on me, especially after the last time I consciously tried to show off. I was riding my semi-new bike practicing the no hands method of steering. I was actually really good at it. I noticed all the neighborhood kids were outside and since I was the best at the trick I decided to subtly educate everyone else. Finishing up, I had almost reached my house when several kids and their parents started yelling at me. I was confused because I was already looking at them. I would have asked what they were screaming about but at that moment I connected with the side mirror of my next door neighbor’s extremely large truck, with my face.
You know, the kind that are about a foot tall and stick out really far from the vehicle. I was knocked back really far and my bike kept going, straight as could be past at least three houses. Man that was painful! It even hurt my pride. Imagine the scene, most of my neighbors crowding around me while I lay in the street dazed and embarrassed. I let someone help me up and I staggered to my house and shut the door. Someone put my bike on the porch and everyone left me alone. I was pretty beat up and it sucked to have to tell my two older brothers what happened. And for the curious, yes they bring it up every few years at family gatherings.
I’m pretty sure I started down the road to becoming an introvert that day. I also kept my hands firmly on the handles when riding my back forever after.
It didn’t take me long to start withdrawing into myself. I quit band and track and basketball within a year. I became reserved and bordered on shy for a while. I got over the shy and stayed reserved. I avoided anything and everything that would put me in the spotlight. Anything to keep from getting embarrassed. I don’t know why one dumb move as child affected me so profoundly but it did.
Deep down inside I was an attention whore for years. How else can I possibly explain all the black clothes and weird hair I sported in high school? I call it my passive aggressive showing off years. Yes, I was one of those kids. The weird ones who dress up to get your attention but get mad when they catch you staring.
I eventually outgrew all that. I’m still reserved, until I get to know someone. Now I see myself as somewhere between an extrovert and introvert.
The biggest issue I’ve carried over from that time in my life is the fear of being embarrassed by my own actions. The fear of trying something new and failing can be incapacitating. It almost stopped me from becoming a writer, but I’ll cover that issue in another post.
I will say when I write something and share it with anyone I am anticipating an oversized side mirror knocking me off my bike.
On the plus side, I’m really good at doing scenes where my characters make fools of themselves. Show-offs are easy to write and creating protagonists and antagonists who suffer due to their arrogance is a breeze.
So was I born an introvert? No way. Am I one now? Yes, although I’m a social introvert. Would I have become one if I hadn’t shown off that day? I’ll never know. Many other things contributed to this but that day all those years ago was the beginning.