I’ve always been a quiet and soft-spoken.
I’m the person that always sat alone, never making conversation with anyone, never hanging around with classmates, never communicating with them on social media.
Now, I’m a student at Sheridan, and while I’ve found friends in my fellow journalism students, I haven’t completely let go of the shyness.
I went to an elementary school called Guardian Angels. I first attended the school in Grade 4. I never interacted with anyone during that year. I entered French Immersion in Grade 5. My classmates were people who, at the time, were strangers to me.
Those same people would be in my class for the rest of my elementary school life. It was then that I started to break out of my shell. I became friends with several students. We all shared a passion for soccer. I also began to talk more to the other kids in the class, even if I didn’t necessarily hang out with them.
At home, I lived with my older sister and my parents. While I wasn’t nearly as reserved as when I was at school, I still didn’t talk to them often. In fact, I usually didn’t spend too much time in the same room as my family. It wasn’t that there was anything wrong with them, but I always preferred to spend time alone.
“You didn’t like talking if you could avoid it,” said my sister, Stephanie. “You always kept to yourself, and that always worried mom and dad.”
I’m closest to my sister. She is supportive and encourages me in everything I do. It’s thanks to her help that I’m now a student at this college. She has helped me through my shyness and to connect with people in a way that I had always been afraid to do.
As I transitioned into my high school years, many of the people who had gone to my elementary school would join me at Bishop Reding Secondary School.
For all of my problems, I was never bullied during my elementary or high school years. I feel lucky to have gone to a high school where I not only knew most of the people going in, but even the people I didn’t know were all good-natured.
My high school years were some of the best years of my life. My teachers were supportive and even the special needs staff – who had to deal with me as a high-functioning-special-needs-student – were there for me whenever I needed them. Despite this, there were times when I would sit in the cafeteria alone.
In Grade 10, I first started taking music classes. I had always loved music growing up and I enjoyed the time I spent there. I already knew some of the people who were part of the class, including the guy playing drums. He was one of my old Guardian Angels friends. I didn’t know other students when I first entered the class.
By the end of my high school years, I knew every one of them. This was not only because of music, but I also did an extra-curricular for the first time in my life. I joined the junior, senior and jazz band. During those last three years, I took to eating my lunch in the music room, where some of the other band members would hang out and I spent the time talking to them.
I remember the day that I graduated from high school well. I remember walking up to the stage as my name was called, and people clapping loudly. My parents and sister were shocked by the ovation.
“I couldn’t believe what I was seeing and hearing,” said my mother, Melanie. “I was so proud of you, Jedi.”
That was the nickname my family gave me. It comes from the Jedi in Star Wars. I remain a superfan.
I won two awards the year of my graduation. I was on the honour roll throughout my four years of high school. I won the music award for having the highest grade in that subject for the year. I also won the perseverance award, given to a student who showed determination and a refusal to give up.
Back home, I got into playing video games and watching movies. As a result, I was spending less time with my family. I slowly started to become distant. Eventually, I stopped talking to them unless it was absolutely necessary.
This continued through my first two years of post-secondary education. I initially went to McMaster to take accounting. However, I regressed to who I was before I met my friends in elementary school. I was the loner again, and I spent nearly all of my time on my own. I did not enjoy my time there at all.
That was when I was at my worst at home. I was never one to tell stories of my life at school, unlike my sister, and I was determined to not tell my parents what was going on. It annoyed me when my parents pressed me for details about school. I always told them I would take care of everything myself, and I didn’t need their help. I was too shy to go to my academic advisor, or to call the school. This left me without anyone to help me.
When I finally left McMaster, I didn’t know what to do. I had no idea what I wanted to do. It was my sister who helped me figure out where I would go next. I had my mind set on Sheridan since my sister had gone to the college years earlier. This was where and when I took up an interest in journalism.
Entering the journalism program, I was in a room full of strangers again. This time, things were different from McMaster. There were smaller classes, and there was a more personal feel about the lessons. My news classmates, however, would be with me in nearly all of my classes.
In the first semester, I didn’t really take the time to get to know anyone. I spent most of the time on my own, not taking the time to get to know my classmates. It wasn’t until my second semester that I started to open. I made friends. I started to feel like I belonged.
Now, I’m in second semester of second year. I’ve become friends with other students. I enjoy spending time with them whenever I can.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, it’s that nothing ever happens when you just wait for something to come to you. It’s difficult for those who are shy, but even more so for those like me that have special needs issues on top of everything else.
That’s why there are people around us to help. Despite my chronic fear of approaching my teachers and talking to them, the ones who’ve helped me are invaluable to me. It’s important for people like me to be able to stand up and take the initiative, to make the first move.
If there’s one thing you should learn from my story, it’s that.