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Open Up This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

As a child, I was horribly, dreadfully, intensely shy. I spent most of kindergarten jumping rope alone on the blacktop – 100 forward, 100 backward, 100 forward, 100 backward, every day – rather than confronting another human being. In first grade, one classmate and I started the delightfully ironic “no friends club,” whose members, of course, were by definition friends. It took some time, but I eventually learned to open my mouth and talk, and finally achieved several close confidants.

Now that I'm older, my interminable shyness has grown and evolved. I'm now what they call “guarded.” Yes, I am guarded. If that even goes far enough. I am the Bastille, more like. There are some people, people I put through the fires of the netherworld to test their trust, whom I tell almost everything to. There are about three people, and pages and pages of Microsoft Word documents, that know who I am. And, truth be told, I'd like to keep it that way. But I've reached a point where the pinnacle of a relationship (or lack thereof) rests on whether or not I choose to open up.

And it terrifies me.

When dogs want to show you they trust you, they roll over onto their backs. Their belly is presumably a very vulnerable place. I wish it were that easy for humans. I wish I could walk around flashing my stomach to people and making solid relationships on the spot. But it's much harder when you have the faculty of speech.

I always thought of it a bit like Horcruxes. For those of you not familiar with Rowling's Harry Potter, a Horcrux is made by splitting your soul. Lord Voldemort had seven Horcruxes, because he hoped to achieve immortality. But what I'm trying to explain is that to get to know someone – I mean really get to know someone – you have to break off a little piece of yourself and just lay it out there, hoping no one will trample on it, burn it, destroy it and leave an empty space inside of you. How much of yourself can you rip apart before there's nothing left? How can you trust fallible human beings to guard all that you are? Three is plenty for me, thanks. Voldemort made seven Horcruxes, but the way I see it, he's stone-cold dead by the end of the seventh book.

I can hear my sappy, Nicholas Sparks-reading friends telling me, “The heart was made to be broken,” and I would believe them if the expiration on that one weren't three bad romantic comedies ago. I think there ought to be a reliable source on the real world.

The sappy ones would tell me, “It is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”

The real world would say something like this: “It's not worth it. Keep yourself intact, please. I'm tired of all the cosmic pain and tear-soaked soil.” Or maybe that's just me talking. Me and my great big fear of opening up.

The French celebrate the Storming of the Bastille, don't they? Perhaps it's time for my own Bastille Day.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.





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