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Silence: The Epitome of Inner Strength This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

I am walking around a library, a place inhabited by a silence too rich to describe and a calmness that pleases the heart. Miles of books decorate the polished shelves that seem to be either brand new or torn at the edges. The shelves encase the variety of books, magazines and flyers all aligned in an orderly fashion. I hear the smooth turns of paper and the gentle clacking of computer keys. The smell of curiosity, knowledge and insight linger around my nose and give me a tingling sensation. I call it my second home as it embodies a safe haven, cozy and comfy in its entirety. Deep in thought, I scan through the rows of books until I pick out a thick book with words so tiny that I have to squint to read them. The outside of the book was simple with a simple title and nothing too flamboyant. I read the summary on the back of the front cover. The summary tells the story of a girl who has poor social skills, dreading her time at parties and wanting to escape all the ruckus by fleeing to her room. Yes, she is not your typical city girl. Sophistication and high-maintenance do not fascinate her. She is painted as someone who is anti-social, self-centered and timid by her family. I immediately close the book and take a somewhat loud gasp. As I look at my reflection through the glossy cover of the book, I realize that this girl is me.

The pin drop silence in the room reminds me of the setting that I am in delivering a speech. Eyes were gawking at me as I stood calm on the outside, but a nervous wreck on the inside. I was always told to think of my audience dressed up as chickens, but not even the most ridiculous piece of advice could change my feelings on speaking aloud. In that moment, my first few words came out and everyone’s attention was on me. I could compare myself to the excitement one has when picking out a fresh new book that is given all the attention that one could to an inanimate object. I was the book and the possessor was my audience listening in to every detail of my life. After I uttered the next few sentences, I began to cry, burying my face into my sweaty palms. My teacher came up to me and offered some deeply needed words of comfort. After the tears had dried away, there was a short period where I came to conclude that I became so emotional not because of the topic I was speaking about, but because I was experiencing classic symptoms of speech anxiety: doubt, a shaky voice, and a cornucopia of fears. There was the added pressure of those eyes fixated at me and ears tuning into every word that departed from my mouth. There was this longing inside of me to receive praise and to receive the approval of my peers.

I close the book dismayed by the nostalgia it brought back, but keep it in my hands. Ready to peruse the rest of the selection of books, the simplicity of the library’s structure and design caught my attention. This simplicity reminded me of the family that I grew up with whose modesty instilled in me could have caused my reservation. My mother’s intuition paired with my father’s sternness were the two main factors leading me to be unsurprised that my silence is accepted amongst my parents more than my peers. I was taught to lower my voice, keep my gaze low and to think before I speak. I do accept the fact that I can never outgrow my nature, but there was always this longing to be like that chatterbox and not just some loser in the corner. It was a normal day in P.E. while we were playing softball. The field was occupied with ravenous students ready to slaughter each other. I sure did not have the same attitude. I was counting down the minutes until the culmination of class and sulking in my own despair. It was one of my greatest fears. Not softball itself, but allowing a bad mentality to enter my mind and prevent me from performing my best. While everyone cheered on each player who made their way to bat, I tried to stay away from the commotion. The cheers echoed across the field until it was my turn to bat. I did not despise anyone nor did I want to participate in such a tumultuous environment. I was at bat and at that moment, there was a burden on my shoulders that could not be avoided. The previous batter handed me the heavy bat and I was on my way. The pitcher threw the ball and it came at me at light speed but I missed not once, not twice, but three times. I could complain all day about his poor pitching skills, or how heavy the bat was or the energy lacking in my whole body. But no, I lacked the confidence necessary to be successful in this endeavor. I let my brain psych me out instead of ignoring all the hype. Yes, I let my team down but I also let myself down.

I came home that day and my mother, as usual asked me how my day was. I replied ‘’it was fine.’’ Unless I was crying or in severe pain, everyday was just like any other day. I never shared my struggles with my own mother. I never could go up to her and share even the most painful struggle. It wasn’t because she wasn’t approachable or busy. It was that inner struggle that hindered me from opening up. There is certain extent of information that a person should know about you. For me, I had more trouble sharing my secrets with her than to my friends. Where kids my age would go to the movies together and plan parties making memories as time went on, I would be the one would back away and enter my own party, the one- girl party with myself and my mind.

Being quiet has its perks. There is this inner solitude and an incredible amount of thinking going on that cannot necessarily be verbalized. When no one is around me, I have this freedom that I can do and say as I please. I can watch a heart-stopping movie or cuddle up with a book. I can be carefree and lazy and feel all this vibrant energy approaching me progressively. There is no negativity. I don’t have to deal with my siblings and their constant bickering or hear the commotion in the hallways of school. But wait, I feel stronger. Silence has given me an emotional strength. An athlete gets his strength working out vigorously and keeping an optimistic attitude. He will force his body to adapt to the demanding conditions in order to become more agile, quick and strong. Conversely, my strength comes within. The source of my strength lies within my ability to listen, to observe, and to learn. I traveled to Pakistan in the summer of 2007. School was almost out and the wind was brushing over the city, leaving the land refined. My household was in a frenzy. Clothes were flying everywhere; it was like all of the objects in the house were all laid out in front me in a jumbled fashion. My mother was packing gifts, clothes, pretty much everything. Then there was me. I sat on the bed just observing every action being performed. When asked to, I would help out. Otherwise, I just sat there, my eyes glancing back and forth, my shoulders slouching forward, not moving a muscle. Of course I was excited to go back and lay in the heat brought to me like a nightmare. I wanted to see them after refusing to answer any of their phone calls. I wanted to go there and clear all of their misconceptions. One of my cousins had a friend over almost everyday who shared so many of her own personal stories that I felt like a shadow in the dust. I just listened and listened, but soon I became tired of listening and wanted to tell her how much she was ignoring me. Does she even know that I am there? Or am I just the third wheel? I soon became envious of her friend. Call me envious, selfish, call me all the negative adjectives in the dictionary, but this is when it dawned on me. How long will it take for her to understand? How long will it take for the world to stop looking down upon me? This wait is strangling me and forcing me into a deep dark hole. I have to reopen the book and returned to this story that is luring me in word by word.

I’ve had enough of these unnecessary memories inside in my mind. I need to leave but I can’t leave the quiet whispers floating around. Taking a step outside would be an action that I cannot risk. The world doesn’t give me the stamp of approval. Everywhere I am whether with friends or by myself, I strive to be the crowd pleaser in a more calm way, but I know it will never be good enough. I do accept the fact that we are all different and we all have our own natures. However. there are some misconceptions carved into the minds of society. People have come up to me and asked me ’’You’re just quiet by nature, right?’’ ‘’Or else you would tell us if something was wrong.’’ Rude, anti-social, boring and self-centered are the usual labels that get stuck on my forehead. I can’t ignore them. I’m not too good to talk to you nor do I dislike socializing. My way is what I am naturally inclined to.

Silence. It can be considered as dangerous and is criticized widely. It is learning how to listen when others are speaking. It is connecting with your inner self and straying away spiritually. Whereas speaking has the power to speak volumes and connect with people, silence keeps us away from hurting people on more extreme levels. I was told that the ‘’quiet ones have the loudest minds.’’ Finding the right words never seemed so hard until it comes back and hits me in the face. It is upsetting that those who are more socially inclined always get the upper edge in the world. I’m upset that I can never fit in with other people, that something always sets me back from interacting with others. I’m upset that I am full of contradictions. I am upset that I am so critical of others, but hate when I am being criticized. I am upset that others think I am self-centered, when in fact, I just want some time alone. I mean I do have friends and I can go to parties when its not a hassle. Sure, it will take some time for me to break out of my shell, but a large part of me will stay like the reserved person I am.

The world praises those that are more outgoing and criticize the quiet people. I was like that one torn up book at the library that no one would borrow because there was a brand new book right beside it waiting to be opened and read. The new book craves attention like outgoing people, while the old book has no choice but to sit there in dread similar to the feelings of timid people. It waits days, which turn into months, which turn into years until it is picked up. Standing next to the dust-free book, it can do nothing but wait. The same applies to me; I can wait days until my shyness is conquered, until I hit a ball confidently, and until I can open up by sharing my most deepest experiences. I will become a flying book with wings soaring atop the mountains and over the gleaming oceans.

But being quiet is better than being a party animal. Sure, I might not be as satisfied with myself, but maybe the key here is to let loose. Is it better to sit at parties alone while others chat away? No, wait. The world needs those who are enthusiastically-charged also. They don’t question the impressiveness or humaneness of their actions. No, that does not fix anything. I can only hope for balance between both sides of the scale. This is what America has succumb to. I check out this book and here comes the challenge. I walk to the door, tracking every one of my steps. My body is in a frenzy, but my brain wants me to slow down, creating a jumble of feelings. I stand behind the door and now it’s a battle between me and my identity. I’m afraid. A rush of blood travels down my body from my brain. Book in hand, I decide to step outside onto the hard cement. No one can stop me now.



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