Monday, June 4, 2012

then and now: how i used to be shy and now i'm not


I used to be painfully shy. I don't know how I made friends at school. I clearly remember sitting on the bus or in class or in the lunchroom, watching other kids socializing and being deathy afraid to say a word to any of them. When I did make friends, it was because someone talked to me first.

Somehow I made friends though, thankfully, because we moved around quite a bit while I was growing up. In second grade, my family moved from Saugus [just north of Los Angeles] to Las Vegas. The house we moved into backed up to a coldesac that was full of kids. It seemed lucky that in the house just behind us was a girl the same age as me. And guess what, we ended up being in the same class at school. We became fast friends and she introduced me to lots of other kids. I'm still so thankful for her.

The summer between 8th and 9th grade, 1999, we moved from Las Vegas to San Diego. That meant I had to start my freshman year of high school at a brand new school in a brand new town. I knew nothing and no one. Looking back on it, I think it was pretty mean of my parents to do that to me [but I've since forgiven them]. I was scared the first day. I got a map as soon as I stepped onto campus and asked each teacher to point me in the right direction to my next class. As lunch time approached, my fear grew. No one wants to sit alone at lunch, but I knew no one. And I didn't want to eat my lunch in a bathroom stall [Mean Girls reference].

I had PE just before lunch. It just so happened that there were several kids in my class who dressed like I did: punk rock. Yeah, we were pretty awesome, heh, heh. One girl came up to me and said [I remember her words ver batum]: "you dress pretty cool. want to sit with us at lunch?" "Oh thank God!" I thought. From that point on, I had someone to sit with. Eventually [and thankfully, because they were very weird] I made other friends, but it took alot of time.

Fast forward to 2005: Ben and I got married the year before, but we were still long distance the entire time because he was in Bahrain. We moved to San Diego in January to report to his new duty station: Camp Pendleton [oh how I miss you so!]. We were in a new place, again, not knowing anyone. Ben, who at the time was exactly opposite of me, made best friends in an hour. He's very outgoing, not afraid to talk to anyone and can't seem to keep people away. They love him and flock to him. He had no problem making friends at work.

I on the other hand still struggled to meet knew people because I was afraid to speak up. Over the next year and a half I did make a few friends, and thanks to Ben and a friend from work, I met one of my best, best friends. I even lived with her family for a while during a deployment.

Fast forward again to 2007: Ben re-enlisted into the Marines after we had spent a year back in Las Vegas. Again, he was stationed at Camp Pendleton [I was not complaining about that!]. This time, I was determined to make things different. This time, I wanted to make good friends, have a community of women that I cared for and who cared for me. I wanted to be able to stay in San Diego while Ben was deployed and not feel alone or disconnected. This time, I learned to speak up.

I immediately got involved in a Growth Group at church that was made up of military wives. I was shy at first, but quickly got to know all of the women in my group. I started hanging out with them outside of church. I went to women's breakfasts every month, sat at tables with people I didn't know and talked to them. I started volunteering at the local Crisis Pregnancy Center and built relationships with the other women there. We also started getting together outside of the PRC.

I volunteered as a High School Small Group leader and met other leaders. We spent time together at meetings, weekly events and camps. I had the awesome responsibility and privilege of leading the same group of young women for 3 years. I became good friends with them as well. Eventually I stepped into a leadership role as a Military Wives Growth Group leader. I communicated with and prayed for every one of the ladies in my groups. I became really good friends with most of them. And it's incredible how God has used them in my life.

Over the course of 4 years, I met and became friends with many awesome, amazing women who I love and adore. Even though many of us live in different parts of the country now, I keep in contact with them all. We don't talk nearly as often as we'd like (most of us have kids and husbands and crazy schedules) but we do talk; even if it's just a quick text: how are things going with you guys? Can you pray for me about this? What was that recipe you mentioned last time?

But had I not forced myself to step outside of me and speak up, I would have never met them. I made the conscious effort to join a small group, to volunteer, to get in my car and head to a breakfast at church, to ask someone to meet for lunch, to make a simple phone call or send an email. Over time, it became second nature.

These days, I'm the lady who strikes up random conversations with the person behind me at the grocery store. Sometimes I get weird looks, but that's okay. I'm definitely not the person I was 10 years ago. And that's not because someone else changed me. It's because I decided to change myself.

Is there something about you that you'd like to see change? Then you have to make the effort to do so. No one else is going to do it for you. Of course, you'll probably have to pray for courage and for the Lord to strip you of your fear, but it can be done. In the end, I bet you won't be disappointed and you'll be richer for it. I know I am. And thankful too: Thank you 22-year-old-Jessi, for doing the hard work back then. I really do appreciate it!

staycation 037

linking up with finding beauty in the ordinary and Casey Leigh


  1. Wow this sounds all too familiar. I was a turtle up until high school, then quickly came out of my shell when I was thrust into the real world of college! Glad to have found you through Cup 1/2 full :)

    xo Shane

  2. what a wonderful story of growth! It sounds like the Lord was challenging you to step outside of your comfort zone and you prevailed! I think it is so great you found Christian women through your Growth Group...its crazy that because you share the same faith, you often share the same views on MANY other things, bonding you from the beginning. And like you, my dad started a new high school as a sophomore (and his sister was a senior!) I cannot imagine that!

  3. This was so encouraging today! I'm moving to Ft Worth in the fall to go to seminary and I'm so scared that I won't be able to make new friends. But, like you said, if I get involved and seek after relationships I will find them.

  4. This is super encouraging! I had a friend that I met in late elementary school who helped push me outside of that bubble. So thankful for that friendship. Then I started dating and eventually married a guy who will start conversations with anyone anytime. I am slowly growing outside my shyness, but the big challenge is coming for me later this year. Praying that God can help me to make that choice to be bold.
    Alesha <3

  5. great post! i struggle with those same things.. being afraid to speak up and having a hard time getting to know people, but sad i don't have as many friends as i would like... thanks for the encouragement that i can change that!!

  6. I was always the shy girl too!! I ended up graduating high school and although I loved most of my experiences, I always wished that I had been more me and more outgoing! So when I started college I decided I was gonna try to be more myself, take it or leave it! :)