My earliest memory: I was about two and a half years old outside of our garden apartment complex in Great Neck clutching my adored teddy bear, while sitting on the wooden bench with my twenty-five year old mother. I stared at a little girl several feet away playing by herself, her mother speaking loudly to a friend next to her while partially monitoring her daughter. I was shy and quiet but wanted a meaningful connection… even at that age. “Do you think that little girl would want to play with me?” I whispered to my mother. She encouraged me to go over and ask her. She nodded and gave me a bit of a verbal push. I slowly approached her, teddy in hand. “Would you like to play?” I courageously offered. She screamed a resounding “No” while simultaneously grabbing my beloved stuffed animal and dunking it in a nearby bucket of tar and threw it back to me. I quickly ran to my mother trembling and crying. After I tearfully recounted my traumatic story, she assured me that she was a mean child who would never appreciate my friendship and promised me that a good tumble in the washer would restore the color to my tar-matted bear. It did; however the eyes disappeared forever and my vision was never quite the same…
At five, we moved to Flushing Queens, where I began Kindergarten in September 1962. In those days, there was no pre- school. This was to be my first school experience. Since I was an introverted, intuitive, feeling child, I approached this new adventure with fear and trepidation while being hopeful that I would make a deep and loving connection with my teacher- a kind of mommy away from home. I definitely needed to feel valued and nurtured, as all children do, but this was essential for an hsp ( highly sensitive person) to flourish emotionally.
Mrs. Fell was intimidating: definitely not my idea of a nurturer. I desperately wanted to earn her love and validation. I always lived in my dreams and fantasies. I would visualize what my goals were before I really knew the technique of visualization. I recall getting lost in the art shows my mother let me watch on Channel 13, which was the learning station at that time. Riveted while watching a sculptor create a Grecian mother and child from clay, I decided right then and there, that the next day in class, I would choose the clay table and recreate this amazing work of art.
I prodded and molded the clay into what I thought was a masterpiece. I imagined that Mrs. Fell would meander past the art station and stop in adoration at the piece I had worked so hard to attain. I imagined that she would appreciate my work so much that she would personally escort me to the principal to show it off and possibly recommend it to be placed into one of the school’s glass showcases. She and my parents would be so proud and maybe, just maybe she would appreciate this introverted child who barely spoke in class. Maybe she would like me and show some warmth.
I saw her approaching me with my peripheral vision. My posture straightened in excitement and pride and my heart was pounding as I was getting was ready to explain my sculpture. “What did you make?” she stoically questioned arms crossed against her chest. I beamed proudly and explained that it was a Grecian mother and child. Before I knew it, her palm slammed down upon my sculpture flattening every curve and nuance. “Why can’t you just be like all of the other children and make pancakes and snowmen?” she blurted out in frustration. I don’t think I ever said another word in her class again and retreated into my inner world of fear (of her), reflection, observation, and imagination.
The following year I moved to Long Beach in Long Island, New York and started first grade at East Elementary School. Miss L was the kindest, most caring teacher in the world who valued every child in the class for his/her innate gifts and personalities. I flourished and gained tremendous confidence that year. Though I remained quiet and reflective, she nurtured who I was and I never looked back. The last day of school, I remember hysterically crying to my mother upon my arrival home. She nervously questioned me as I gasped for breath in between each word. I – will – never – see – Miss – L- again … Today we are friends on Facebook and I have repeatedly communicated to her how much she has impacted my life.
Throughout elementary school, I remained happy and content. I had a few close friends and always preferred deep and meaningful conversations. Too much social contact drained my energy. I remained quiet and shy up until the age of twelve, when I discovered community theatre. I found that I could emote and relate quite well to an audience. Surprisingly, many people you never would suspect are introverts are actors and comics. I had found my outlet which always allowed me to imagine, reflect and fantasize.
As a teenager, I always had a handful of treasured close friends and we would spend hours in deep conversation ruminating endlessly about life and all its possibilities. I tended to get lost in my inner world of thoughts, feelings, and ideas while listening to Broadway songs and soulful folk music. I would journal for hours and would create song lyrics about the social issues of the time. I was usually happy within, although large crowds and small talk would continue drain me after a while. I always needed alone time to re-energize.
Today most people do not recognize me as an introvert. They are truly shocked. I am able to extrovert myself comfortably in numerous situations. I love to be around my treasured friends and give many parties at my home which I designed to actually mimic a social club. I like to make sure everyone feels welcome, happy and comfortable. Once I see that everyone is taken care of, I actually leave my own party. No one notices, for it is usually for 5 or 10 minutes. I sneak up to my room to re-energize so I can be fresh for another few hours of reveling in my own environment, dancing with abandon in the light and love of my cherished friendships…