My mother served a healthy portion of Southern manners alongside helpings of black-eyed peas, hominy and cornbread. I learned to put others before myself, to give up the best, to step aside and go last. Factored into this training was the fact that shyness plagued me. You might not guess it now, but as a child I was embarrassed even to breathe.
Given my upbringing, it’s not surprising I had no defense tactics for commuting in a crowd to and from my desk job in a Seattle skyscraper. Each morning I donned business clothes and tennis shoes, left my house around 5 am, parked my car and boarded a bus to the ferry terminal. I then joined the herd of commuters riding across Puget Sound to Seattle. At first I tried to find a bit of quiet, but privacy was in scarce supply on the commuter ferry runs. After I disembarked on the Seattle side of the water, I often walked the uphill mile to work rather than press into a crowded bus amongst even more strangers.
Obviously, this experience forced me to confront my shyness. People were everywhere and my survival required I interact with them. But I learned a deeper lesson as the other commuters jostled and stepped in front of me in their rush to leave the ferry. If I let everyone else go first, I’d be the last one off and late to work. Shoving in front of others wasn’t my style, but I would take my position in the crowd and hold my ground, sometimes in the face of rudeness. I learned when to go first and when to hold back. I learned where I fit in the crowd.
Note to Self: There’s a place in the crowded publishing landscape for me. While there are times to let others go first, other times I need to hold my ground.
©2014 by Janalyn Voigt