A Little Shy

I recently told a friend, in the context of a wider conversation, that on a scale of “none” to “I’m the most awesome person ever”, my self-esteem is probably around a 6. I don’t know if that’s actually true. I don’t know what a self-esteem of 6 means. I teach DP Psychology and Theory of Knowledge and I can tell you all about the many problems with rating scales. Hopefully, so can my students.

The point I was trying to make is that self-confidence is not my strong suit. I am, as I have written before, shy. It takes effort to introduce myself to new people and I am so nervous before doing it. More than once, when unsure of whether or not I should say hello to someone I vaguely know, I have intentionally walked more slowly than normal when getting off the bus behind them. True story.

That I am shy sometimes surprises people. Get me in a space where I’m comfortable and you’d never know. I hardly know because that’s when I stop being shy. Meet me in a time or place where I know one other person in a huge room and I’m no longer shy, even if that one other person is nowhere to be seen.

At a PD course on social-emotional learning a number of years ago, I realized that I am best described as an extroverted introvert. I like time alone. I like the quiet. I am content out in the world by myself. When anxious, scared, upset, or stressed, I find equanimity when I have the space to pull myself together without anyone else interfering. But I also love people. I love my friends and my family. I love parties and groups and conversations. My happiest memories, with very few exceptions, are with others. But sometimes, others are a bit too much and then I need a break to reset. An extroverted introvert.

Sometimes I play a game that I call, “If I were Mary”. Mary is a real person, the second friend I made in high school, and a friend to this day. The most outgoing person I know. She always has a million people to see, things to do, places to go, and an astonishing ability to say “yes” to everything. Just the thought of being Mary makes me want to curl up into a hole and wait until it’s over, but sometimes she inspires a game. “If I were Mary” I’d say hello to this person. “If I were Mary” I’d go to this party. “If I were Mary” I would have stopped thinking about it and done it already.

I’m not Mary, but sometimes it’s easier to pretend and do the things I think Mary would do. (Obviously I have grossly oversimplified this very real, complex person for the sake of example. Just go with it.) I think this is something I first practiced doing theatre in high school. It is not me, it is the character. How would the character respond, reply, react? I have embodied characters for the stage and played them in the real world. Sometimes it’s easier to pretend.

The times when I worry are the times when I realize I am spending too much time alone, whether out in the world or not. Too much time with just what is going on in my head – my own thoughts, my own ideas, my own musings. There’s a reason I seek out people who I can talk with.

This is why I think I often do better with a buddy, a partner, a person. I haven’t yet sat with my neighbours outside in the courtyard. I haven’t yet gone to the weekly meet-up at the climbing gym. I haven’t yet ridden my bike to the next town (though in fairness, I only got it two days ago). I am braver when I am pulled outside of my own head, and then I can be comfortably left to my own devices.

And yet, this is true to what I know of the experience of adjustment. This is not new. What is new is the place, which means a new adjustment. A new adventure. It is this adventure to be embraced, not an adventure that only exists in my mind. It is this adventure that I will come to know, and this story that I will be able to tell.

All of this is part of the story.

Traveler, there is no path, the path must be forged as you walk. – Antonio Machado

Weimar, Germany – July 2021

Podcast Interview #3

About a year ago, I had the privilege of recording an episode of IB Teacher Talk with my colleagues Dan and Rachael. We talked about all things DP Psychology and Theory of Knowledge. You can find the link to that episode here.

Right after school ended this year, I was back in Dan’s kitchen (shh that’s probably supposed to be a secret) to record another episode, this time a brief overview of the international teaching experience. You can have a listen here. We all really appreciate your support and hope that you enjoy and learn something!

(And if you’re interested in hearing me talk about the Extended Essay, you can find the link to my very first podcast interview on Ivy League Prep Academy here.)

Change of Scenery

I fell asleep on a plane in the skies above southeast Asia, landed in Frankfurt, took three trains and a taxi, and ended up in the city I now live in. Or, I will officially live here once I have my registration documents. (To that end, look out for the upcoming post that I’ve preliminarily titled “What I Learned When I Moved to Germany During a Pandemic”.)

Everything is different here.

Park an der Ilm

The weeds are the wildflowers of my childhood, names that I didn’t know then and don’t know now. The trees remind me of home.

The air feels crisp and smells like flowers and the sky. There are no tall buildings and the only ambient noise is that of chirping birds. I’ve actually had to lower the volume on my phone to stop it from being so jarring. It’s like my senses have woken up all over again.

To some degree, I’m romanticizing difference, and this is normal when I travel. But to another degree, I’m paying attention and from what I see, the buildings look like a fairytale.

But let us not forget that real people live here, and people leave signs of who they are. This is also something to respect about the places that we come to know.

I took a walk through a cemetery and smiled at the irony. We learn about the lives of places through their dead.

Weimar is an old, historic town and it has some illustrious names associated with it. I’ve particularly enjoyed the markers on buildings that begin with the words, “Hier wohnte . . .” and include names, dates, and brief descriptions. There are statues and house museums, as well, which I have not yet explored. It seems like there will be time for that, but the lessons of the pandemic loom large.

Coming from densely populated, glittery-modern-meets-old-trading-town Singapore on the tip of mainland Southeast Asia, this is a big change. It’s one that I worked hard for and hopefully it will be what I hope it will be. Stay tuned!

Photos, travels, musings, and ideas on education by someone trying to make the world a better and more peaceful place