Monday, February 24, 2014

on being the new girl

(Waldi & I on a trip to Germany, before we knew we would be moving)

I am an introvert, and for the most part, proud of it. All my life it's been this way, though I've certainly gone through phases of attempted extroversion. I've also gone through phases of extreme shy-ness. Once in the second grade, a classmate asked me a question on the playground. I suppose I surprised him by answering, because he ran around yelling "Ruth can talk, Ruth can talk" for the rest of the break, shocked that I had actually spoken. 

In high school, I used to bring a book with me most places, in case I found myself in the awkward situation of not knowing anyone and having to make small talk. (I hate small talk and will still, to this day, go through any number of complicated maneuvers to avoid it) 

my entire life, I have hated that feeling of being the new girl

Though to some extent I was expecting it, I was unaware of how drastically I would feel this when I moved here. Even with my husband's family, people who I had met before and who were willing and excited to get to know me, I felt mostly out of place. I felt that there were aspects of my personality that I simply couldn't share with them, that there were things about me (important things, essential things even) that they simply did not know. And it wasn't really their fault. 

But it wasn't mine either. I mean, let's face it: extremely introverted personality + inability to speak the language + complex fear of being the new girl does not add up to the best conditions for making friends. Add in the constant question of which form of you to use- formal (Sie) or informal (du), and the fact that I can pronounce neither my first or last name correctly in German and you've got yourself a pretty serious conundrum...

For the first few months I lived in Marburg, the library was my best friend. I discovered a rather large selection of English books on the top floor (!) and every couple of weeks I would walk there faithfully, and find new books to bring home with me. But there comes a point where even the most dedicated bookworm needs to put down her books and simply talk to people she does not know.

This wasn't easy, and involved doing things that scared me almost daily. I joined a class on a topic that interested me (with Waldi of course, I'm not that brave). I got to know some of the people I saw in language classes every day. I summoned the courage to invite people to my home, or to ask if they wanted to meet up for a coffee. It sounds simple- boring even, but I assure you it most certainly was not. It was perhaps on of the hardest things I've ever had to do. 

But as it usually goes with things that challenge us, it was totally worth it. I'm happy to say that most days, I can see clearly how much easier it's become. Oh, hindsight- so illusive, yet so essential in helping us see how we've grown, and what we have to be thankful for. I try and focus on these things, and to trust that every day will get a little bit better. 

(note: I still make regular trips to the library, albeit not quite as frequently!)

(also, if you're interested in the whole introvert/extrovert conversation, I highly recommend this Ted Talk)

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