(I’m guilty of throwing around a Pinterest quote or two about the dangers of looking back to the past, ‘not looking back because you’re not going there’, yadda yadda. Allow me this one moment though, I promise there’s a point to it.)
During my primary school years, my mother recently said, I was the happiest she’d ever seen me. We were driving past my former primary school, the place that still brings a smile to my face when I see it. More like a grin, if I’m being honest. That’s why I couldn’t deny what she’d said; I really was my happiest back then.
You’ll be hard-pressed to find anyone who would say they weren’t at their happiest as a child. It goes with the territory, doesn’t it? No bills to pay, no bosses to report to, no taxes to file and mortgages to worry about. Did you even know how to spell mortgage as a child? Don’t answer that.
Looking back, I was happy because all was well. And by well I mean no conflict. I attended an all-girls’ Catholic primary school where as classmates, we all got along, probably because we all liked the same things, and went to the same places, more or less.
Formed by All the Fun We Had
My parents were your typical middle-class parents who encouraged me to get involved in some form of extra-curricular activity. Some form turned into all forms, but who’s counting? I swam, I sang in at least two choirs, I danced for a bit, I tried out karate, I did choral-speaking. Again, who’s counting? None of these were forced upon me, mind you. Most of us were curious about whatever we thought would be ‘fun’ at the time and tried it all out. Swimming stuck with me the longest, and choir-singing.
I’m a firm believer in children having at least one extra-curricular activity. I loved every minute of many of the sports and activities in which I got involved. On the more ‘serious’ side of things, looking back they fostered discipline that every parent wants their child to have, well into adulthood.
A Culture of Blissful Innocence
What helped my love for extracurricular activities, and curricular ones in my pre-adolescent years though, was without a doubt the people around me. They say the culture of an organisation or company makes it what it is, and the people ultimately make the culture. If that’s true, my classmates made the culture of my school, and the culture of my school made it the blissful seven years that it was.
We enjoyed the same things, more or less, and even if there was some difference in our hobbies, interests or personalities, no one took it as an affront or punished another because of it. If I had to paint a picture of our days it would be a Picasso of NSYNC and Backstreet Boys playlists on our Discman CD Players, sharing cheese snacks on the bus on our way to the pool for swimming class, passing around invitations to our birthday Pizza Hut birthday parties.
Wearing Joy Like A Badge
Looking back though, the sweetest thing about how we got along was that we would simply let each other be and everyone existed within their particular peer group, all peer groups co-existing effortlessly. If you’re reading this and we went to primary school together, oh, no, it’s not too late. If you’re reading this, we were quite a mature and terrific bunch of young ladies, wise beyond our years. Hats off to us. It’s safe to say I wore my joy like a badge everyday because my primary school life brought me exactly that, joy. It was that comfort that allowed me to focus on my academics and ace the exam that assigned me to a ‘prestige’ secondary school.
Strolling into Social Anxiety: The Turning Point
I turned twelve years old and the time to transfer to secondary school came around. I was convinced that going to such a ‘good school’ as the nation generally perceived it, I would be surrounded by girls that were just like me, and we would all get along just fine. I was excited, I was hopeful, I was ready to learn, to make great friends, and to have fun. I packed up that joy and took it with me to my first day; then the second, then the fourth, fifth, and so on. But was I wrong for feeling that way, and for not being guarded?
Then one day, all of that was snatched from me in literally the blink of an eye. It was the day that changed me, the ‘happy-go-lucky’ girl. Stick with me throughout this, well, multiple-part series, and you’ll hear all about it. Till next time, for Part 2 of My Social Anxiety Story.