Learning Openness

Indicate a person who has had a significant influence on you, and describe that influence.

The air was humid and the room was wild with the excitement of children on summer vacation. There were board games, drawings, Lego creations, and a radio with the local station on. I was seated at the table with my head resting on my arm and a game of solitaire dealt out before me. I had never played it before, so I just moved the cards around and glanced up every once in a while to see the work of my artistically inclined peers.Abruptly, my chair was yanked away from the table and I was spinning. Cards fell onto the floor and I gasped before coming to a complete stop in front of one of the daycare counselors, Betty. I was only eight years old at the time, so she towered above me. My blood ran cold as I waited for her to say something. She looked at me inquisitively.“There are twenty-five other kids here, why don’t you find some to play with?” she asked.I shrugged and stared blankly at her, hoping she would release me to my card game. As with every figure of authority I encountered, I wanted as little contact as possible. I had the same preference with other people as well, although I was much less averse to talking to them if necessary. Betty, I believe, sensed that I was apprehensive around others.“Openness is important in life, and I think you’ll find that as you get older. If you can help it, try to avoid sitting alone. Just… force yourself to make friends,” she suggested.At the time, it felt like an absurd idea. How on Earth could making friends help me? Life is not a popularity contest, I would tell myself. I stood firm in my belief that I did not need other people to be happy. Just as I was bashful around others, no one could honestly expect me to speak in front of a group of people. As the years progressed, however, I discovered quickly that I was expected to do just that – regardless of my readiness for it. In my freshman year, I wrote a speech about my position on gay rights. I was afraid of sharing it, but I could think of no other topic that I felt as strongly about at the time. As I stood in front of my class, my palms began to sweat and my tongue dried out. I swallowed hard and began reading my speech. My heart raced, but I told myself to look up and make eye contact with the teacher and some students throughout the reading. The words, “Openness is important in life,” echoed around my head in encouragement. If I could be open, I would be able to avoid my anxiety. When I concluded my speech, everyone, including my numerous friends, clapped and my teacher even smiled. My confidence was undeniable. My voice never shook or faltered. I never stopped or stuttered.”Thank you, Betty,” I thought with a smile as I sat down.

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