I was a ridiculously shy kid.
I think, to some extent, that part of me still peeks out into the world on the odd occasion.
I remember having a HUGE crush on the girl I was partnered with at my brother’s wedding (yes, I was one of those kids). We sat in the back seat of her parents’ car on a trip from Bloemfontein to Johannesburg. Perfect chance to strike-up a little convo, right?
Five hundred kilometers and all I mustered were random glances towards her before all my thoughts would scramble into chaos. I even played a game. “Ok, ok,” I told myself. “After we pass the next garage, I’m gonna start talking.”
I can’t believe I’m telling you this.
Well, let’s just say the last garage we saw was the black one in our yard as I was dropped off. And with it came the crushing reality that I had blown a perfect chance to get somewhere with this girl.
I was 14. Still a freshman in high school and nowhere near as chatty as I turned out when I finished. Don’t get me wrong, It’s not like Lesego (my partner) and I said nothing to each other over the course of the wedding, we did squeeze in an interaction here and there. I guess it also didn’t help that she was as soft-spoken as I was at that stage.
I had such an arresting fear of girls. A complete mental block at times.
A crippling chorus of “what-am-I-gonna-say” reverberating in my head.
My cousin Fortune and I still laugh at what now seems so pathetic, even for a boy going through that phase in his personal journey to the mack. Fortune had no such issues.
He’s a year older than me and we went to Springs Boys High School together as I spent those years living with my uncle. Always had a way with the ladies, he has.
I watched him closely and as my own shyness wore off – particularly in my final years of high school and beyond – and tried to replicate his seamless wit in that regard.
Anyway, this post is not going to be a “zero-to-hero” kind of reflection of my exploits with the fairer gender. But more an admission of my difficulties with finding my feet in a new environment.
It takes time for me to be completely assimilated into a new setting. Although I’ve learned to use my humour as a shield in moments of awkwardness (I joke around to mask my vulnerability), it can take a careful treading of unfamiliar territory for me to eventually be settled.
I was just thinking back to how my Rhodes journey started and the navigation it took for me to feel as assured as I do at present.
Coming up next is another demanding chapter on the academic front.
All hands on deck.