A lot of people don’t know this. Some people know part, but now how deeply it effected me.
When I was in high school, some of my friends began calling me White Noise. They said it was because I would always try to speak, but no one would listen.
Back then, I mostly thought it was funny. Hear me tell that story now and I’ll laugh for a moment, and then get kind of sad. I knew then and know now that they didn’t mean anything malicious by it, but part of it hurt. Here were my friends, telling me that they knew I felt I had something to contribute, was trying to speak and was actively being ignored.
That got in my head.
Big parts of me retreated, especially socially. Over time, I generally stopped even trying to contribute to many conversations. I would respond to group conversations in my head, but learned to “save my breath”. I learned to recognize when someone was clued into what I had to say, and when they were only half listening. I stopped trying to talk to people while they scrolled through their phones. I became extremely frustrated by being interrupted, when I’d finally give myself a chance to speak. Group hangouts in general became beyond difficult because I’d spend much of the time trying to figure out if what I said really did matter to people, or whether I was overreacting and everyone felt this way? I stopped requesting songs or colder A/C on car rides with other people because to most people those requests fell on deaf ears.
I saw this happen among family, friends and strangers. I found out that being funny was most important because if you could make people laugh, then at least they’d hear you for a second. I found my most peace in therapy and deep conversations among a few people, where I’d finally get someone’s attention to say what I needed.
After a few years of this, I created this blog. I started writing what I wanted to say instead of saying it, because then at least I could say what I needed to. Whether people read it or responded or not mattered little to me, because I was so used to not feeling heard, I forgot how much that mattered.
I won’t often fight for people’s attention or purchase in a conversation that isn’t handed to me. I’ve learned to focus on fighting to say the most important things there are to say. I’ve learned that I communicate most efficiently through writing and get tongue-tied in important conversations. I’ve learned to love no phone zones. I’ve learned how much I love making people laugh and smile without saying much. I’ve learned to appreciate eye contact and give it to others more.
I don’t write this for pity. I actually think this has made me more patient and genuine and thoughtful and so many other positive things. I write this to make people aware that some people have learned to just watch. Some people have a lot to say, if you take the time to listen. I write this so you start to notice how often we interrupt each other, or how often people withdraw and what that looks like, or how often we have a “conversation” while scrolling through our phones and forget how important eye contact and relevant questions and interest are.
I write this so we all start noticing and appreciating the little things and big people in our life, end of story.