Battle with Shyness

By: Argela-Vi Andrey H. Malanao

“You are too shy.”

“Speak up.”

“You need to be more confident.”

“You need to look up some more.”

These were the words Ava always heard. People kept reminding her like it was etched on her forehead. She couldn’t help being a shy girl. Ava was a project. She was short. She wasn’t smart. She wasn’t pretty. She didn’t play any sport. She also didn’t have any sort of skill. “There is nothing I can be confident for,” she thought.

Ava wanted to improve. She was the type of girl who extremely valued what others thought, especially if they were her parents. So, she started with school. Her parents expected a GPA of 4.0 from her. She wanted to deliver. She studied really hard and was able to slowly tiptoe towards their expectations. By the end of the first semester, she got a GPA of 3.5. This was something that Ava was so proud of.

“3.5? You can do so much better than that! Study hard. It doesn’t seem like you’re studying.” This was how her mother reacted when she found out about Ava’s GPA. Ava was devastated. She was expecting her mother to at least congratulate her in anyway. But, she didn’t. She didn’t even smile. Ava decided to give herself another chance to get a GPA of 4.0. She pushed herself even harder. At the end of the second semester, she got a GPA of 3.46. It still didn’t satisfy her parents.

For the third and final semester, she decided to work on something that wasn’t related to academics. Ava turned to sports. She joined the varsity team in her school for volleyball. However, she was so bad at it. During all the 20 practices, she only hit the ball once. She was so scared of it. A game of volleyball would turn into dodgeball with her. One day, one of her coaches talked to her about how she keeps running away from the ball. Ava was such a small girl that time. She got so scared and just ran off. That was the end of her beginning with volleyball.

By the next academic year, she got new classmates. Ava was still such a shy girl. It got even worse after her talk with her coach. However, she tried to fight her shyness by making a friend.

“Hello, my name is Ava. What is your name,” Ava asked.

“I’m Alyssa,” her new friend replied. Ava was so keen on making Alyssa her best friend. She wanted Alyssa to like her. So, she did a lot of things to gain her trust. One time, she had to share a paper with Alyssa. The paper was unevenly cut. Instead of taking the better piece, she got the ugly one and gave the better one to Alyssa. Soon, they were best friends.

Another thing that Ava did to fight her shyness was act. For a group project, she had to act. Not only did Ava have to act for a lot of people, but it was also graded. Ava had to look convincing and had to speak loudly. She practiced her lines and prepared her costume. Ava ended up just getting a passing grade. Their whole group just got a passing grade. She felt bad because her effort put into acting didn’t pay off. Aside from that, her group mates got mad at her for not acting well. Even her parents got mad at her because her grades were getting lower. Ava was losing her fight against her shyness.

Ava always thought that she was inferior to everyone in every given situation. So, when Alyssa fought her, she did nothing but cry. She always takes the thoughts of people into consideration. She cried because Alyssa, the person she valued so much, was fighting her. Alyssa was her best and only friend. Ava was a very kind girl. She never thought badly of anyone. She had multiple fights with Alyssa. She didn’t want to lose her first and only friend. So, she tried not to fight back. Alyssa and Ava just went on and off. Alyssa would start a fight. Ava would try to fight back a little. Alyssa would make the fight even bigger. Ava would end up saying sorry.

After three years, Ava decided to continue her fight with her shyness. She decided to join a dance competition. So, for five weeks, Ava practiced with 24 other people in her batch for a dance competition. She juggled all her school works, home

responsibilities, and dance practices. She wanted this performance to be absolutely perfect. She had been going through all the steps in her head. She wanted to be perfect.

Now, there she was. She was in her costume with a full face of makeup. She had her hair curled and wore a flower crown. She wasn’t as thin and as tall as all of the girls in the group, but she didn’t mind that. She was too focused on the dance. As the music started to play, she started counting. “One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight,” she chanted. She danced her heart out, all the while recalling the steps in her head. Ava enjoyed dancing. She considered dancing to be her hobby. She loved and enjoyed it a lot.

During the awarding ceremony, Ava and her group were seated together on the floor. They were all hoping to get the award for being an outstanding dancer. They were also hoping to win first place for the whole competition. Unlike the rest of the group, Ava had her eyes shut and her fingers crossed. “The last outstanding dancer is Ava,” said the emcee. Ava smiled widely and got up to the stage to receive the award. She was so happy that her hard work was recognized. It was also her first time getting an award in a competition. She felt like she was on top of the world.

Instead of going back to sit with her group, Ava decided to sit with her best friend. Her best friend, Alyssa, was seated right next to the group. So, she no longer felt the need to sit with the group. “Congratulations! You were amazing out there,” Alyssa told Ava. Ava thanked her with a smile. Alyssa had a weird look on her face. It was like she was hiding something. “Is there something wrong?” Ava asked. “Savannah and Erin talked to me about you earlier,” Alyssa told her with an annoyed expression. Ava’s smile dropped. “They were saying that you shouldn’t have gotten the award,” Alyssa continued. “Well, maybe they’re just jealous,” Ava replied. Alyssa nodded in agreement.

When she arrived home, she was congratulated by her family. Ava just smiled and went up to her room. Ava did her best to hide what she really felt about what Alyssa

told her. It hurt her. She thought she did really well during the dance. She thought she nailed it. However, her group didn’t think the same.

“Did I ruin the dance?” Ava asked herself. “Maybe that’s why our group didn’t win the competition,” she realized. She washed off the makeup on her face and changed into her pajamas. She tucked herself in bed and decided that, from now on, she would stop dancing.

The next morning, it was Saturday. Instead of slacking off like most students, she prepared her table for studying. She needed to continue her fight with her shyness. Ava had been failing all of her math tests. Her scores weren’t just one or two points below passing. Her scores were so close to zero. Ava couldn’t even understand why she had been failing. Her parents thought it was because of the frequent dance practices. However, Ava got more studious when she started practicing for the dance competition. She studied more because she didn’t want to let her grades go down just because she was doing what she enjoyed. However, that was exactly what happened.

Some students wouldn’t really care if they failed their tests, especially if it was a math test. It was understandable if you failed math tests. However, Ava’s parents couldn’t understand that. Her parents still expected a GPA of 4.0 from Ava. Ava could never deliver it to them. Aside from that, her school had a way of making sections. They had the top 30 students put in one class and all the other students put in other random sections. Alyssa was on the list of the top 30 students. Actually, Alyssa was top 2. If Ava doesn’t study enough, she wouldn’t be able to stay in the same section as her best friend.

Ava then decided to get a tutor for math. As the school year went by, she realized that the tutorials she was taking didn’t really have an effect on her. It just maintained her grades. She passed all her tests, but she still got the same grade she got when she was failing all her tests. It was so confusing for her. At the end of the year, she found out that

she was still part of the top 30 students. She was happy, but not as happy as she thought she would be. Ava wanted more.

She was so determined to not just be at the top 30. She wanted to be part of the top 20, top 10 even. So, when summer came, she decided to take summer classes for math. She came to class with just a small notebook and a pen. She expected there to be a lot of students in the class, so she didn’t bother to bring a lot of things. She thought she could just ask from her classmates who would attend. Turns out, she was the only one part of the class.

Her teacher, Sir Joshua, was one of the strictest teachers in the whole school. It was as if she was going to battle when she went for her one hour class. Ava felt like he was looking at her like she was stupid. She had never felt so small in her life. Upon coming home, she decided to study math and memorize all the squares and cubes of certain numbers. The next day, she came to school prepared. She brought her notebook, multiple pens, correction tape, pad papers, index cards, and a folder. She was doing well on her second day of summer class. Sir Joshua looked quite shocked when Ava knew the answers in class.

Ava got through six full weeks of summer class. By the end of it, she had changed. She became responsible. She started to love and enjoy math. She also met a boy. Well, she didn’t actually meet him. They just talked online. He was from her school, but wasn’t part of the top 30. His name was Carter.

Carter said things that Ava had never been told before. She was so whipped. She would end up smiling at her phone from the start of the day to the end of it. It didn’t seem real to her. Ava was the shortest of the short, the dumbest of the smart, and the most uninteresting of the uninteresting. There was nothing you could see in her, at least that’s what she thought.

By the time the next school year came, Ava and Carter had already confessed to each other that they liked each other. They had never met in real life before. So, the first day of school was a big day for Ava.

“So, how are we going to meet?” Ava asked Carter online.

“Library?” Carter replied.

“Sure, sleep well,” Ava answered.

The next day, Ava woke up so early. She hated being late. She got to the shower and made sure she cleaned every inch of her body. She didn’t want to end up smelling bad on this very special day. After, she got dressed and sprayed a ton of perfume on herself. She attempted to tame her unruly hair before deciding that this was the best she was going to be. Ava was getting so nervous. “What if he isn’t what I imagined him to be? What if I’m not what he imagined me to be?” She thought. She shook her head and took a deep breath.

“Hey,” Carter greeted with a smile.

“Hi,” Ava greeted shyly. She was a shy girl ever since she was born. She was also afraid of boys. Now, she was actually talking to one. Carter shifted back and forth. They both didn’t know what to do.

“Let’s sit,” Carter coaxed. They sat for a full minute in silence. Ava didn’t know where to look. She had never done this thing before.

“So… How was your day?” Ava asked, finally breaking the silence.

“It was alright. I don’t really like my classmates. What about you?” He responded.

“It was great. My classmates are still the same,” Ava replied while looking down. Ava was a bit disappointed. Carter wasn’t how she imagined him to be. However, Ava decided to just brush this thought. “Maybe he’s just shy,” She thought. After a few minutes, Carter had to go home. So, Ava went home too.

On the way home, Ava couldn’t help but think about Carter. He was tall and dark. He was also really shy and always seemed to be sweating. “Why do I even like him?” She

asked herself quietly. She tried to think of multiple reasons. By the time she got home, she had a few answers. He was funny, online. He was kind, online. He knew exactly what to say, online. She decided that she would just hold onto those reasons. She was willing to give her crush another chance to redeem himself. Ava checked her phone for any messages from Carter. Just as she expected, there were five unread messages.

“Hey there,” Carter messaged at 4:45 pm.

“I miss you,” he messaged at 4:46 pm.

“I hope you get home safely,” he messaged at 4:48 pm.

“Reply as soon as you get this,” he messaged at 4:48 pm.

“I’ll be waiting for you,” he messaged at 4:48 pm.

Ava’s heart warmed up from the messages. Carter made Ava feel like someone actually cared for her. She still couldn’t believe that she was getting these messages. This thing she was doing was “against the law” in her house. Her parents always reminded her not to get a boyfriend and not to entertain any messages from boys. This made Ava feel confident and rebellious.

“I’m glad you got home safe. I missed you too,” Ava replied.

“I missed you more,” Carter replied not even five seconds later. Ava tried to hide her smile, but couldn’t.

“Well, I missed you most,” Ava responded. Both of them went back and forth, talking about their encounter today and anything that went through their minds. By the time it was 8 pm, Carter had to sleep.

“Goodnight, sleep well,” Carter messaged.

“Sleep well too,” Ava replied.

Now that Carter was asleep, it was time for Ava to study. She took out all her books and started to make a study schedule. After, she read her biology book. She took down notes and started to memorize terms. She then got her math notebook and started to rewrite her notes from that day. She practiced solving some problems. She

was so energized after that. It was like she just had a ton of coffee. It was already midnight by the time she finished. So, she forced herself to sleep.

Ava woke up at 5 am to her alarm. She quickly jumped out of bed to turn it off. She got her phone and messaged Carter. “Good morning, sunshine,” she greeted. She turned off her phone and went to take a shower. Ava didn’t bother to wait for a reply because she knew that Carter always woke up at 6:30 am. How did she know? Well, Ava just assumed this because his first message of the day was always sent at 6:30 in the morning.

After showering, she got dressed and sprayed perfume on herself. She didn’t bother to spray a lot this time since she wasn’t going to meet Carter today. For the first time in weeks, she ate breakfast with her parents. She always hated eating with them because all they did was criticize her. They also took everything too seriously.

“Study hard, okay? We need you to get a GPA of 4.0 by the end of the year,” Ava’s mother reminded. All Ava could do was nod.

“Don’t eat too much. You’re getting so fat already,” Her father replied. With that, she stood up. She went out of the house and got her driver to bring her to school. On the drive going to school, she held a smile on her face. Ava was a gullible girl who believed everything on the internet. She read online that keeping a smile on your face for a whole minute will change your mood. It seemed to always work for her.

“Hello!” Ava loudly greeted her classmates with the biggest smile on her face. She always wanted to show her friends that she was happy. She didn’t want to burden her friends or anyone with her emotions. She was scared that if she burdened her friends with her emotions, they would stop being friends with her.

Some of her friends gave her a small smile and some greeted her back. “Is there anything wrong,” she asked. They all shook their heads saying that it was just too early to do anything. After just five minutes, they all started chatting. They all were comfortable and had a lot of things to talk about.

After multiple weeks of school, it started to get stressful for Ava. She had numerous tests in one week and more projects due the next. She also had two other things to juggle: sleep and a relationship. Ava and Carter got into a relationship already. Sometimes, Ava thinks she made a mistake by saying yes to Carter. Other times, she thinks that he is her lucky charm.

“If I asked you to be my girlfriend, would you say yes?” Carter asked online.

“No,” Ava replied after a few hesitations.

“Will you be my girlfriend?” Carter asked.

“Yes.” Ava answered without even thinking about the question. “That was crazy,” Ava thought as she remembered it.

A lot has happened since the start of the school year. Ava was starting to love school again. She was getting perfect scores on all her subject, even in math. She was doing great on projects and on essays. She was even given the chance to write for New York Times. Aside from all of that, she also got into a relationship. The things she kept from her parents kept piling up. She was also learning how to act when things happen and how to keep secrets. She learned to act because of her relationship. She had to act like she wasn’t in one. She had to hide her emotions. Her relationship was her biggest secret.

Now, it was the week after their final exams for the first semester. It the day when their teachers would release the scores. Ava was nervous. She kept praying and praying. She hoped that she would not only pass, but get a high score. She wanted to show her parents something that would make them proud of her. The first final exam score that was given was from her Biology class. Ava studied really hard for this one.

“Do you want me to give out the papers from highest to lowest?” Ms. Rebecca, the biology teacher, asked the class.

“No,” the students hollered.

“Let’s meet in the middle. The first paper I give has the highest score, and the rest will be given in random order,” Ms. Rebecca says. The room was dead silent. Ava was hoping that it would be her best friend, Alyssa. But, she was expecting it to be Nico, the smartest in the class.

“Ava!” Ms. Rebecca announced. Ava snapped out from her thoughts and stood up. Everyone was clapping and she didn’t know why. She thought the paper with the highest score had already been given. She got her paper and thanked the teacher. She went back to her seat and turned to her seatmate.

“Why were you clapping? What happened,” Ava asked.

“Ava, you were the one with the highest score,” my seatmate replied with one of the biggest smiles. Ava really thought her seatmate was joking. She took a look on her paper and saw her score in bright red ink. “46/50,” it said.

Ava pinched herself. She took another glance at her score and it was still the same. It was still 46. She smiled. Her hard work was recognized again. She still couldn’t believe it. She looked at her best friend, Alyssa. Alyssa had the most annoyed expression on her face. Ava looked at Nico and he was already looking at her. He congratulated her. Ava just smiled back.

Ava ended up remembering what her English teacher had told the class. “Don’t study hard. Study well,” he said. It was at this moment when Ava started to really believe it. Ava didn’t study as much Alyssa. She didn’t study on Fridays and didn't dedicate all of her time to studying. However, when she did study, she made sure she studied well.

“Ava, what did you get,” Alyssa asked with different tone in her voice.

“46,” Ava replied softly. Alyssa went to the teacher and just started talking. Ava couldn’t hear what they were talking about, but it seemed like Alyssa was trying to pull up her score. Every one of her classmates congratulated her, except her best friend. Ava didn’t mind this. She thought that Alyssa just forgot.

For the next two semesters, Ava got great grades. She had a GPA of 3.76 on both semesters. It made her parents happy, but not as happy as she thought they’d be. She also got an important letter from the school. She was given the opportunity to attend the Harvard Model Congress in Boston. She was so happy to receive this letter because only the top 10 students got this letter.

She showed her parents the letter and all they could do was laugh. However, Ava explained to them that it was a great opportunity. So, her parents decided they would think about it. After all, they were about to spend about four thousand dollars on it. Ava also decided to tell Carter about this. She expected Carter to be happy for her.

“I got a letter today,” Ava messaged.

“What letter? A? C?” Carter joked. Ava smiled at her phone.

“No! HAHAHA! I got a letter for Harvard,” Ava replied.

“Wow! I’m so happy for you,” Carter messaged.

“Thank you. I’m thinking of going. But, I don’t know if I should,” Ava responded.

“Well, how long will you be staying there,” he asked.

“About two weeks,” Ava answered.

“What?! That’s such a long time. You can’t leave me here,” Carter messaged.

“Alright, alright. I’ll go tell my parents that I don’t want to go,” she replied.

“Thank you. I love you,” Carter messaged.

“Anything for you. I love you more,” she answered. Ava was torn. She didn’t want to let Carter down. But, she also didn’t want to let go of such an amazing opportunity. Carter was someone that Ava knew wouldn’t come all the time. So, she told her parents about her decision.

“I change my mind. I don’t want to go to Harvard anymore,” Ava told her parents in a rush. She had too much things to do and knew that her parents didn’t want to take her there anyway.

“You should go!” Her mother said. Ava looked at her with a confused look plastered on her face.

“Why,” Ava asked.

“It is such a great opportunity for you and for us,” her mother answered.

“You’ve been getting better grades this year. I think it would be okay for you to go,” her mother continued. Her father just nodded in agreement. Ava smiled and nodded. She went back to her room with such positive thoughts. Her parents were finally acknowledging her grades. She couldn’t think of anything that could ruin this moment for her.

Ding.

A notification from her phone reminded her of Carter. He didn’t want her to go. Ava didn’t know what to do. She wanted to go and please her parents by going. However, she didn’t want to upset Carter. Ava practiced her new skill: lying. She decided to follow her parents. She got her phone and quickly messaged Carter.

“My parents insisted that I go. I tried to convince them to not let me go, but they weren’t having it. I’ll try to convince them again tomorrow,” Ava sent.

At the end of the school year, Ava had a GPA of 3.82. In the Harvard Model Congress she attended, she got a Merit award. Now, she had something to be confident in. She was confident that her parents would be there to support her. She was confident that Carter was her lucky charm. She was confident that she was slowly starting to win her fight with her shyness.

In the next school year, Ava continued to maintain her GPA. Her relationship with Carter was getting stronger. Her friendship with Alyssa turned into just an act of kindness or tolerance. Her relationship with her parents was all mixed up. She gained their trust with her grades, but was breaking it at the same time with her secrets. They still didn’t know about Carter.

“Ava, I’ve entered you for the schoolwide essay writing competition,” her English teacher, Ms. Angelina told Ava.

“What? I’m going to lose that competition! I am not even good at writing essays,” Ava was losing control. She couldn’t believe that she was entering a competition for a subject she knew she was bad in.

“You can do it, Ava,” she replied. So, Ava did as she was told. She participated in the competition. She did the best she could do in the time period given. When the results came out, her teacher was right. Ava did well. She not only placed, but was the champion. This was another thing that made Ava’s parents proud of her. She was so close to winning her fight with her shyness.

“I’m sorry, but we need to break up. I don’t want them to find out about this.” Ava messaged Carter. She thought this was it. She didn’t expect anything to happen after. A day later, Carter was already holding hands with another girl. Ava knew he didn’t have the capabilities of getting a girl that fast. So, she only knew one reason. He cheated. Ava attacked her shyness. She went to Carter, gave everything back, and told him off. It was a short conversation with lies, shouting, and a slap. That was officially the end of the relationship.

Ava went on to run in her school election for their student council officers. She had to prepare a speech that she would recite in front the whole student body. Her shyness was really evident. She didn’t know how to write her speech or how she would say it. She didn’t know if she needed a loud voice or just a light one. Though her shyness was showing, she didn’t let it stop her. She went up on stage and recited the speech she had memorized.

When the next academic year came, Ava started it without a relationship and without a best friend. Her so called “friendship” with Alyssa was just tolerance. However, she did start it with four amazing people: Makayla, Sarah, and Samantha. Ava considered them her new friends. She didn’t feel the need to constantly try to please her

friends. She felt like she belonged in the friend group. She wasn’t afraid to tell her friends that what they were doing was wrong. She also learned how true friends act towards each other. Her new friends were the people she was confident to tell people about.

Ava also started the year with some friends of the past. These friends didn’t talk to her much, but she knew that they were always going to be there for her. She also saw how great friends they were. Her friend, Joy, was always there to help her with cramming. Her friend, Mei, was always there to support and listen to her. Her friend, Kay, was such a great listener. Her friend, Hanna, was the person she could rant to about everything. Her friend, Raine, always knew how to turn a situation around. Her friend, Jane, was someone she could count on for everything. Her friend, Nico, was someone who always made her laugh. Her friend, Anna, was someone she could just talk to for hours with no end. Her friend, Marie, who was always there to help her fight her battles.

Ava’s battle with her shyness is finally over. She had great grades. She had great friends. She could talk to people without feeling scared. She finally got rid of people who affected her battle with her shyness. She got rid of Carter and Alyssa. There was nothing and no one who could take her down now.

With all the things she was now confident for, she decided that she would finally share her story. It was a story about how she discovered qualities of herself and her friend that made her extraordinary. She shared her story by joining the short story competition in the Asian English Olympics.

“I am confident with what I have accomplished, acquired, and retained. I am confident in the goals that I have accomplished. I am confident in the new friendships I have acquired. I am confident in the friendships and values I have retained. I am confident for all that I am, all that I am worth, and all that I will be.”