Oliver’s Silver Flask
December 31, 2013

This December, five days before Christmas I was invited to a friend’s annual winter party. Oliver and I have known each other since January, so it was his first party that I attended, and I felt very honoured to be a guest. Not only is he a very good friend, knowing Oliver has been a very positive experience for me. Personally, I have learned a great deal from him. From his personality and perspective, from his knowledge and attitude towards other people, I felt that my personal being has improved positively, and I would like to honour our friendship and show my gratitude with a gift. Although I’ve set aside a certain amount of budget, yet a sudden change of plan forced me to weigh whether I’m willing to spend more, and after considering the great significance of his role to me, I decided that a higher price should not matter. I ordered a silver flask that was small enough to fit into his bag of books, knowing his affectation for sneaking in some vodka. Since I didn’t want the gift to be a seasonal object – “Christmas 2013” or “Merry Christmas” is too season-specific and gets boring after a while – I decided that the flask would be beautifully adorned simply with his engraved full name.

Coming an hour late to the party after picking up the flask and getting a bit lost, I obscurely pulled out the grey gift box from my bag and handed it to Oliver. He immediately opened it on the coffee table, and I was really glad to see his joyfulness when he unwrapped the thin white paper and saw the flask. It was quickly passed around the room from hand to hand along with his continual remark, “Look at what Tempe got me!” I suggested that he washed it first, but he wouldn’t hear me and filled it with Jack Daniels straight away. Throughout the party Oliver kept thanking me for the gift, and, not knowing how to respond properly, I only replied, “I’m really glad you like it.” His last acknowledgment, however, touched me the most. He called me and said, “When I’m 83 years old I would show this flask and say Tempe got this for me.” Hearing that put a warm feeling in my chest. One of my consideration in getting a flask with his name was that he would be able to use it for a long time, and that it would hold an long-lasting significance, yet to hear those words verbally from him touched me very deeply.

Sadly, I couldn’t find the words that in my mind would be appropriate. I was never taught that saying how I feel, whether positive or negative, is acceptable. The courtesy is to give a neutral comment, completely detached of my feeling, to show politeness. Sometimes I believe this moulds my tongue so that I do not say what I don’t genuinely mean. Giving a compliment is the biggest appreciation I could do for someone, and those words will contain the truest meaning of my feelings. However, after that moment when I was too tongue-tied to reply to him with equally meaningful words, I analyzed my reserved reaction and found that my lack of self-expression also caused me to keep myself from showing my emotions to the world outside. I found that I have always been afraid to tell the world how I feel because it’s like giving a hint of my mind. I don’t want to be offensive, and actively reacting to the world is offensive for me. I’m used to standing back, just barely at the edge of the circle, and observe how people interact with each other. When someone takes note of me, I see it as the person making an effort to know me based on my still, outer appearance, just as if the person is observing a lifeless statue and forms opinions about it. I’m not upset, because I know that’s what I consciously intend. By not making any active effort to let my mind be read by other people, I feel that I’m not being offensive to the world.

However, I also realize that perhaps being emotionally passive is my parallel response to the emotional passiveness of my parents. I could hardly remember them saying positive remarks about me that is filled with emotion. If what they said were compliments, those compliments sounded like statements instead, unattached to a sense of pride or joy. “You have high marks” doesn’t sound as beautiful as “you did great,” and “she does well in English” is not nearly as direct as “you do well in English.” Sometimes I felt as if my parents were showing me off, not appreciating me. They were always quick, however, to point out my mistakes and how I disappointed or angered them. In time, I learned to speak in the same detached tone, stating rather than expressing, and kept whatever positive remarks I had to myself only.

In reality, when Oliver said those words, I did have something that instantly came up in my mind: I hope when you’re 83 we will still be friends. Instead of saying it out loud, I politely smiled and turned my face so that he wouldn’t see my hesitation on what I should say. Confusion swept over me for a minute, and afterward it was already too late to bring up the matter again for me to say just that one sentence, a response that I convinced myself wouldn’t be of any significant to him anyway.

Two weeks after the party, I was still in regret that I didn’t say that sentence right away. It was my genuine feeling that I had intentionally brushed aside because I made the presumption myself that it wouldn’t matter to him. I realized then that it mattered at least to me, to directly tell people how grateful I am to have them in my life. I had that one chance before, and I let it go due to my fear, and I kept looking back and said, “I wish I’ve done that.”

Today, I saw a notification on my Facebook wall: “Your christmas present was really nice.” From Oliver. Although I hesitated for five minutes, this time I’ve learned my mistake and replied, “I’m glad you like it! And I hope we’ll still be friends when you’re 83 and showing off the flask,” followed with a grinning face.

He replied, “WE WILL.”

3.17 a.m., December 31st, 2013.

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Do You Tremble?
January 5, 2012

I just arrived back home from my friend’s early birthday party – which I didn’t even know was for her birthday – and I am feeling really lame right now.

The party was supposed to finish at 11.30 pm, but I had the strongest urge to go back soon. It was more because of me feeling uncomfortable being around a lot of strangers, so when a friend said she was going home, I immediately jumped in. Because my birthday friend knew that I lived close by while the going-home friend lived around an hour and a half away, I made an excuse: I had homework to do. This is totally untrue, because tomorrow I had only one class since the Philosophy professor cancelled both the lecture and tutorial. I said I had readings to do for English – this is true, except that it’s only a few pages and due on Friday. (As my defence, I also have Italian scrittura – which I probably won’t do today). But I was severely dying to go home and get rid of the uncomfortable situation, I made up lies just so that my going home was acceptable (I hope).

I didn’t realize how uncomfortable I had been feeling until, upstairs while my birthday friend was talking to her Mom, I realized that I was trembling, not from the cold, but from a great anxiety. Fortunately no one noticed, and I prayed that the tremble would stop. Since her Mom persuaded us to have some cake, however, we went down to the basement again and sang “Happy Birthday” for her and ate some cake. At this time, the situation was more comfortable because her boyfriend came and chatted with me – the three of us hung out together for New Year’s Eve so he was not a stranger, and that alone has made me more comfortable. Another friend – who first told me she was going home – joined us in the conversation, so I got the chance to talk with several close acquaintances. By this time, I’ve stopped trembling and being nervous. When I was going to leave earlier, I said goodbye to the Boyfriend and – having a great turmoil and anxiety – I kept stuttering, and I’m afraid I sounded dumb. But while we were enjoying the cake, my anxiety had reduced greatly, so I was able to have a proper conversation.

However, later on, they started some more games, and the anxiety came back to me. Finally, while they were planning another game, without a second thought I got up and walked to the birthday girl and told her I really needed to go home and do my “homework”. It was 10 pm. She gave a sad face and I automatically apologized, but my intention to go home early was desperately urgent. Unexpected to me, her Mom told her husband to drive me home, and she asked Birthday girl’s brother to accompany us. It was very silent in the car except for some of the talking between father and son. That was my second totally awkward moment.

I’ve read that people with more introvert traits cannot stand being around crowds, and especially strangers, within a long time. What worries me is whether they actually tremble hard after overexposure. Does anyone have a similar experience?

Friends, friends, friends…
June 20, 2010

“Sometimes you put walls up not to keep people out, but to see who cares enough to break them down”

Even until the end of high school, I still walk away from groups of classmates. I do realize that this is the final moment; that after this I might not have the chance to see them again. And it’s not like I don’t want to experience the fun. At times I do get a little bit jealous when I see pictures of friends hanging together in a cafe or restaurant, and I do want to know what happened during the gathering. Everytime I see those pictures, my first thought will be “Can I someday be like that?” You know. The socialite. The popular. Surrounded by friends. Laughing over someone and make fun of them (not negatively). But a further thought quickly follows: do I really want to be like that?

Umm, no thanks.

I’m not saying that having friends by your side is bad or not fun at all, but I know those people’s characters. They’re like the North while I’m the South (again, not the right-or-wrong comparison). The fact that I’m not sitting among them is because I don’t want to. It’s written in the list of things I’m not fond of, together with some other things that might be included in such events as well.

My thoughts will almost always end with the realization, hey, I have my own friends. The melancholy side in me causes me to wait for someone to ring first rather than ringing him/her beforehand, which explains why I don’t exist in many social events, but I will be there when they ring me, and so will they. And the fact that they sincerely accept me as I am makes me content. I’ve met more people that couldn’t receive my past, but these people have proved that it’s not a big deal for them. I’m happy for what they do, and though I never said it on their face, my thankfulness and gratefulness for them is beyond any measure in the world.

“A friend is someone who understands your past, believes in your future, and accepts you just the way you are”