This is Harry. As a boy Harry was very, very shy.
Some people might have even said that he was painfully shy. As if his shyness caused them pain, and not the other way around. There are many things that can cause a person to recede, to look away from other people’s eyes, or to choose empty hallways over crowded ones. Some shy people try to reach out, and try, and nothing seems to come back. And then there’s just a point where they stop trying.
In Harry’s case, he was slapped in the face and called names designed to isolate him, designed to deliver maximum damage. This because he’d come from another country, and didn’t know the right words to use, or the right way to say them. And so, Harry learned to be still. To camouflage, to be the least.
Some people describe this as receding into a shell, where the stillness hardens and protects. But the eyes, even when they look down and away, are still watching, still looking for some way out, or in. Painfully shy.
Then, in middle school, Harry found theater, where he forced himself to speak through other people’s words. And then dance, where he started to speak through the movements of his body. To be so still for so long when you’re young means a lot of pent-up energy, and it was released there, through work, endless work.
If someone carves into a sampling with a knife, the injury is as wide as the entire trunk. Though that mark will never fully heal, even grow the tree around it, and as you grow, the scar gets smaller in proportion.
If you, right now, are in a shell, you should know that you’re not alone. That there are many, many other people like you, and that there’s nothing wrong with you. It might even be necessary right now, it might keep you safe for a time. But after the danger is gone, after it has exhausted its use, you’ll find a way out.
You may need help, you might need to work pretty hard. You may need to find some ways to laugh at yourself. Or find a passion or friend. But you will find it. And when you do, it will be so good to see you.
This is Harry. As a boy, Harry was very, very shy.
If you are in a shell… (video)
| narrated by ze frank
| choreography and performance by Harry Shum Jr.