I don’t know how I knew, even as a child, that being the quiet one was every bit as good and important as being the gregarious one, but I knew. My sister Dianne was gregarious and pretty and popular. I knew I couldn’t be Dianne. I couldn’t even try. Somehow, I knew that even the quiet ones had value.
Our parents never showed any favoritism, although an aunt and uncle did. When they visited, it was as if there was only one child, and it was Dianne. Their behavior was so obvious to me that even as a kid I thought, how can they be like this? Adults aren’t supposed to act like this. But Dianne was always nice to me and generous with me, so I never begrudged her popularity. She couldn’t help it. She was Dianne.
By high school, I wanted a fresh start. We went to different schools, and no one at my school knew my sister, so there was no Dianne to compare me with. But unfortunately, that year I was also old enough to join a church group for teenagers, a group that Dianne had been a member of. Though people in the group were friendly to me, my name became “Dianne’s Little Sister.” I couldn’t seem to get out from under her shadow.
That spring, the church was going to have a youth group talent show. Everyone knew Dianne was a good singer, so of course, she would be in the talent show. One of the show’s organizers asked me to lip sync to an old Spike Jones record. I had never heard it before, but it sounded funny, so I decided to do it. During rehearsals, I found that I could put on an invisible mask when I was doing the number, and I didn’t get nervous. I was playing a role. It wasn’t me—it was this character that was doing the song. When it came time for the show, I was a little surprised that I could slip into this role and perform in front of people. I got a huge, rousing response. Our youth minister came over to me with this surprised smile on his face and exclaimed, “You’re just as talented as your sister!” It was the surprise in his voice that hit me. Of course, I am, I thought. Don’t look so surprised. But I just said, “Thank you.” I’m sure he thought he was paying me a compliment.
That moment solidified for me what I had felt for years. I am as talented as my sister even if people don’t see it right away because I’m quiet. And that’s okay. Now, years later, Dianne and I have taken routes that befit our personalities. My gregarious sister is a minister, happily leading her congregation. And I am a writer, working quietly, mostly by myself. I do go out into the world, and I even speak to groups, but I can always go home, back to my desk and my books, and be quiet. Dianne and I don’t compete. We don’t need to. She is an extrovert, and I am an introvert. And that’s just fine.
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