There’s nothing great about me, except the fact that I’m quiet. I like solitude and words, and I hate big parties and small talk. For most of my life, I thought shyness was a disability. But over the years and out of basic necessity, I’ve learned to use my voice to fight for others. I overcame my fear of public speaking when I earned my J.D., but I found my voice when I became a mother and chose to fight for good public schools.

In 2013, I ran for a public office—a seat on the local school committee—and was forced to engage in small talk, attend parties, and introduce myself to the voters of Cambridge. It was a monumental task, but I did it. In the process, I learned new things about myself, and I learned that my quiet nature is a gift, not a disability.

I’m a good writer and thinker, but I don’t like to be the focus of attention. But I learned that as a listener—a quiet person—I actually made a better candidate. When you really listen to people, you learn about them and about yourself. I’ve learned that you see people’s true colors through listening to their stories. What I’ve learned from listening, being quiet, and watching others in this world is that we all carry around our own special crazy. Mine happens to be severe social anxiety, but it isn’t a disability.

We are all in this world together. It’s good for me to hear the voices of others, and it’s important that others hear mine.