“Parrot how are you?” she asked. “I’m fine aunty”, I replied as I and my fellow first graders dashed into the restroom at the start of recess. This was the janitor at my elementary school and she, like many others, referred to me as ‘Parrot’ because I talked nineteen to the dozen. I don’t quite remember who first called me that but after being addressed that way enough times, I responded to the name as naturally as I responded to ‘Tomisin’, the name most of the world called me at that time. Even my parents knew not to discuss private matters around the six-years-old version of me due to a legitimate concern that I would go spill my guts to perfect strangers.
Fast-forward to a couple of years later, I had done a little growing up and decided that being called Parrot was no longer endearing and so I made a new year’s resolution in the 8th grade to stop talking so much. I want to say I achieved my resolution that year but I did not. I certainly began to speak less but I would become a freshman in college before I would talk as little as I aspired to in the 8th grade. In fact, I talked so little that some folks considered me a snob while others assumed I was an introvert. I found the assumption that I was an introvert laughable until I took some fancy personality test that stated I did have some introverted characteristics even though I was generally an extrovert. Introvert or extrovert, the point was that I was talking less and this pleased me very much. Until I realized I talked so little it became a problem.
I had a long-distance relationship in college and so most of our communication was via fancy messaging and calling apps. Behind all that technology, it was easy for me to say that I was fine and all was great even when I was bawling my eyes out. And when I finally came clean about having a hard day, it took some more poking and prodding to give any details. I soon realized that I was constantly holding back and mincing words when it came to talking about the important things in my life and I knew something needed to change but it was hard to undo years of practicing how to say little.
In any relationship, communication is key and I believe that in long-term romantic relationships, saying too much to your partner is better than not saying enough. Resentment and bitterness can fester when there is unresolved hurt and sometimes the other party might be unaware of the pain they’ve caused because no one mentioned it to them. Looking back, I could have done a better job of communicating in my relationship and maybe things would have ended differently. Funny thing is years after, I have still not learned to be a great communicator; I still suck at talking about important things with those closest me, proof being that every now and then, I get accused of not talking enough.
As a first grader, I never imagined I would get to a point in my life where my aim would be increasing how much I talk but here I am and I am making slow progress. As with many things in life, we are constantly fighting to find balance – constantly tethering on the edge of doing too much or doing too little, and for me, this happens to be the case. There are times to keep mute, and there are times to pour out our souls in words. For me, it is time to learn to speak. Do you need to speak more or speak less, or have you found the coveted point of balance?