Hello! Long time no see! My semester is really starting to pick up. For now, enjoy this flash essay I wrote recently for one of my classes: the writing prompt was “noise.” 🙂
My mom and I have joked for a long time that our roles are reversed: she is more like the daughter, and I am more like a mother. She’s the wild child; perpetually 22 inside, and is interested in motorcycles, rock n’ roll, and other similar activities. On the other hand, I’ve always been an old soul, wise beyond my years, diagnosed with back problems at the tender age of 18, and my eyesight is worse than a donkey. Also, from the time I was a small, timid child, I’ve always hated loud noises.
I am what you could call a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP). The general population is likely unfamiliar with this term, so allow me to give a brief definition from Elaine A. Aron, author of The Highly Sensitive Person. She states, “Your trait is normal. It is found in 15 to 20% of the population–too many to be a disorder, but not enough to be well understood by the majority of those around you.” Elaine expands briefly on her website to mention that HSPs are more easily overwhelmed by stimuli, the trait is innate, and highly sensitive people tend to be very perceptive of their environment (we pick up on and are more upset by loud noises, bad smells, bright lights, and things of that nature). On the bright side, highly sensitive people can develop a deep appreciation of sounds, scents, foods, and works of art.
Growing up, I was labeled as too shy, too introverted, too sensitive. People told me to “come out of my shell,” to “just speak up!” and asked “why are you so quiet?” (Little did they know HSPs are plotting to rule the world, just you wait). I didn’t speak up in class during high school; even if I had a good thought, an outgoing student would always speak out before me, and I would be silenced in fear. College required that I speak, even when I was initially very hesitant to this concept. During my freshman year of college, I didn’t raise my hand once during the entire semester in one of my classes. When we were required to give a presentation at the end of the semester, one student exclaimed, “holy shit, she talks!” Yes, I do speak, I am not mute. But I prefer to communicate in other ways, such as through my writing.
During elementary school, I was petrified by loud noises. The rambunctious classmates around me, chattering away about this and that grew to be tiresome. I would hide in my room when my mother would vacuum the floor, because it was too loud and it scared me. Even flushing toilets startled me, because their sound echoes like a roar. My mother tells me that when I rode the bus from school to our home, I would regularly be asleep on the bus, and she had to carry me out; she figures school frazzled my nerves, because the school environment was simply too loud and stimulating most days.
I recall that at about the age of six, I asked my parents for a walking doll for Christmas. I had seen it on a TV commercial, and as a little girl, this doll looked like a fun playmate! When visiting my relative’s house for our annual Christmas family gathering, my eyes lit up upon receiving the doll that I begged my parents for. I found out that the toy is battery operated so it can crawl around on the floor, similar to a human baby. I started crying, stating, “the doll didn’t make any noise on TV!” At that moment, my pink-clad, blonde little baby doll seemed to take on the life of a terrible, clamorous robot, bent on sucking the life out of sensitive children like me. I didn’t touch the doll again after that.
I transitioned into young adulthood. After living in college dorms for three years, I’ve learned to tune out loud noises, such as other students, music blaring from stereos, and so on. I still tend to be very sensitive, but I am less sensitive to noise now, and more bothered by other things, such as uncomfortable fabrics, or unkempt environments. Knowing that I am a highly sensitive person allows me to work with these traits in a healthy way. I treat myself to soothing bathes and music, and take breaks when I become overwhelmed by responsibilities or by the people around me. I no longer beat myself up about being too sensitive, and know instead that it is an innate part of who I am. Without being a Highly Sensitive Person, I don’t think I would appreciate art or literature in the way I do now, and simply put, I just wouldn’t be Sarah.