Joe Neubauer

            I’ve always remembered being a shut-in. What that means is I’d go to school like anyone else, do my work, laugh and do dumb things with my friends during lunch. Once the school day ended, I would go home where my family greeted and loved me, but as soon as I reached my room and locked the door, that would be the last anyone saw of me that day. On the weekends, the only time I left my room was to grab something to eat. I wouldn’t make any more attempts to go out with my friends or see a movie with my sister. I’d just stay in this one empty space, not doing anything productive.
            I had my reasons for not wanting to leave. For one, I didn’t have the confidence to be with others outside my friend group. The moment I saw a friend I wanted to talk to with someone else, I’d become anxious and terrified to join their conversation, because I didn’t want to ruin the mood by saying something stupid or make anyone uncomfortable that I was just standing there. So instead of making an attempt at simple talk, I distanced myself. I’d retreat back to my room where I saw no reason to leave. I had a computer to watch movies and shows from the comfort of my bed, I could order food on my phone whenever I got hungry, and I had video games if I ever got bored of my shows. I also had my Internet relationships to keep me company. Whenever I logged onto my Xbox account, the usual people were online. We’d join a party where we talked trash about each other, cracked god-awful jokes and played video games that romanticized war. I was okay with spending my time with them because they didn’t need to see me and I didn’t need to see them. I had a girlfriend that kept me on Skype for hours and I became dependent on her to feel good about myself, because of how important she made it to talk to me. I believed everything was fine.
            I got home after a long flight during the summer of 9th grade. I went to my room where I slipped into my comfortable shorts and loose shirt and video chatted my girlfriend. About two hours into our call, her friend rang my phone and told me something disgusting about my girlfriend. I hung up and asked if it was the truth, which she refused to answer, but the expression on her face made things clear. We ended our relationship and for the first time, this perfect world I made for myself didn’t look so perfect anymore. I made an attempt to drown it out with video games and TV, but none of that could fix how lonely I was. I had put all my emotional needs on this one girl. Now that she was gone, I had no idea how to manage them.
Time went on and everyone around me was moving on with their lives. I watched as my friends gained new friends and grew as people, but I stayed the same in this room of mine. I kept playing games and submersing myself in YouTube until I got fed up with the same day-to-day thing. It wasn’t fulfilling for me anymore; I thought it was time to try something new.
I went to a trusted male figure for advice on what I should do. He always carried himself with a happy mood and wore black dress shoes, black slacks, and a white and blue collared shirt with the top button undone. His name was Andy Williamson. I told him about my situation and expected an answer to everything, but he gave me none. Instead, he offered to go with me to an MMA class. I only knew him as the teacher that taught 9th and 10th grade English and was recognized as a respectable guy, but I didn’t take him for the fighting type. I did not hesitate to accept his offer though. He and I met later that week where we went at each other and grappled for a couple rounds until we were equally tired and could barely move. After the lesson, we sat in an empty hall cracking lame jokes until my ride appeared. For the first time in a while, I was actually satisfied with my day. I got to school the next morning and bragged about how I beat up my teacher and I even talked to some of my peers I barely ever talked to before. Shortly afterward, I made plans with some of my friends to go airsoft the following weekend. We also had a really good time shooting each other.
Looking back at my time with Williamson, I figured out why he never directly told me what to do. He didn’t want me to be dependent on him for answers, which is why he let me figure it out for myself. Now I know the answer to my shut-in problem is to get out more and do things outside my comfort level, but to this day I struggle with it and I think I always will, but I also believe I’ll get better at it or at least try to. As long as I try my best, I think that’s all that matters.

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Rolling Hills Preparatory School

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1500 Palos Verdes Drive North
San Pedro, CA 90732

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Rolling Hills Prep School prides itself on being a forward-looking, academically rigorous college-prep school with a soul. Every day we provide our diverse student body a high-powered traditional curriculum combined with stimulating and innovative teaching techniques both inside and outside the classroom because we believe that success in college and life is best attained by equipping our students with disciplined minds, sound character, healthy bodies and creative spirits. RHP is a private, coeducational day school for grades 6-12, located on the Palos Verdes Peninsula in Los Angeles, CA.

Renaissance, our sister school, believes that bright students who learn differently can rise to great heights when they become empowered and confident. Visit the Renaissance website.