Learning to Play the Game: My Journey Through Silence
Everyone has fears. A fear of the dark, a fear of heights, or even a fear of the unknown can make leading an otherwise normal life difficult. But what if you were afraid not of the dark or of heights—but of other people? What if you were overcome with paralyzing terror and even pushed to the brink of sickness each time you talked with another person—even though you wanted more than anything to be with and enjoy the company of that person?
In Learning to Play the Game: My Journey through Silence, author Jonathan Kohlmeier shares a coming-of-age memoir of his young life living with selective mutism—an extreme form of social anxiety. At first as a child being so afraid that he could barely speak outside of the home, Jon’s story of struggle turns triumph as he is eventually able to join the debate team in high school. From the start of his journey in kindergarten to his high school graduation, Jon chronicles his desire to be “normal”—whatever that means. But even more, he shares his desire to simply be himself.
With prose, text messages, lyrics, photographs, and even his mother’s own recollection of one of Jon’s most traumatic events, Jon offers a message to everyone—to the student who might have sat next to him in school, the student who might have made fun of the quiet girl on the bus, or the boy who sits alone at the lunch table: you either learn to play the game, or the game plays you. But the best part, which Jon now knows, is that once you learn the game, you can still be yourself.