And I'm not saying that in a mean way.
When I was in elementary school, my teachers pegged me as "a shy kid." Thing is, I was never shy -- actually I've always been a performer and a little crazypants. In those elementary school days, I'd often be prancing around the supermarket in a crop top and cat ears proclaiming that I was Josie from Josie and the Pussycats, putting glitter glue on my eyelids (not smart if you ever plan on blinking), or singing Disney princess songs into my mom's camcorder. Definitely not a quivering daisy.
I guess this whole predicament started out when one day, I had my head in the clouds and didn't find it necessary to say stuff. At the beginning it was fine, I wasn't lonely or surly. I was just rolling around the sandbox by myself thinking about things.
But then it got awkward.
People love labeling people. Oh! You're the funny kid! Oh, you must be the precocious little genius kid! Oh hey there, you must be the shy kid. I learned that once you're labeled the "shy kid," people have all sorts of expectations of you...
People would get this surprised look on their faces whenever I said things, and when people started giving me that look, I stopped saying things. As you can imaging, this became a vicious cycle. My teachers didn't always help. Teachers seem to like shy kids. Shy kids don't break eardrums or break bookcases. Thus, my teachers would often make an example of me -- telling the class to "stop shouting and be more like Erica." I would smile, but this was always super awkward. First, because kids don't like the kid who they're told to be like, and second, there was this little girl inside of me who liked to wear purple leopard print and sing "Under the Sea" really loudly in a Jamaican accent who just wasn't allowed to come out. Imagine how awkward it would have been if one day I came out of the reading corner singing "Under the Sea" in my Jamaican accent?! I was pretty sure the ceiling would have fallen down. Once people had this expectation of me to be the "quiet" and "behaved" Erica, I stuck to it.
There were times when I thought that I lost that purple leopard print little girl. I truly believed that I was shy... and I hated it. Especially as I got up in elementary school and wanted to be like Sharpay from High School Musical and I wanted boys to like me. In 5th grade, boys don't like shy girls. And I believed that I was a shy girl. I wished I could be like those bubbly girls who crimped their hair and wore glittery nail polish. Nonetheless, I kept on being the nice little shy girl at school, and then when I got home, I dressed up like a mime and rapped Snoop Dogg while I rode around the house on my Waveboard (did you ever have a Waveboard?).
One day, I was dozing off during assembly. The assembly was the drama acting out the book Hungry Hungry Caterpillar (who came up with those assemblies?!). When I came back to my senses, I noticed that the kid who was dressed up as a watermelon slice who just recited his line looked like he was about to puke. No, he looked worse. He looked like he was about to get publicly executed. And you know what I noticed? That I couldn't have told you what he said if I was offered a million bucks. That kid was about to poop his pants over something that nobody was listening to at all.
That's right, I was not paying attention at all, and neither was half of the audience. It was this realization that helped me "shed my shy kid image." I realized that every sentence isn't a matter of life and death, because no one's really listening anyways. I realized that the ceiling wouldn't fall down if I emerged from the reading nook and played dress up. I realized that no one would care if I pronounced the "g" in "trough" when we read aloud in English class. I realized that regretting not saying something is much worse than saying something awkward.
Now that I am in high school, I am glad that I had this realization. Sure, the "shy kid" image is sticky like condensed milk and takes time to wash off, but there have been many opportunities since I witnessed that quivering watermelon that I have spoken up without regrets -- and my life has been so much better/less awkward because of it.
Yay for super awkward transitions! Condensed milk! It's in Tres Leches cake! Which is the recipe I'm sharing with you all today! This cake is super squidgy and moist because you literally pour milk all over it. I frosted mine with cream cheese frosting for my friend Veda's birthday because she likes cream cheese frosting.
2 sticks of butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups buttermilk
1 can condensed milk (1 cup-ish)
1 cup evaporated milk
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 8oz. packages of cream cheese
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Sweetened Shredded Coconut
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9x13 inch pan with parchment paper and grease it well. Beat butter and sugar together in a stand mixer until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, scraping the sides as you go. Add the vanilla extract. In a separate bowl, whisk together the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add half of the dry ingredients to the egg mixture and mix until just combined. Add buttermilk and stir slowly. Add the rest of the dry ingredients and mix until combined. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 35-40 minutes.
Take out of the oven, and mix together the three milks. Cool the cake for five minutes, and then poke holes all over it with a fork. Pour the milk all over the cake. Let cool completely in the fridge for at least an hour.
Beat together the butter and cream cheese in a stand mixer. Beat in the vanilla. Slowly add the powdered sugar and beat until smooth. Frost the cake.
To make the toasted coconut, add the shredded coconut to a frying pan, and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until lightly browned. Sprinkle over cake.
Loosely Adapted from Pati's Mexican Table
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