Throughout my high school years, and since long before then, I lived my quietness with a certain discomfort.
It had a lingering quality to it, like an unfinished business I always left to deal with on another day.
As much as I was at peace with not being outspoken, there were times when I couldn't bring myself to speak even when I wanted to.
I realised it but didn't want to acknowledge it, and I developed the habit of hiding the uneasiness behind long sleeves, which I wore as low as I kept my voice.
My long sleeves were a constant reminder of the parts of my character I wasn't comfortable with and a safe, if unsteady, place where to hide from those very traits.
The sleeves weighted my arms to the desk when I knew the answer in class but wouldn't raise my hand.
My long sleeves were a constant reminder of the parts of my character I wasn't comfortable with and a safe, if unsteady, place where to hide from these very traits.
They got sticky with sweat on hot days as I tried to shrink inside them, pulling their ends down – down my elbows, down my wrists, until you could guess only the tips of my fingers always clenched in fretful fists.
They provided a distraction when, unsure of what to say, I looked down with urgency and ruffled their fabric.
It remained creased for the rest of the day, obvious to my eyes, proof I brought for my judges to deliver a verdict on an inappropriateness I couldn't quite pinpoint but felt very real.
My sleeves were covering my hands the first time I shook Margaret's.
She was a student from Kenya and came to visit my school as part of a service-learning programme, after a group of our students stayed at the all-girls institute where she studied.
I couldn't attend the trip, so I volunteered to spend my days with her during her week-long stay and bring her to my classes.
I showed her around campus as she told me about me her way of life. I couldn't believe she'd never had ice cream, she was surprised I'd never lit a fire. She told me about her friends, I introduced her to mine.
Then one day, with the same matter-of-fact tone, she stood at the assembly in front of the students and teachers and told us about herself - about how she had run her whole life to get to our starting line.
I couldn't believe she'd never had ice cream, she was surprised I'd never lit a fire.
She told us the struggles of attending a school when you can't afford en education.
She told us about how she dropped out of school when her father was killed to help with the family.
And she told us about how she returned to her studies because she dreamed of becoming an engineer.
She was mellow as she spoke, with the grace and lightness that came from a place I knew I didn't yet know.
I wondered what I would do if I had her courage.
I could move mountains, I thought – no, I could raise my voice. I started by rolling up my sleeves.
Competition winner Beth Crane and and five runners-up (Caitlin Black, Sian Norris, Angela Locatelli, Lily Peschardt and Victoria Richards) each receive a monogrammed Smythson notebook from Selfridges.