The power of introverts

Ciao!

So I promised you all that I would write about Colorado. And I’m going to. But I’m not going to talk about it in a specific “here’s what we did every single day and these are the things we saw” because that’s not what was important about this trip. Yes, the natural beauty of the Rockies was jaw-dropping, but the thing I will remember most is what I learned about myself.

In May, I headed to Denver and met up with Alea and Jess. I’ve found that when making friends, I tend to gravitate towards more extroverted people. Who doesn’t? They’re so lively and sociable and exciting that people love to be around them. My friend Jessica is the epitome of an extrovert.

Let me clarify for a second. Extroversion and introversion are on a spectrum. Jessica loves to be around people and make new friends wherever she goes, but she still needs her moments of downtime. Compared to me, she’s extroverted, but compared to others she may be more introverted.

I classify myself as an introvert, but I’m not an introvert who hates being around people and doesn’t enjoy talking in social situations. I love people and am very interested in their stories and forming new relationships. However, if I’ve had a long day filled with activity, I need an equal amount of solitude. My favorite part of the day is when I get to be alone in my apartment, write, watch a movie, get lost in a book, fiddle around with my ukulele, and cook. That is my happy place.

In Colorado, I found myself fairly tired every day. I know that part of it was from the amount of activities we did, the hiking trips, the driving, and the change in altitude. But I also know that part of it was from being consistently around people. My friend Alea is an introvert like me, and felt the same way. All of us needed time each day to simply be on our own reading, writing, or browsing the internet. In Italy, Alea was the one who recommended a book to me called Quiet, and I had brought it to Colorado with me.

PSA: If you are an introvert, are friends with an introvert, or you know nothing about introverts, I highly suggest this book. Never have I felt a book understand me in such a powerful way.

In her book, Susan Cain talks about the American ideal of extroversion, and how we have consistently guilted introverts for their love of solitude and silence. If you were to choose reading a book rather than going out and being social, people would think you were sick or something.

Granted, lately on Tumblr and Buzzfeed there are pockets of introverts showing their true colors. But think about it. They’re showing their true colors on the internet. Look at me writing this on a blog instead of talking to people about it. The anonymity of the internet can be an incredibly harmful thing, don’t get me wrong, but in this unique way it has allowed introverts the outlet of expressing themselves with few reservations.

I’ve struggled with my introversion my whole life. Of course, not in a way that is obvious and showy, but internally. Being told that I’m shy, that I should speak up in class, that it’s not enough for me to simply take in a situation, but that I need to make an opinion about it and tell it to other people. These things have affected me in a way I never realized.

I have always been a good student. The few times I can remember that I actually got in trouble involved me either being too quiet and not participating or reading too much. Yes, reading too much. (My 3rd grade teacher and my 9th grade bio teacher both caught me reading novels during classtime  and embarrassingly pointed out that I wasn’t paying attention.)

Thankfully I wasn’t scared away from reading novels, but the participation eventually became a real problem. In college, almost all of my classes made participation 20% of the grade. Needless to say, by the time I was a senior, I had learned to adapt and force myself to speak up. Not because I wanted to, but because my grade would suffer otherwise.

I never realized that my struggles stemmed from the structure of my educational environment. Cain points out that the extroversion ideal is a uniquely Western conception. After studying abroad in Italy, with piazzas in every city center, I have seen firsthand the obvious value placed on extroversion. In Asian countries, introversion is respected more so than extroversion because it shows deep contemplation and thoughtfulness. Coming from an American family, I never thought twice that there was a culture that celebrated solitude over sociability.

Back to Colorado. Reading Quiet while being around my extroverted and introverted friends was such an interesting experience. Everything we did together, I could see how clearly extroverted Jess was and how clearly introverted Alea was. Although I’ve found that I tend to form friendships with more extroverted people, possibly so they’d rub off on me, I also love befriending those with qualities similar to my own. Being in Colorado on a memorable trip with two of my best friends, it was so comforting to see so clearly just how we relate to one another.

Till next time,

Abby