It’s taken me a long time to come to grips, so to speak, with my introversion. I grew up the daughter of two homebodies, content to stay home on the weekends and nap on the hammock or play with the bunny. It didn’t occur to me to feel guilty about my inclination for quiet time and solitude until my senior summer, a time that I was supposed to spend making splashy memories with my friends. I went to Europe with friends and then with family for three weeks and took a myriad of pictures, and then I came home and I saw other peoples’ social experiences dancing across my social media, and I wondered why I wasn’t having that sort of a summer. It was a constant whirring in the back of my mind – why aren’t you more like that?! – that made me feel incredibly guilty for every day that I stayed home to take that nap or quietly contemplate a European adventure and what it means to grow up. Chalk it up to growing pains exacerbating my introversion, but it still leaves me feeling like I’m letting someone down.
Being an Introvert is Okay
The truth, as I understood it, came in a rare moment abroad in Brussels. I was with my family at Brussels Dance, a part of their Flanders Day celebrations, watching groups of Belgians singing along to a song that they all seemed to know, and I caught myself moving in time with the rest of them. My family was next to me, observing, and I was there, totally immersed in what was happening around me and yet wound up in my own thoughts, thinking to myself how crazy it was that I travelled eight hours across an ocean, only to end up at the Belgian version of Governor’s Ball. It was a balancing of extroversion and internal thought that helped me understand innately that there was no wrong way to be as long as I was comfortable in my own skin.
I think everyone has to have a moment like this, a moment when they feel an incredible sense of balance that leads to peace. Instead of an unbearable lightness, there is a sense of fullness, that I can live the life that I need to in order to find what makes me happy. When I get to frat row in the fall I can dance to house music and let my inner partier out, without being preoccupied with living a life that is Instagram-worthy. I can spend a Saturday with friends in one of our dorm rooms catching up on “Masters of Sex,” discussing its feminist merits and drinking milkshakes in the Seinfeld diner. Introversion does not always make for the best Snapchat stories and Instagram posts, but that doesn’t make it less valid.
So starting now, I am going to stop feeling guilty about how I choose to pass my free time, as long as I make decisions that contribute to my happiness. I will stop feeling weighed down by the invisible, and possibly nonexistent, expectations that others have for how I should live and present my life, and instead will spend a day kayaking on the Hudson River with friends as part of a team-building exercise. We’ll forget to make picture-perfect Instagram posts and Snapchat stories, and instead will worry about cracking each other up while piloting along one of the most famous rivers in America. We’ll spend time telling stories and trying not to be fatigued, and when we get back with sore arms and water-splashed shorts, the introvert in me will be quietly asking for some alone time to process the day’s adventure, and may request two days to recuperate. But for this introvert, any adventure, no matter how small, is a reason to celebrate the vivaciousness with which I am beginning to live my life. Instead of looking for photo ready moments to demonstrate my experiences to others, I am going to do what makes me happy, and not even consider the possibility of guilt as I become the balanced and full person I have always wanted to be.