Sometimes, I Like Being Alone
I’m an introvert. As long as I can remember, I have been shy, which I think has been caused by anxiety.
I was diagnosed with anxiety in my first year of college, and have been working on it for most of my life. But even now, I’d often rather be doing an independent activity, like writing, than be with others.
When I was in college, I tried to eat in the cafeteria with my friends, but often found it too nerve-wracking. I started finding a hidden-away corner in the library every day. I’d eat my lunch, listen to music with earbuds, and study.
Over a decade later, I’m much more social, but my habits largely haven’t changed. Yes, I don’t leave parties early as often, and I have no trouble speaking up in meetings, but lots of interactions with other people can leave me feeling drained.
I’d rather be curled up with a cat, a cup of coffee, and a book than attend a loud party. It’s just the way I’m wired. Walking through a secluded garden makes me happy and energized. There’s evidence that being outside can be beneficial to everyone, though, so you don’t need to be an introvert to enjoy the effects. A study found that walking through nature can decrease stress, and allow a brief escape from daily life.
It makes sense: when you’re walking around in a forest or park, it’s often quiet and peaceful. It gives you time to relax and think. Sometimes the best part of my day is my morning walk or run. For example, today I saw a monarch butterfly. The littlest things can spark joy.
My solitude didn’t go unnoticed. When I was a kid, people compared me to a turtle; now I’m a little tougher, like a betta fish. I won’t hide in my shell, but I like my distance. And sometimes, other people make me grumpy. Walking through a crowd, or driving through rush-hour traffic, makes me jittery. I had to stop going to conventions, because they give me panic attacks and left me exhausted.
This can be a problem when I go to work. In the USA, extroversion is applauded. Employers want people who are outgoing, and there is some evidence that extroverts get promoted more. Sure, talent can win out — eventually.
When I was younger, I would sit through interviews where I’d calmly but intelligently talk about my qualifications, only to have the interviewer be disappointed that I wasn’t “energetic.” Once people get to know me, they realize I’m not only intelligent, but I will open up if I trust somebody. That leads to recommendations and opportunities down the road.
And personalities can change over time. When I was 20, I’d be blushing if my co-workers threw me so much as a birthday party. Now, I’m the one planning events at work, picking up cupcakes and getting everyone to sign cards.
I’ve even learned to network, something that years ago I’d run away from. People would ask me for a business card, and I’d fumble and have difficulty explaining what I do. But like most things in life, it just takes practice. I can now effortlessly whip out a business card and answer questions about my job.
Though, today someone asked me how my writing is going, and I stumbled. “Oh, I haven’t had much time for it,” I said.
“She’s just being modest,” someone else said. “She made $100 one month with her writing!”
I conceded that this was true. But I still couldn’t explain that, for instance, I wrote an article about how Mississippi banned the term “veggie burger,” or I write about my anxiety. Writing, for me, is intensely personal. When I write, even for a newspaper with a wide audience, it can still feel like I’m a kid, writing in my ultra-secret diary.
And at the end of the day, nothing beats cuddling with a cat and sitting with a book. (One I could be reading, or writing.) Like all things in life, there has to be a balance.