Writing by Marley Warren // Photograph by Sheena She
I need alone time.
I’m not anti-social.
I’m not trying to be rude.
I’m not shy.
All my life I’ve felt far from normal. I have always preferred staying in to going out, working alone compared to working on a team, thinking instead of speaking. I’ll choose curling up with a good book and a cup of tea over dancing in a noisy nightclub full of people any day of the week. Does this make me weird? Actually it makes me a part of the approximately one third of the population who are introverted.
It’s taken me a large part of my 27 years to completely understand and accept who I am. I wish when I was younger that there had of been somebody to tell me that it was okay to be an introvert. That I wasn’t weird or different. That I didn’t have to accept every invitation to every party or social event I was invited to. That time spent alone was essential and necessary for me to relax and recharge.
When I was younger, after school almost everyday I would come home and go to my room and listen to music, read books or watch television on my own. I can remember my mum asking me one day why I hardly spent any time with my family after school. Why I would lock myself away every day. All I knew, was that the best part of my day was when the school bell would go and after six hours of being surrounded by people I could finally be alone.
It was conflicting for me when at the end of the school week my friends would be making plans to see each other over the weekend and I would be thinking “Seriously! I’ve just spent all week with you at school. Can’t I just have two days to myself?” Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I didn’t like my friends or didn’t want to see them but I would look forward to my alone time and find myself disappointed when I had to give it up especially after a long week at school.
As I got older and friends started throwing big parties I discovered that I didn’t often enjoy these events. As everyone else was talking, laughing, dancing and by all appearances having a great time I would be looking at my watch trying to calculate the earliest possible time I could leave without offending anybody. These large events were completely draining for me and I longed for a place where I could engage in a satisfying conversation with a close friend instead of trying to make small talk with a bunch of strangers. Despite the amount of time I spent alone, the times I often felt the loneliest were when I was surrounded by people.
Over the years, there have been many people who have found it easier to make the assumption that I’m shy. But I’m not afraid of people or being in the spotlight. In fact, I’d find giving a speech or singing a song in front of a hundred people easier than having to go and mingle and talk with those people. I can prepare a song or a speech. I can’t prepare or rehearse my answers to on the spot questions. I find it much easier to think first and talk later.
All these stories make it sound like I don’t like people. This isn’t true. Like most introverts, I’m just easily over-stimulated. I prefer small gatherings to large parties. A deep conversation to small talk. I need to know that someone is genuinely interested in learning more about me as an individual and isn’t just making social niceties. Give me a thoughtful question and I will give you a thoughtful answer. Discuss a topic that I’m truly interested in and you’ll find it difficult to shut me up.
Some people find it difficult to understand how I can find time by myself so enjoyable. But for me, it’s when I feel the most energised. I feel like I’m surrounded by so many interesting things to do. Reading books/magazines, writing, listening to music, learning a musical instrument, exercising, watching TV or a movie, arts and crafts, playing games. There is always something new to learn. I don’t find these activities are any less satisfying despite them not being categorised as “social”
I’m much happier and at peace with myself having accepted my introvert status. I have a best friend who enjoys spending time at home with me. We cook together, watch movies and have art and craft days. I have a partner who doesn’t assume that when I’m quiet or withdrawn that I must be moody or upset. Instead, he hands me a cup of tea and a blanket and leaves me alone to read a book. I’m lucky to have people who understand my personality and don’t judge me for needing time to myself.
Finally, to those of you reading this, I ask you to take a moment to think about the people in your lives who are or may be introverted. I ask you not to judge them for not answering your phone calls, for turning down your party invitations or for that time they left your dinner party early. Appreciate them for the deep conversations, the laid back get togethers watching movies and eating good food and for the companionable silence that you can only share with someone you are truly comfortable with because if my journey has taught me anything, it’s that silence doesn’t have to be awkward.[share]