AUTHOR’S NOTE: this entire piece was inspired by this tweet. Thank you @tomandlorenzo for this week’s article idea!
Needing to be around other people must get tiring, especially during a worldwide pandemic that shows no signs of stopping. You’d better face it, bud–your introvert friends were right. There’s value to be found in staying at home, and withering away because you can’t go out and socialize is no good. You won’t be dragging your poor quiet friends along for any of your loud shenanigans anytime soon. Welcome to your own special Hell. It’s our turn in the reigns now, buckaroo. Get used to it.
My smug sense of victory aside, it’s time for we the quiet kids to drag you somewhere against your will–right back inside! So sit your ass down, grab some chamomile, get out of your comfort zone, and learn the value of not being so…you. In case it wasn’t obvious, that last bit is what all of those “self help” articles for introverts sound like! (And it was also sarcasm to get the point across, not sincere in any way.) How does it feel, hm? You like that? You like it? You want more of that? Too bad because this is the part where I get calm and friendly.
- Learn that silence is okay. Granted, you might never experience total silence if you have tinnitus like I do, but there’s still value in it even if your ears are betraying you. Too often, people feel the need to fill every last second of silence with noise. Pointing out how you can sit in comfortable silence with someone usually implies that you are, in fact, very uncomfortable. Why? Not all silence is passive-aggressive or meant to be neglecting. When it comes to this, it’s best to think like a cat–it’s enough to simply exist, wordless, in the same space as another person. You don’t even have to be next to each other to share a space. Let the silence exist. It means you no harm.
- Learn to exist within your thoughts. Are you scared to know yourself? Are you afraid that, should you let the silence go on for too long without others to fill the air with their noise, you will find out things about yourself that you hate? Do you tremble in fear that to know yourself is to know someone you hate, someone who isn’t who they say they are, someone who has flaws even you wouldn’t forgive? Ha! Same! Been there, done that. Several times, actually. But I need to tell you something so very important that I learned from all of that reflection: not knowing the names of your demons does not defeat them. They will exist within your soul, reaching out into all that you do, without ever being found. You must find them. You must give a name to them. Once you know your demons by name, you know their weaknesses. You cannot run from yourself. Quarantine has shown you that, hasn’t it? That people won’t always be around to distract you, even if they themselves want to. In this, the quiet time, you must find the strength to know yourself.
- Know yourself. This is a masturbation joke. It’s fun. Do it. (Unless you are the category of asexual who doesn’t want to, in which case, don’t feel pressured by this joke you are wonderful I love you.)
- Find joy in alone time. I fully believe that, were alone time given as much value as being social, there would be fewer toxic people in this world. This isn’t an article about toxic people, though, so we’ll save that train of thought for another station. We, as humans, are naturally social. We, as humans, also naturally shit in the woods. You think toilets are natural? Pre-packaged food? The very device you are reading this on? Nah. None of those things are natural, but they enhance our lives regardless. My point is, we don’t have to simply live by our nature. While we should still be social enough to love other people and have empathy and help one another, we shouldn’t be afraid of being alone. Once you are no longer afraid of loneliness, once you can find the beauty in it, you will be stronger for it. Find the value in your own soul. Find what makes you likeable and, should you look within and find nothing of value, work to change and become better so that once you are around others again, you will be someone worth knowing.
- Have an existential crisis. Why are people so afraid of having an existential crisis? Are you afraid the weight will be too much? Well, as someone who wanted to kill herself for a decade (2007 to 2017!), I’m fairly certain I can say with confidence that, no matter how dark it gets, there’s always an excuse to keep living (I got my will to live from a DnD podcast that I wanted to finish) so don’t be afraid to stare into the void. The more dread you reflect on and are able to make your way through, the easier it gets. Trust me on that one. Who knows? Maybe you’ll think up a solution to our late-capitalist Hellscape that is slowly and methodically draining every last drop of life from introverts and extroverts alike (fun fact: oil companies lied about plastic being recyclable, so there’s something to reflect on already!)
- Know that space doesn’t define love. The most meaningful relationships outside of my parents that I have are all online. It’s been that way since I graduated high school six years ago. I can’t remember the last time I hugged someone who wasn’t a family member (it might have been four years ago, not sure.) In a way, I was an expert at social distancing before it was mandatory. And you know what? I can bet you $100 that someone reading this one thought something along the lines of “wow, that’s sad.” Was it you? I’m not surprised or offended. It’s been ingrained into us for years that the lifestyle I just described is wrong or unfulfilling, from casual jokes in media of the Crazy Cat Lady to the fear of being alone I’ve talked about in this article. Would you believe me if I told you that I live this way by choice? Would it shock you to know that I am every joke, snide remark, threat made by parents to their children, and fear in your heart…and that I do it all because I prefer it? I prefer it this way because I know that I am not alone unless I want to be. At any time, I can log on to Discord and talk to my friend of nearly ten years, Sophie. There’s this horrid misconception that the connections made in-person are the only ones that matter, that online connections are any easier to break, that space defines love. What I need you to realize, for the sake of your quiet friends and for your own, is that space is not what defines love. Long-distance relationships, be they platonic, romantic, or somewhere in-between, are just as valuable as those in the physical space. The internet is real life, but it’s made from words and connections rather than skin and meat. It is the raw essence of humanity–horny, insane, cruel, absurd, curious, loving to the point of detriment. Your friends are still real, even if you can’t see them. Even if you can’t feel their body heat, you can feel their warmth. Know this. Believe this. Carry it with you. This, more than any reflection, more than any fears faced, will help you both now and in the future.