I am the introvert. The recluse. The one recently described by friends and family as a “hermit.”
“Maybe you should leave the house?” said a friend gently. I could sense the concern, even over her text message. “I just have so much to do,” I lie. I do this a lot — the lying.
And here I am now telling you all of my secrets in case you, too, have a friend that requires a bit of prodding. For the record, I’m not exactly terrified of people, though I had to chuckle when I read this quote via blogger Luvvie Ajayi: “I was a people person until I met people”.
I just don’t particularly like leaving my house and interacting with the outside world.
I pride myself on being able to go entire weekends without speaking to another human being. Enthusiastically, I eventually tell others about my 72 hours without actual conversation: “And then I went for a run — ALONE. And I did some writing —ALONE. The only person I spoke to was the guy who delivered my sushi! It was amazing!” This is met with a gentle pat and often a look of pity.
According to my mother, I wasn’t always like this. I spent most of the third grade sitting outside of Mr. Horan’s classroom due to my continuous gabbing. In between assignments, during quiet time, after spelling and because — hey — it was Tuesday! Everything needed to be talked about out loud. I approached my classmates with the enthusiasm of a seven year old who hadn’t yet been introduced to the concept of “assholes.”
Like many things in my current life I can attribute my introversion to a mostly friend-free adolescence. The K-12 setting is rife with children who can be cruel and thus curtail any desire to go to the mall. And do you know what happens to these children? They just get taller and bigger and become adult assholes.
Much of my reclusiveness is simply due to fear, a fate I have long accepted. I am worried that someone won’t like me or will turn out to be an asshole, which has rendered me unable to form new friendships with ease. I have friends, I swear that I do, I am sure you are wondering how that is possible. It’s just that, and I should be more embarrassed to admit this, they know how to deal with my special brand of needing to be left alone.
One of my closest friends lives on the other side of the country — a blessing to our relationship. Two other friends are mothers who live an hour to the north and an hour to the south, respectively. But they’re parents and parents are always busy; much of the friendship is dictated by my willingness to go visit. Then there is a friend with whom I have weekly date nights. Evenings are limited to just the two of us at a bar, gossiping about the men — or lack thereof — in our lives. This friend is far more gregarious than I will ever be and yet our relationship works due to time (we’ve been friends since kindergarten) and the fact that that she is aware of my tendencies to do things at my own pace. No judgment. Simply understanding.
Now you’re probably thinking, gee, she’s selfish and sounds like a peach of a friend! *eye-roll* Sure, I admit it, but aren’t we all? I look at friendship — or any relationship — as a give and take. I also believe in setting boundaries. I recently and unfortunately lost a friend due to poor communication on my part. I felt pressured to forgo my anxiety and reclusiveness and, to make my friend happy, I hosted six strangers in my very tiny house. It was a horrible experience, but due to my ability to put on a front that says, “Yes! I am totally happy with all of these people in my space! More wine?” my discomfort didn’t show. Meanwhile, I was popping anti-anxiety meds between moments of playing good hostess. At one point I found a moment with my friend and confessed to her how difficult it was for me to have guests in my house. I had crossed my own comfort zone into an area where I wanted to hand over the keys to my own home and travel far, far away. Sadly, the friendship ended after this event and only confirmed my need for boundaries. Selfish? Perhaps. But I take pride in knowing exactly the type of person I am and am not willing to be.
Past experiences inform our future. Being shunned in middle school and spending my formative years begging and bartering for friendship have manifested into anxiety and fear of feeling out of place in a room full of my peers. I go to parties and events, of course, but I cannot do so without a feeling of dread in my stomach.
I cannot possibly have anything to offer this group of people, I think, so why bother?
For me, intimacy is key. Nothing is more enjoyable than one-on-one conversation over cocktails or coffee. It’s easy to see those like me — the anxiety-ridden — as slightly off and in need of therapy. I have a great therapist and I do generally like who I am and being aware of my limitations. Even more, I enjoy developing deep relationships with people where there is mutual respect for one another’s quirks and personality differences.
I do not keep myself completely closed off to all new experiences and people. I simply proceed with caution.
Besides, everyone needs one friend who is kind of weird and hides in the corner during parties.
I’m that friend.