When I was a kid growing up in the 40s and 50s, it was not considered a good thing to be “shy.” The word “introvert” didn’t exist, as far as I know. In any case, I was a shy kid, a loner, and my mother worried about it.
“Why don’t you go outside and play?” She would say, as I sat at the piano practicing for hours during summer vacation. Not that going outside would put me in touch with other kids—there weren’t any, except my sister Bertie. We lived in the country, and there were very few neighbors, none of them close by. I usually liked playing with Bertie, but my favorite thing was to spend the day in the woods by myself, with some stale bread and a bottle of water, pretending I was a lost explorer.
As I grew older, even though I wasn’t fully aware of it, I still preferred being alone. I had a few friends at school, but I certainly wasn’t considered popular, and the friends I did have were thought of as somewhat “weird.”
As the years went by, I didn’t spend much time thinking about whether I might be an introvert, because the people I knew didn’t talk about things like that. It seemed to me that I was normally sociable, but looking back I can see that wasn’t quite true. I still used to sneak away early from parties, and I didn’t like hanging out in large groups of people. I preferred sitting with a close friend and talking about “life.”
Fast forward: For the past couple of decades I’ve felt an increasing need to be alone—not all the time, of course, but quite a bit of it. I think it’s partly because I’m a writer and composer, but also because it’s just my nature. It doesn’t feel odd to me. I’m comfortable being a loner.
Lately I’ve been noticing—mostly from articles and memes on Facebook—that introverts are “in.” The memes say things like, “Whew, that was close, I almost had to socialize,” “That feeling of dread that washes over you when the phone rings,” “Come, they said, it’ll be fun, they said,” “The Introvert Revolution,” and so on. It seems as though introverts have found their niche, but…
Somehow I don’t feel like waving an introvert flag. Why should I label myself? Why should anyone? We’re all different after all, sometimes in subtle ways, but we’re certainly not as classifiable as these memes and some articles I’ve read on the subject would have us believe.
I say, enjoy who you are. Explore who you are. Most of us are too busy to spend time with ourselves, but we need to make time. We’re here for a reason, and the more time we spend finding out about what it is that we’re here to do and why we are the way we are (and this is NOT selfish, I might add), the better off we’ll be. Then others can benefit from our gifts, too.