Living Life Abundantly

The Introvert in Me

“He doesn’t talk much in class,” “He’s so quiet”. 

That was what my high school teacher once told my mom during a parent-teacher conference. I knew what she meant but I don’t think my mom did. I had good grades that school term and so my mom had no reason to probe any further.  To her being “quiet” meant I wasn’t making noise or disturbing others in class.

I knew exactly what she meant. That I wasn’t participating in class activities. Back then I hadn’t heard of the term “introvert”. To others my quietness was synonymous with shyness. I was called shy countless times but it never bothered me. I didn’t have a low self-esteem either. I participated in some group activities but withdrew from some. I was comfortable being myself. What others perceived as a weakness, I took it as strength. It allowed me to excel in activities that I loved. School work etc.

College life was a bit different. First, I had complete autonomy. There were no parent-teacher events. A major plus. I chose activities to take part in. Then there was the library -it became my solace. At times I would spend endless hours at the start of the semester just poring over books & magazines. I wasn’t bothered. I began to appreciate how unique I was. I didn’t need anyone to encourage me to do something. I was comfortable in my own skin. Heck, I even enjoyed my own company.

Occasionally, someone would ask me if I felt lonely being by myself. I wanted so much to scream from the top of my lungs how much I enjoyed my own company or got carried away in my own small world. I simply stared back and said no!

One thing in college that made me uneasy was study groups. I disliked them for two reasons. First, I did well on projects on my own rather than in a group settings so I couldn’t see the point. Second, free riders. I had been part of a couple of groups where some students didn’t do anything but expected to share in the final outcome.

There’s one incident that I will never forget. One lecturer gave us a group assignment (group of 5). When we first met, I somehow took the responsibility of doing the entire project. For the next few weeks I immersed myself in research and writing and when it was done, our group (or me) got the highest score.

There’s one catch. The lecturer had earlier told us that the group with the highest score would give a presentation. Since I had written the entire thing, who would be in a better position to make the presentation? It freaked me out. On the D-day after getting back our graded papers, opportunity presented itself and I walked out of the class only to be told later that he had shelved the presentations idea. Relief!

This might sound like a contradiction but there are times when I’ve enjoyed being in a group setting. Case in point; my church has a home bible study program where a couple of people meet during the week for fellowship. It took me a while (3 years) before I signed up for it but eventually I started to like it. Part of the reason was/is its informal nature & most of people are my friends. I was comfortable being in their presence.

Does this means that my attitude towards group activities will change? Not anytime soon. But as Susan Cain said in her Ted talk, occasionally let’s open up our suitcases and share what we have with the world. I will, but only if later I can retreat to my quiet sanctuary.


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