A therapist recently informed me that I am an introvert.* I never thought I was an introvert. I like meeting people. I like parties. I socialize. I have friends. I’m not particularly shy (though I hate calling strangers on the phone), and I don’t have anxiety about meeting people.
I don’t mind going out alone to dinner, movies, bars, whatever. Brainstorming makes me grit my teeth. Group projects suck. Mingling is a nightmare. And it all makes me so tired! Judging by how many secrets strangers tell me, I’m a good listener. I’m better on paper. All of my best ideas come when I’m alone; usually in bed or the shower. I loved living alone. I was never lonely or bored. My husband is an extrovert. One of the hardest things about marriage for me is living with another person. Like, can’t we have a duplex and visit? (The answer is no.) If I don’t get enough time alone to decompress, I get irritable and withdrawn. I do not thrive in a group environment. Oh yeah, I’m also a librarian.
I thought it was an only child thing.
In reading the book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain, I came across her definition of introverts:
Introverts have a preference for a quiet, more minimally stimulating environment. Introverts tend to enjoy quiet concentration, listen more than they talk, and think before they speak, and have a more circumspect and cautious approach to risk. Introverts think more, are less reckless and focus on what really matters—relationships and meaningful work.
In Quiet, Cain presents the history of how Western (and in particular, American) culture is dominated by a culture of personality, an “extrovert ideal.” She describes this ideal as “the belief that the ideal self is gregarious, alpha and comfortable in the spotlight” and “favors the man of action over the man of contemplation.” And while Cain is gently rebuking a culture that favors style over substance, she does point out that both temperaments have important roles to play.
Without introverts, we wouldn’t have the Montgomery Bus Boycott (Rosa Parks), The Emancipation Proclamation (Abraham Lincoln), the Theory of Relativity (Albert Einstein), Starry Night (Vincent VanGogh), Harry Potter (J.K. Rowling) or The Cat in the Hat (Theodore Geisel)! What a terrible world indeed!
Introverts also feature in some of my favorite fiction titles!
Tell the Wolves I’m Home, Carol Rifka Brunt
There’s only one person who has ever truly understood fourteen-year-old June Elbus, and that’s her uncle, the renowned painter Finn Weiss. Shy at school and distant from her older sister, June can only be herself in Finn’s company; he is her godfather, confidant and best friend. So when he dies, far too young, of a mysterious illness her mother can barely speak about, June’s world is turned upside down.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Stephen Chbosky
Perks follows observant “wallflower” Charlie as he charts a course through the strange world between adolescence and adulthood. First dates, family drama and new friends. Sex, drugs and The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Devastating loss, young love and life on the fringes. Caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it, Charlie must learn to navigate those wild and poignant roller-coaster days known as growing up.
Ready Player One, Ernest Cline
It’s the year 2044, and the real world is an ugly place. Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be; a place where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets.
Glaciers, Alexis M. Smith
Glaciers follows Isabel through a day in her life in which work with damaged books in the basement of a library, unrequited love for the former soldier who fixes her computer, and dreams of the perfect vintage dress move over a backdrop of deteriorating urban architecture. Glaciers unfolds internally, the action shaped by Isabel’s sense of history, memory and place.
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Betty Smith
Francie Nolan, avid reader, penny-candy connoisseur and adroit observer of human nature, has much to ponder in colorful, turn-of-the-century Brooklyn. She grows up with a sweet, tragic father, a severely realistic mother and an aunt who gives her love too freely—to men, and to a brother who will always be the favored child. Francie learns early the meaning of hunger and the value of a penny.
Are you an introvert? An extrovert? An ambivert (it’s a thing!)?
crawling back into my corner,
*I took the online Myers-Briggs Extroversion quiz like five times because I didn’t believe her.