There’s only one place more overwhelming for an introvert than the *real* world and that’s the college world. The preference for solitude seems like a foreign concept on a college campus where students attend clubs, join Greek life, inhabit dorms and student houses, and do it all together like a flock of birds. It’s daunting to face as an introvert, but first let’s squash a few stereotypes:
1. I like people. I really do.
2. I like to meet new people and am intrigued to hear everyone’s unique story and experiences in life.
3. I’m not shy— if I’m interested I’ll text someone first, compliment a stranger on their outfit, and raise my hand in class.
4. I attend to parties (for a limited amount of time.)
But to state the obvious, I like to be alone. Most often, I prefer it.
An important distinction is between the words “alone” and “lonely.” The first is a state; the latter is a feeling. Alone signifies solitude, the company of oneself. Lonely, on the other hand, implies sadness, the desire for company. I am alone, but I am not lonely.
A day spent completely alone doesn’t incur pangs of loneliness, yet when others ask why I still rack my brain to conjure a sufficient explanation. The perpetual hesitation when friends ask to “hang out” and the ubiquitous stuttering as I answer why I didn’t invite them along somewhere— if I weren’t me, I’d have no trouble presuming I’m a self-preoccupied bitch. But it’s not because I don’t like you or because I’m obsessed with myself. It’s neither, and jumping to either of these conclusions simplifies a question that transcends the boundaries of your knowledge of introverts.
I didn’t ask you to join me at the library because I headed over to finish schoolwork and knew I’d be more productive if I sat by myself.
It didn’t cross my mind to ask if you wanted to eat with me because hunger hit earlier, so I went to grab food without thinking twice. Admittedly though, my ideal dinner date consists of me and an interesting read.
I don’t want a “gym buddy” because I’m more focused and successful in my workouts when it’s me and the equipment.
It’s the one night we aren’t swamped with schoolwork and my friends ask if I’m down to watch a movie. I want to say yes. But what I want more is curl up with my laptop and read poetry and news reports and biographies.
I could go on, but the inevitable outcome of every scenario favors my company over another’s, undeniably conveying I’m not interested in a friendship. “Introverted” is not synonymous with “socially inept”— I recognize that when you repeatedly deny someone, they’ll eventually give up. I may like to be alone, but I am not immune to loneliness. Solitude is our choice; loneliness chooses us. I may seem like I don’t care, but I do. Please don’t give up on me.
It sounds unfair how the introvert has the prerogative to decide the terms of the friendship. But really, we don’t. It’s not our friends who need us; it’s us who need our friends. Extroverts share the mutual desire for companionship, while on the other hand every introvert needs an extrovert to intervene when they’ve neglected human interaction for too long. Don’t avoid a friendship just because the other person has introverted tendencies. You two may hit it off immediately and become close within days. Opposites do attract.
Just don’t expect your new friend to be your daily lunch buddy.