If you frequent this blog, or if you are one of the few people I interact with on a constant basis, you know that I am highly introverted. On the scale of introversion and extroversion, I am so far on the side of introversion, you would have to “Ctrl -” about five hundred times before you would be able to see where I stand on the scale. People who hardly know me or people I’ve just met are probably several shades of surprised upon hearing this because – believe it or not, friends and family – I know how to introduce myself to new people when put in that situation. I may seem excited to meet people for the first time, or so I hope it may seem, but on the inside I’m screaming obscenities at myself, desperately trying to pound the awkward out of my words and actions.
Being introverted is something that I wholeheartedly accept about myself. It’s something that I think about on a daily basis. But yesterday, it became so incredibly evident to me exactly how introverted I am when I attended a friend’s wedding, and I am here to walk you through my thought train from the hours leading up to the event all the way to the car ride back home. For those who are thinking, “What the heck, Walt. I could care less about what it’s like to be you,” try and think of this as a guided tour not just through my own mind, but the minds of other introverts – hopefully this will allow you to understand us better.
As soon as I got the invite to the wedding, I was ecstatic, over the moon, not just at getting invited to the wedding, but at the fact that among the sea of those in my graduating class who got married in their late teens/early twenties, I’m actually close friends with one of them, and that I get to be a part of their special day. It did not occur to me until yesterday morning, as I was about to get ready for the occasion, that I would be surrounded by hoards of people I don’t know, and that the few people that I actually do know are all in the wedding party.
Cue panic attack.
Just as I do before any social gathering, I isolated myself from everyone else in the house to mentally prepare myself for the wedding later that day – or so I tried. I usually do this by catching up on the latest episode of a show I missed earlier that week, or binging YouTube videos from the comfort of my bedroom. I was in the middle of typing out “Kardashian Reaction American Crime Story” in the YouTube search bar when my mom comes in and asks me to run to the store down the street to pick up some vegetable oil. Yes, the store was a short five minute car ride away, and she was asking me to get just one simple thing, but my immediate knee jerk reaction was to huff and puff and try and pout my way out of this super simple and short task. It didn’t work.
I was trying to get as much alone time as possible before being thrust into a social situation, and the last thing I wanted to do at that moment was to go outside and do things. But since she’s my mother, I reluctantly put on a pair of jeans and marched my long introverted legs (introverted, not inverted. What the heck are inverted legs anyway? What the heck are introverted legs? Good words, Walt. Sorry. I digress.) out the door and drove the five minutes to the store and avoided as much human interaction as possible. I picked up my mom’s vegetable oil, drove the five minutes back to my house, and quarantined myself back into bed before it was time to get ready.
The wedding venue was about an hour away from where I live, and so I took advantage of every second I had alone in the car and enjoyed (or tried to enjoy) the rain spattering on my windshield as Parachute played in the background – it truly felt like I was in an hour-long real life music video. When I finally got to the venue, I was greeted by the groom at the door, to which I let out a sigh of relief – a familiar face, no need for any new awkward interaction just yet. But eventually our short banter had to come to an end, as he was greeting other people as they came in. I walked around the room, inspecting every small detail of each decoration, avoiding the thought that I probably stood out like a sore thumb as the only brown person among a sea of white people, the lone cinnamon grain in a pile of sugar.
Finally, the ceremony started, and I took my seat – alone, I might add, but that was probably a given. After about fifteen minutes of wedding party marching, vow exchanging, and light tear shedding, the ceremony ended, and I was left to my own devices once again. That all-too familiar thought rang in my head: “How do I look as occupied and entertained as possible without looking antisocial and without being awkward?” And then the clear solution came to me – I’ll just Snapchat as many of these hella cute decorations as I can until the reception starts! And that is exactly what I did. I was thankful to catch up with a couple of friends from high school in between Snaps, but when I ran out of things to Snapchat, I retreated to my assigned table where there already sat a few other guests. The outgoing part of me was shouting “Start up a conversation with them!” over and over, while the less-outgoing part of me kept telling me to “Let them talk to me first.” The latter won the struggle, and I retreated to social media (the others had done the same, so I told myself there was no point in starting a conversation now). I contemplated having a few drinks to loosen up and take the edge off of starting up a conversation with strangers, but concluded that since I was driving myself that night in the pouring rain, with windshield wipers that are in desperate need of replacement, in the middle of nowhere, on sparsely lit roads in one of the more rural parts of northern California, adding alcohol into the mix with my extremely low alcohol tolerance, would probably not be the best decision.
Let me just clarify that my withdrawing to my phone isn’t due to being antisocial or shy. This is a classic introverted move that I fall into from time to time. For me personally, when I feel overwhelmed in a social situation and my energy is being drained from merely being in the presence of people, I immediately turn to my phone for gratification. It’s comfortable, it’s safe, it’s how I zone in all of my energy on myself before having to get back into “social mode.” It is not a passive aggressive way of letting people know I don’t want to talk to anyone. It is my way of regaining my grip on my sanity.
A few more hours of this occurred, and here and there, the few people I did know at the venue filtered in and out of conversations, and I managed to have small conversations with people I didn’t know by way of these friends. The festivities were coming to an end, and it was nearing the part of the reception where the DJ would be throwing down some Top 40 realness to transition into the traditional post-wedding dance party, something that I had no interest in joining with my depleting energy and tolerance for social interaction. I greeted my friend, the bride, with a congratulations and a goodbye, and slipped out with (hopefully) little to no self-inflicted attention, the dance party already well underway.
On the car ride home, as I regained my wits, I began to go over little things that happened over the course of the night. I began to grow disappointed in myself, now coming up with more-than-a-few-words responses to questions people asked me, questions to ask them back, ways to compliment that guy who had a super dope camera, ways to say goodbye to my friends and exchange “nice to meet you’s” with the people I just met. Once again, I let myself fall ill to introversion, allowing myself to be glued to my phone for most of the evening. But I realized that I was only just now coming up with these things because I wasn’t too busy overwhelming myself with ways to not be awkward, and I wasn’t preoccupied with thoughts of trying to impress people with how quick witted I can be, and how well I can string words together to form a sentence.
Being thrust into a social setting sparks all of these thoughts and often causes an internal struggle, which is why I tend to either remain quiet or interact with familiar people in close quarters. I don’t enjoy small talk because it feels generic to talk about things like the weather, but it’s weird to talk about life with people you’ve only just met. And so I’m left stuck in a social setting with nothing to say and diminishing energy levels from being around people and trying to figure out how to talk to people. As I type this, I’m sitting in a coffee shop with my earphones in. Yes, this is a social setting. But the difference between this one and the one I was in yesterday is that here, I don’t have to interact with anyone, and I can focus my energy on myself and be in my own element. It’s a social setting without the obligation of being social, and that is why I enjoy doing things and going places by myself. It can get lonely at times, but other times, it’s reprieve from the typical day to day of talking to and interacting with other people.
I don’t know if any of this made any sense, or if anyone else can relate, but I hope this helps some of you understand how one introvert functions. To the extroverts: If you see anyone sitting by themselves in a social setting, introduce yourself to them. I guarantee you that they have words to say, but need someone to bring them out. And to any fellow introverts: You are not alone. It may be awkward trying to strike a conversation with someone new, but you’ll be pleasantly surprised about how it could lead to a meaningful conversation. And if it’s still awkward, you never have to see that person again. But you’ll never know until you go up to them and just say hello.