How to be an Introvert in College

“Be a loner. That gives you time to wonder. To search for the truth.”

Albert Einstein

 

“Spend your free time the way you like, not the way you think you’re supposed to. Stay home on New Year’s Eve if that’s what makes you happy. Skip the committee meeting. Cross the street to avoid making aimless chitchat with random acquaintances. Read. Cook. Run. Write a story.”

Susan Cain, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

 

“The core of all my writing was probably the five free years I had there on the farm. […] The only thing we had was time and seclusion. I couldn’t have figured on it in advance. I hadn’t that kind of foresight. But it turned out right as a doctor’s prescription.”

Robert Frost

 

“Tell him solitude is creative if he is strong and the final decisions are made in silent rooms. Tell him to be different from other people if it comes natural and easy being different.”

Carl Sandburg

 

Dear P,

Happy Easter! I’ve been enjoying your snaps today.

You may not think this post applies to you, an extrovert, but I think the core of it is important for everyone. Here it is: your energy is your own. It is the most valuable resource you have. Guard it carefully.

Okay, you don’t have to read the rest of the post now.

My energy is easily depleted by communication. I am one of the more introverted people I know. This does not mean I am shy. If I have had a relaxing, solitary weekend like this one, only talking to people I love dearly, eaten properly, and slept well, then I can charm a whole group of people at a cocktail party. If my conditions are not optimal, however, my communication skills are the first to suffer until I can recharge myself.

Learning the research about introversion has helped me to accept it in myself. In “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking”, psychologist Susan Cain discusses how it is possible to predict whether babies will be introverts or extroverts. If you give an introverted baby a drop of lemon juice, they will produce more saliva. If you expose an introverted baby to a loud noise, they will cry more. Introverts simply require less sensory activity to keep them happy.

Outgoingness is highly valued in this country. I feel lucky that I have been forced to improve in this area, while areas that I am more naturally inclined to are not as stressed (but equally important). I am a very good listener. When I meet good talkers I am a little jealous of them at first, but I quickly become aware of how little they practice listening. I will usually pick up on important information, like group dynamics, more quickly than they do. Because I have grown up in a place where we went to go to school every day and engaged in group activities (probably the most exhausting thing an introvert can do), I find it easy to force myself to do tiring things now, like exercise and studying. I have been pushed by our culture and now I push myself through exercises like “Seen on UT Campus”.

At UT, I have learned the importance of balancing pushing myself and caring for myself. This is a big school with lots of people. Sometimes, I can’t find a place to study alone. Sometimes, I can’t even find an empty bathroom. A couple of months ago I started hyperventilating and crying in the crowd on campus because I couldn’t find a place to be by myself. Everyone stared at me, which made it worse. Now, I have carefully mapped out empty classrooms where I can study in between classes. I have not made it a priority to join groups for the sake of joining them. I am part of a neuroscience group called “Synapse”; I invest energy in my EMT class and UWC job, and besides that I keep my time for myself. I don’t go out unless I want to, which is about once every two or three weeks. Saying no to my friends when they want to party has been difficult for me, but I have to do it to stay sane. I have found that they usually understand and still have fun without me. I find it easier to socialize in planned daytime activities, like getting lunch or exercising with friends. I don’t talk to people in my classes if I don’t feel like it. The idea of joining a sorority or spirit group boggles my mind.

Running has helped me find time for myself. No one tries to talk to you while you are running. You can ignore pretty much everything that’s going on in your life except step, step, step. People don’t like to hear that you can’t hang out with them because you lack the energy to communicate with them, but saying you’re running, swimming, or studying for something urgent usually does the trick.

I still feel shame when I think about this aspect of my personality. I am embarrassed that I can’t just be normal and talk to people like everyone else. However, I am grateful that I am familiar with my weaknesses so that I can work to improve and adjust my life to compensate. And, of course, my introversion is a source of my biggest strengths: my ability to listen, read, learn, and write about it afterwards.

If you’re interested in this stuff, Susan Cain’s book and TED talk are both great.

Much love,

E

How to Be a Badass

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Dear P,

Due to your recent ear piercing, as well as your long history of kicking butt and taking names, you have long been raised to the level of “BADASS”

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Since you now occupy this elevated position in society, expect people to approach you and ask how they, too, can be as cool as you.

Since you are a badass effortlessly, you may not be able to answer this question. So I have laid out a few guidelines on rebelling it up:

  • Eat Crunchy Peanut Butter

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  • Drive Stick

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  • Develop Your Own Personality independent of your parents, friends, lovers, etc. People will hate you and then love you for it.

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  • Eat Spinach

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  • Take Awesome Pictures. You have this one down.

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  • Take Cold Showers. This is good for your skin, hair, and wakefulness as well as making you feel tough first thing in the morning.

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  • Kiss in Interesting Locations. 

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  • Name Your Guitar. If you don’t have a guitar, name the primary means you have of expressing yourself, like your favorite pen, cooking utensil, typewriter, etc.

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  • Be Ready to Meet Life’s Challenges. Keep your mind and body fine-tuned and ready for anything.

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  • Don’t Apologize Unless You Really Mean It. I have been working on my own list of things I refuse to apologize for to try and break this habit. So far, mine includes vulgar jokes, when I get too close to someone on accident (but don’t actually run into them), needing help, my faith, being passionate about my interests, not wanting a dog, and wearing interesting things.

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Loads of Love and Badassery,

E