Being an introvert in American colleges is so tough, it’s like being a Jew in Nazi Germany.
What a hyperbole. Besides the faint hope of snatching your attention (something so deficit while internet browsing), the assertion has only a few micrograms of truth.
Let me now then tell you how things really are.
1. Is it tough to be a college introvert? It is, to a widely varying extent. The truth is that people are not going to recoil from you for not being a people person. But the damage is done indirectly, and perhaps unconsciously – no one declares the inferiority of introversion, of being a little too contemplative or reticent, but everyone extols the supremacy of extroversion, of being talkative and sociable. The reverberation hurts.
So the mainstream and you sing in dissonance. Yet this is not just another you-against-the-norm epic, because neither side truly understands what it is fighting for. The norm, whose anthropomorphic incarnation is your extrovert friends, is not fighting to make you annoyed or exhausted, but only to drag you out and have some fun. And you, being fed the unquestioned desirability of a social life, are confused over why you are fighting to be alone. You wonder whether that is okay. You question your sanity and your probability of success in life.
If you happen to live in the worst of all worlds, you will risk being shoved, by all that puzzlement, into a depression that used to be only imaginary in the mind of your solicitous friends in the first place.
But mark this: what is hurting you is not your friends, definitely not your self – but the puzzlement, the puzzlement that feasts on uncertainty and self-doubt. Hence, to be introvert and be content in college, you need not fight the world nor change yourself, but only put that puzzlement on a strict diet of self-understanding, and of full confidence in your way of life.
And I am here, with hope no more than to either kindle, reignite, or further inflame that confidence.
2. Would I miss out on things if I were not social? Yes, you would – the extroverts say – you would miss all the new people, all the parties, and all the chatting and screaming and drinking. All the socializing, in a word.
But I have no more to respond than this: if you know that you don’t want those things in the first place, wouldn’t they be not counted as missed?
Furthermore, don’t the people that spend away their lives in parties that are excessive of noise and deficit in depth realize that they are missing out on things too? Like a moment of quiet contemplation, a Friday night of being alone with the piano, or an hour of exhilarating good read? Oh, excuse me, I forgot – how can people that do not think realize all that. Good for them. They clearly have picked a lifestyle that suit them best.
3. But wouldn’t I be disadvantaged in “essential” to-dos, like job search? Yeah, you would be – and the introvert admit too. Networking seems like an indispensable part of finding a job, and of climbing the corporate ladder. Talent is absolutely valued – the only problem is that people in the business world all seem to have a life too busy and an attention span too short to notice a covered gem.
To this dilemma I have no satisfactory answer myself (I am a college junior, aren’t I?) My temporary solution is to get as many Ph.D as I can. Here people judge you not on the volubility of your talk, but on the content of your talk.
So yes, consider a Ph.D, will you? Because, honestly, why change yourself when you can change the world.
4. What fun I can have in college? A ton.
4.1. Learn to play an instrument: As I once said somewhere in this blog, music is a perfect complement to the futility of verbal communication. It expresses emotions that words can’t, and requires a level of sensitivity and sensibility that talking never quite dreams of. One thing that keeps amaze me is how the rests need to be played as carefully as the notes do – and right there we have an introvert motto.
If you already knew an instrument, preferably a string one, I would recommend joining the college orchestra
4.2. Go to a concert: Even if we aren’t in an orchestra, we can always experience that musical delight vicariously, can’t we?
4.3. Go to the gym: That sounds really counter-intuitive, for if I observe correctly, we introverts are not known for our athletic potency. One reason might be that we tend to look down on those activities as degradingly physical. So I thought, until I was dragged to the gym (by an extrovert, for the sake of irony) myself. It turns out to be very mentally demanding. It is just like this: if you visualize your lifting that weight, you will – and vice versa.
Furthermore, keeping yourself in good shape is like beating them outgoing extroverts at their own games. Oh man, what a great motivation.
4.4. Join a sport team: I am more ambivalent about other sports. Even though the in-game communication is by no means superficial, being in a team necessarily involves other social duties, like team dinners that drag out for hours. I have not been in a sport team since my high school senior year, so I will not try to establish an authority here.
4.5. Learn to cook: An activity that combines enjoyment and practical use, a process that involves so many variables (think ingredients, spices, condiments, slicing, boiling, frying, sauté-ing, time, heat, decorations) that the potentials are endless. An art so underrated as a means of getting by.
4.6. Read a non-academic book: Probably all of us have already done this – so I won’t jeopardize my introvert status by ranting trivialities. One thing to note though, in college you are bound to have a lot of reading already. So try something light and fun perhaps, by which I mean Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit, or Nietzsche’s On the Genealogy of Morality.
Or Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight will do.
4.7. Have a weekend movie night: An obvious choice indeed.
4.8. Start a blog: aha! Mystery solved for those who wonder how this blog came into being. And I do hope that this blog, with both its content and spirit, is already the loudest (figuratively, of course) proponent of why blogging is a natural option for those who love to mull over ideas and feelings.
The Internet, after all, is a perfect medium for us. Think about it: in no where else, can we have absolute control over the pace and the content of the other side’s talk, right?