I can be highly social. I’d like to think I can work a cocktail party crowd pretty well. I love meeting people.
But I also have an introverted side which has been starved for oxygen in a college environment which places social interactions at the forefront. Alone time can be hard to come by…and I have a single!
During my gap year I had much time to myself. I lived in a condo in Boulder, CO for three months and ate many meals and enjoyed many weekends by myself. I traveled overseas for three months and sometimes went weeks without a full-length conversation with another native English speaker. I drove 5,000 miles in the month of April during my road trip / speaking tour, mainly by myself.
I like alone time because I like to think, and I can’t think hard with others around. I don’t think in real-time very well. I like alone time because I like to read and write. I write to be alone.
If I could, I’d put my life on pause and just hang out and read and write and drink bottled water. Unfortunately the chances of this happening are slim. Emails continue to fly in, professors expect me to show up at designated times, and the social scene at college is all-or-nothing.
Related Article: The Call of Solitude in Psychology Today, how solitude can increase intimacy.
10 comments on “Introverted Me”
Ben, I faced a similar challenge during my freshman year. I’d consider myself an extroverted introvert, and after a couple months at college I got burnt out on being with people all of the time. You’re expected to eat with your friends, go to class with your friends, study with your friends, go out on weekends with your friends, and even work out with your friends. You need a solid reason to escape, or people won’t understand why you don’t want to be around them. I’m really into fly fishing, so that was a really easy way to get away from everyone and everything. A lot of people would say they wanted to come with me, but almost nobody ever actually came. If I was stressed out, I’d just go stand in a river and try to catch some fish. Time spent fishing never cut into other things I had to do; in fact, it made it seem like I had a lot more time to do what I had to do.
I also tried sitting alone in my room (also a single) blogging (especially when it got too cold to fish). Oddly enough, I wanted to be alone, but have people read what I was thinking while I was alone. That didn’t work out as well for me. I tried it for a year, and quit because it had the opposite effect of fishing. It seemed to suck time away. I think it also made me feel detached from my friends. For a while I felt like I was getting the nothing in the all-or-nothing social scene at college. This may not have been a result of blogging, but instead my attitude towards blogging may have been a symptom of how I was feeling or the dreariness of a winter in central New York
So my advice would be to find a hobby that you can do alone and that leaves you to your thoughts. People won’t bug you for wanting to be alone, and if you find a hobby that is well suited to contemplation, it will multiply the value of the time.
I agree with you about college, Ben. Very little free time at all, especially with a roommate, but even without I can see how you could get cramped. I would suggest eating at the public dining center as little as possible, that tends to be the place that I run into people that I don’t really want to see.
Bottled water, Ben? Come on, you’re better than that.
Keep this need for alone time in mind when you get around to picking a wife. She will probably have to have the same need or there will be a constant cause for friction.
There’s a theory that says each person has his own “ratio” of alone time to social time.
The more introverted a person is, the more alone time for each hour of social time he or she needs.
I find that after I’m in an evening social situation for a few hours – say dinner – I need the rest of the evening to be quiet and low key. By the next morning, I’m back on an even keel.
Being alone is a state of mind, Ben. Remind me to expand on this sometime later when I interrupt your alone time.
Truly, I have a paper that I would like you to look at for writing quality. It should also be an interesting read. Due tomorrow at 5:00 PM, I’ll email you and/or slide it under the door sometime before tomorrow morning.
Great post, Ben. I feel the exact same way. Putting life on pause…what a wonderful thing that would be. Fascinating article, too. We introverts aren’t so unusual after all!
When it comes to hobbies that permit contemplation, I’d like to recommend my favorite: Bicycling. I can’t tell you how many times a ride has allowed me to clear my head. Or just do some good quality thinking.
But in heavy traffic, it’s best to go into zen mode and empty the mind of all thought. Just get into the traffic flow and move along with it.
When I was at Denison years ago, I got myself a desk hidden far in the rafters of the library, and that was my “third place.” I also liked walking to the grocery store for fresh produce, and then I would offer to cook in my boyfriend’s kitchen, which gave me “thinking time” while my hands were active, stirring pasta sauce and whatnot. But yes–alone time is hard to come by.
I struggled with the same issues all through college and could never figure it out: I enjoy going out and socializing, so why do I get so burnt out? And my friends would think I was weird or anti-social when I needed to be alone for a day or two to recharge.
If you want to learn more about being an introvert (and managing your life in an extrovert world), the book “The Introvert Advantage” helped me a lot.