At Christmas and Easter my dad would bring my sisters and I to at least two large family gatherings. And I mean large. My parents both come from French Catholic backgrounds, and birth control was not looked favourably on. So during the holiday celebrations, my grandmothers’ houses would be crammed with people. There would be chairs lining the walls, tv trays pulled out, kids scattered on the carpet. And there would be me, trying my best to be inconspicuous.
I always felt so awkward and overwhelmed in a crowd. My cousins would be running around, shrieking and laughing while I would be doing my best to get up the courage to join them. Because that’s what kids were supposed to do, even though I would rather do a puzzle quietly or just sit on my dad’s lap while he chatted with my uncles. The chasm that separated me from others in that type of situation just seemed too wide to cross.
I had a philisophical mind from early on. I remember pondering deep subjects like what “the spark” is that causes something to be alive, why I was me and not someone else, and if I died then what happened to this me? It seemed unthinkable that I could just cease to be, when I was so solidly connected with what I now feel is my soul. Even as a young child, I believe I had an awareness of God and my connection to Him.
Of course, the inward bend of my thoughts made it hard for me to fit in with others. Other kids didn’t seem to enjoy the things that I did, or have the patience to do them with me. I became shunned as the smart nerdy kid at school, and was also bullied because my family was poor. Hand-me downs were the majority of my wardrobe and I never had the name-brand shoes the other kids had. My dad couldn’t afford to put me in sports, which in a way felt like a blessing because I felt so intimidated by the idea of playing on teams. I was the kid who was picked last for each group project or team in gym class.
I learned to insulate myself in books, in traveling on great adventures in my mind. It helped me to hide from the true and imagined rejection I felt from my classmates and the larger world in general. A few close family members were very important to me, however, especially my grandmother who never made me feel like I was weird for the way I was. We would make puzzles together for hours, talking about her childhood while I rested in the comfort of her words. She never stopped encouraging me, and always told me that there was something special in me, and that she knew I would make her proud.
As I got older I learned to accept my introversion more and more, although this remains an ongoing process. I stopped beating myself up about not having a lot of friends, and put my focus on those that I did. I allowed myself ample time to have “me” time and didn’t feel guilty about it. Nature became a haven to me, and I took to exploring it passionately. I explored new creative outlets like painting and playing the guitar, ways that I could express myself without having to follow the ideals of this world. And I anticipate that this blog will be another way to do the same.
The unfortunate part of being an introvert is that our culture is not designed to accept or support it. Even though research shows that introverts make up anywhere from 16-50 percent of the population, introverts are often seen as weird, strange, boring, or disinterested. The truth is that introverts just are fed or energized by different things than extroverts. Extroverts are energized by groups of people and a fast pace of life, while those things tend to drain introverts. Introverts fill their inner batteries with thought, quiet activities, long deep conversations with those that they trust. Small talk is painful and difficult; introverts want to delve far into the complex issues of life.
I have been told by my friends that they did not expect the funny, eccentric side of me that they have learned lives in me. When people first spend time with me, I seem quiet and reserved, but once I get comfortable with them a whole new person emerges. They appreciate how I can truly listen not only to their words but to the underlying message. My deep knowledge of my own self helps me have insight into how others think and feel. This is one of the reasons I became a nurse, as I thrive from the one-on-one nature of my interactions with my patients, and the opportunity to support them in a time of great vulnerability. I have had the privelege of witnessing the most special moments of life as well as the most painful: the birth of new life, slipping away in death, being told of a cancer diagnosis, learning to speak again after a stroke. There are roles like this for myself and others like me in the world; if you are an introvert, do not lose heart. You are not strange or unworthy; rather your attributes make you infinitely special and valuable. Learn how you can give of yourself to the world, and in turn you will be challenged and fulfilled.