Read Part One here!
Now I am thinking about what it means to be an introvert in the communities I am involved in. Within punk and radical circles, I feel there is a huge emphasis on working in groups, organizing in groups, hanging out in groups, adventuring in groups, studying in groups, partying in groups… Everything in groups! I feel like the stuff we make isn’t quite as visible unless it’s a collaborative effort, the most obvious example being, of course, a band. I’ve never played in a band. When I was a kid, I wanted to take guitar lessons, but we couldn’t afford them; instead, my nana & poppa gave my twin and I acoustic guitars picked up at yard sales and beginner’s books on learning how to play. I didn’t understand the books, and instead, just strummed along to my Nirvana MTV Unplugged in NYC cassette and pretended I was playing the songs for real. I also dreamed of playing bass, but had no one to play with. Although I have many imaginary bands (because I like coming up with band names and making up songs in my head to play with a xylophone or ukulele, or just to scream), I have very little desire to actually play in any sort of band. When I think about the process of writing lyrics and music with other people, I know that that’s not truly what I want to do, and I know why I choose to write.
“When you have friends, you form a band. When you’re lonely, you write.” – Marilyn Manson
Each time I try to participate in a social activity, I tend to feel separate from the events going on; more of an observer than a participant. I thought this was a quirk of my Being A Writer, and perhaps it is, as I know plenty of other writers feel similarly, and it is helpful for our scribbling proclivities; I also attributed it to my inner sense of constant loneliness and discontent, and it is part of that, too; but it’s also due to my introversion. I’m trying to accept this feeling while also continuing to at least attempt to get involved by going to shows and events. I used to feel inspired when I went to shows, but now I usually just feel lost and alone. Parties are the worst. I’ve never enjoyed parties; even when I was a drunken wreck, I couldn’t understand the point of it all, and knew I didn’t belong there. It was impossible to have a conversation with anyone, and I mostly just preferred hanging out with my twin anyway. I still try to go to parties sometimes, but they are just more spaces where I feel separate; a queer dance party sounds like the most fun in the world until I get there and realize I am still the same awkward weirdo as always and I’d rather go home and read a book.
And each time I am social, even with only one person, I need time to process and re-energize. Just spending an hour with a friend over a cup of coffee takes a lot outta me; it’s not necessarily a negative thing, just something I need to learn how to deal with, and learn how to accept rather than change (or feel guilty for not being able to change). Although I often have intentions of texting my friends and inviting them to meet up and hang out, I usually end up choosing to be alone.
Often, I feel like a bad friend. I don’t hang out with my local pals as much as I want to, and I end up canceling plans more frequently than I’d like to admit. Along with my raging need for incredible amounts of alone-time, I also have chronic illnesses that prevent me from going out; headaches keep me at home and require plenty of recovery-time; I’m heavily allergic to synthetic scents and cigarette smoke, so sometimes just walking through downtown can trigger a headache or potential migraine, and if somebody wearing cologne or perfume sits near me on the bus or at a café, or stands next to me in line, I’m screwed. (One trick I’ve learned is to keep a small bottle of peppermint oil with me, and dab a little under my nose either as a preventative measure, or when another scent starts invading my space; I’m not allergic to essential oils, so this has proven useful for me.)
As an introvert, I also frequently feel left out of conversations. Whenever I am at a loss for words, somebody will inevitably say, “But you’re a writer!” Yes, I am. That means I’m good with words when I’m writing, not when I’m speaking. I’m just not good at formulating thoughts / ideas / opinions / etc., out loud; I need time to think, process, write. In group conversations, I tend to keep to myself. I find that the more people there are in a group, the more people tend to interrupt and the less actually gets said. I actually really really can’t deal with being interrupted. It’s so disrespectful. When you interrupt someone, you are essentially saying, “Shut up! What I have to say is more important than what you’re saying!” It takes time and effort for me to collect my thoughts into anything coherent, so when I attempt to express them out loud, I truly need to get them outta me, and when somebody chooses to interrupt me, I lose my train of thought, and I lose my will to continue the conversation.
Lately, I’ve been having Fight Boredom Write Anything Club gatherings, and “quiet parties”; inspired by my twin and the work-on-stuff dates she’s been organizing, quiet parties are dates where a few pals get together and do stuff like write letters, draw stuff, make zines, get crafty, and drink tea, and keep each other company without the pressure of having to entertain, or even having to talk. And the Fight Boredom Write Anything Club is similar; it’s an informal gathering of people who wanna write stuff in the company of others, whether it be zines, letters, journals, ficition, whatever. Sometimes it’s just me writing alone, and that’s okay. Sometimes I have writing dates with my partner, or sometimes my housemate and I work on stuff together in the livingroom, relatively silent, but with the comfort of a rad friend nearby. I find such great beauty in these little dates.
The Rise of the New Groupthink has also been giving me plenty to think about. The article was written last Winter by Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking (a book I very much want to read but am waiting until the softcover version comes out because I find hardcover books to be ugly, clunky, and uncomfortable), and discusses working in groups vs. working in solitude.
“Solitude has long been associated with creativity and transcendence. “Without great solitude, no serious work is possible,” Picasso said. A central narrative of many religions is the seeker — Moses, Jesus, Buddha — who goes off by himself and brings profound insights back to the community.”
“The protection of the screen mitigates many problems of group work. This is why the Internet has yielded such wondrous collective creations. Marcel Proust called reading a “miracle of communication in the midst of solitude,” and that’s what the Internet is, too. It’s a place where we can be alone together — and this is precisely what gives it power.”
“And most humans have two contradictory impulses: we love and need one another, yet we crave privacy and autonomy.”
Ten Tips for Parenting an Introverted Child, by the same author, is also useful, inspiring, and thought-provoking.
Tell me about your own introvert experiences!