The Lonely Introvert

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I am an introvert. I’m not sure if I always was. Life and circumstances have a way of changing us. But as an adult, I have certainly always been an introvert. I don’t think that’s a negative think, it’s just the way I’m wired.

I wouldn’t say that I’m shy or socially awkward. I think being shy and being an introvert are different things. I’m never afraid to speak my mind or stand up for myself or others. I can behave extremely normally at social functions (whatever that means!). I just kind of feel really drained after.

A lot of people can be seriously draining to introverts. Or really large social settings where everyone looks like they are having the time of their lives. And I’m wondering when I can go home! Introverts, like me, tend to like smaller circles. I often joke that I don’t really like people; I prefer animals, which is sometimes very true. The people I do love, I love hard. They are easy to be around. I don’t have to worry about anything but just being me.

As an introvert, I’ve had to put myself out there and go outside my comfort zone. It’s been necessary for my job and my social life. I try hard to be a more charming version of myself, usually failing. I think it’s good to push yourself even if it goes against your natural inclination. As an introvert, I feel like I have to be “on” in some of these settings. But I don’t think I’m ever far from my genuine self, just maybe a bit more talkative.

I need a break after times like these. I need to cocoon a bit and recharge. I’ve always been fine by myself. I don’t mind going places and doing things by myself; never minded traveling alone. Through all my travels, I never had more than a few sentence conversation with anyone sitting beside me. I wouldn’t say I’m not friendly. I just tend to have my nose in a book. I’m rarely interested in what’s going on around me.

However, I do get lonely. That may seem contrary to everything I’ve just written thus far. I never feel lonely at home. I’m blessed to have an amazing connection with a great man. I just sometimes feel disconnected. Most of my favorite people are not close by. And because I work for a huge company with colleagues all over the globe, I don’t really see anyone all day. Most meetings are virtual and literally no one sits around me when I go into the office. It can be really isolating.

The truth is the older you get the harder it is to keep and make friends. We stay in touch with those closest by and who we have the most in common. I could do better. I don’t call my west coast friends near enough. I don’t make plans with the ones closer enough. Because you know, life gets in the way: responsibilities, projects and work. I want to be a better friend. I want the people I love to know it. I am grateful and thankful for them every day, and I know that even if it’s been a day or month or a year, we are always in each other’s hearts.

As I reflect on friendships, I can’t help but also think about the friends I have lost. Most because we fell out of touch or grew apart; others needed to be let go. Even if we haven’t talked in years, there are so many out there that are and were wonderful lights in my life. There is a sadness that comes with this when you think back to people who were such important parts of your life. Now they are just people you used to know. In times like these, I think mostly of two friends that I still miss and think about all the time. I met them at a critical time in my life. I was trying to start fresh and carve out a place for myself in a new city and new school. The weight of everything that had happened in my young 20 years wasn’t clear, not yet any way. I needed to have fun. I needed friends. I needed people to see me differently than others did who already knew my story.

For the next six years, those two girls were so much to me. I couldn’t have survived without them. I believe I was a good friend, too. I’m still not really sure what happened that caused our rift. I haven’t seen them now in over a decade. But I keep up with them. I have so much love for them and wish them joy and happiness. They’ll never read this. They’ll never know how much I think of them. I’ll probably never see them again. It’s sad but that’s life. It’s not fair but sometimes people are only in your life for a short time and hopefully for a good reason.

Loneliness is not my unique malady. I’m sure we all suffer episodes of it. Loneliness isn’t about being alone. I’ve felt lonely in a room of people. It’s not about not wanting time alone. That I don’t mind and recommend. Loneliness is about the absence of the faces and voices you love. It’s about not being able to say everything or nothing at all to the people you want by your side. Loneliness is the feeling of wanting to be connected to more than just your own thoughts and feelings. It’s a powerful emotion, one often hard to detect and even harder to remedy.

What’s even more interesting is that we enter and leave this world alone. Humans are not solitary creatures by nature. Yet loneliness may be an evolved emotion as our brains and social structures have matured. So should we be lonely? I don’t know. I just know that I am sometimes. My ask to you is that if you are lonely or missing someone you love, reach out to them. But don’t mistake any company for a cure to loneliness. Sometimes we are better off on our own. It’s knowing the difference that’s so hard.

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