Stuck on the Island of Introversion
You grip yourself with tense muscles. You’re alone in a room full of people. Your muted mouth begins to heavily breathe introversion as your mind starts to close. The only option is to replenish the lack of oxygen supply before it can operate in full swing again.
Your mind opens. Another day; another full-on day. People, trains, lights, noise, chaos. Your head is about to explode: headaches, sore eyes, lethargic body. Your mind closes, deciding to only work a half day, but hey, “At least it’s better than the whole day off,” you unconvincingly whisper to yourself.
Soon, you will be shut for a week. Because soon it will all build up like a game of Jenga. The weight builds; you fall. In the meantime, travel introversion is more like a game of Tug of War. On one end, you feel physically and mentally exhausted from all the action around you, even before the immense social interaction you’re required to do. You need to take recovery as soon as possible, time alone to recharge. But the weight on the other end pulls you further down, loaded with fear. Afraid of missing out on group bonding and the city you longed to be in.
It’s the fear of going home regretting not doing more things or meeting more people which spirals you into a state of worry and further mental exhaustion.
A pretty messed up contradiction, right? Many people didn’t understand it, including me.
It was during my gap year that I really felt the challenge of being an introvert. In an attempt to combat this personality trait, I booked two group tours. A week in Ireland and another for 18 days throughout Europe. I was hoping at this point I would be heading towards extroversion, as though it were a destination.
Each tour started with awkward hellos, earphones in and firecrackers in my head. After a day or two, I would then gravitate towards the loud crowd and the class clowns. I craved to have that energy.
The tours were closely linked with alcohol, so it became my personal assistant. Every time the social lubricant kicked in, I suddenly became an extrovert. Loud, funny, wanting to be in the spotlight, and most of all, able to interact with a large group of people. What a feel good experience that was, my mind was buzzing and stimulated for the whole night.
Of course, every high has its lows. The day after a night like that was always awful. Drained to the point I couldn’t be around anyone, I didn’t really talk or do much. I used being hungover as an excuse, even if I wasn’t. You party hard, you temporarily become someone you’re not, and then need three days to recover. The first to get Contiki Cough and the first to burn out in the initial few days.
Sometimes, I got used to the intensity: A step closer to extroversion, I thought. Then the treadmill would loop at 12 km/ hour, but my legs could only do five. So then what happens? You try to push yourself to speed up, you battle through only to fall face first. But you must get up, you can’t lie on the ground forever. You have to start running again.
You only get more fatigued.
I hated being an introvert in this environment, but the tours were a self-challenge to see whether I could adapt. My stamina quickly dropped to 0 per cent in the first few days and I started to drift backwards, into the distance, a forgotten face, merely an observer.
It’s like I formed a shadow that moved further and further away from the individual, a failed attempt to fit in. I became the person in a group photo people point to a month later, asking, “Who was that?” or even better, the one taking the photo. only instead I formed a shadow that moved further and further away from the individual, a failed attempt to fit in.
Introversion is looking for another situation because you’re socially uncomfortable where you are, hoping next time there will be less people or less activity.
Anxiously you wait, afraid to contribute to the conversation because when your little voice decides to say something, you’ll be a deer in headlights.
Suddenly, they spot you. They realise you exist,
“What was your name again?”
Cover by Ben Blennerhasset