Introvert as a child
I think I wasn’t a happy child.
I wasn’t troubled, but I remember I wasn’t my best either. I just existed. I didn’t have any control over my life. I just attended classes. Then went home. I just studied and did the homework. It was the same, year after year, grade after grade. I was just there, but not really there.
I was a crier. I cried on the first day (or first week?) of kindergarten. I cried on the first day of preschool. Once, in 2nd grade, my library book was stolen by a classmate. I cried in class. My teacher embarrassed me in front of the whole class. I was sure I brought the book with me, but I couldn’t believe that it was my classmate who took it. I couldn’t comprehend why and how a person could be so mischievous.
I was an observer and a thinker. Most days, I was quiet. I tried so hard making no mistakes up to the point I didn’t do anything remarkable at all. I’d like to blame it on going to a Catholic school for 14 years straight, every single day. But there’s no way to tell now if it’s the school or just my DNA.
I hated extracurriculars. I hated that I should wait for them to start after school, so I had to talk to my friends (again). I hated waiting to be picked up afterward. I was so exhausted I only wanted to go home and read my books or sleep.
I didn’t know then that I am an introvert. I didn’t know then that I needed that time alone, that I was capable of being around other people and socializing, as long as I get some time for myself. I didn’t know then that I didn’t have to be like the others, who enjoyed talking all day long.
So I started to believe the things everyone around me was saying. That I was quiet. That I wasn’t good with people. That I wasn’t confident. That I couldn’t start a conversation with a stranger. That I should be a good girl. Once in a while, I did something that ‘wasn’t me’, and they noticed, but they said that it didn’t fit me.
I remember seeing seniors as otherworldly. They are either really composed or really outspoken. I didn’t know there are different types of adults. I still didn’t know which one I wanted to be. I wondered, is there some kind of rite of passage that transforms them from an annoying, loud child to a wise, young man/woman? When could I be that young, wise woman? I thought I would look ridiculous acting so solemn in my little body.
Introvert as a teenager
In middle school, I tried to be more outgoing. I tried to have more friends. I did have more friends, but in the end, I lost my real friends. I was trying so hard to be accepted in a certain circle of friends, that I didn’t show my ‘true colors’. I got my parents to buy certain things so that I could keep up with ‘the cool kids’.
In the last years of my school, it’s still pretty much the same, but with different groups. I still tried, although not that hard, to be accepted. But it’s not the life I wanted. It’s not fulfilling, it’s like I lost control over my life all over again and just accepted what life (or in this case, the school) gave to me.
Instead of growing into my best self, I did what everyone else around me was doing. I was an acceptable member of the pack. I fitted right in. Looking back, I know I didn’t have the courage to pursue my real passion, writing and being creative. I was exhausted from having to be in school all day.
Now, I realized school was just not the ideal place for me to grow and thrive. It’s always so loud with hundreds of students running around. You’re expected to speak all the time, or you’ll be asked what’s wrong.
The conscious, still-introvert me now would still hate going to school. Seven to nine hours surrounded by people who are constantly speaking would still be exhausting for me.
Introvert as a university student
That’s why when I went to university, the world suddenly became a better place. I had 1-2 classes a day, 4 days a week. I had more time to think, to plan, and the time to actually execute my plans. I socialized better because most of the time we’re in small groups. And because I had more time with myself, I wasn’t exhausted when I had to meet people.
I read more books than ever, because I had the time to read. I read Quiet and Mindset. Quiet made me realize that I was an introvert living in an extrovert world and that I wasn’t alone. Mindset forced me to throw away my excuses, something like “I’m known as a quiet person, therefore I will stay this way,” or “I’m not approachable, I’m not a people person, I can’t go to a networking event.”
Once I realized that I can live my life the way I want, I started to show my true color, although not all of them. I cared less about what other people think. I started to realize my worth and what I’m capable of. I started to realize that my worth wasn’t defined by what others think of me. I joined organizations and clubs although it was optional. And looking back, I’m proud of myself because I sticked through it, from the start of the first year to the end of the last year. I feel I really was growing as a person.
Compared to the school days, the university was definitely more suitable for me. I didn’t have to go 5 days a week for 8 hours, surrounded by people for 8 hours straight. I wasn’t overwhelmed. I could express myself. I had the time to really charge my energy battery and to actually be my best self.
Introvert as an intern
I did a year of traditional office job while I was working on my thesis. It was hard. It almost felt like the school days, where you get dressed (and be more presentable than a Catholic school girl), hop on the bus, and sit on your desk for 8 hours (sometimes more) straight. Then you head back home, get stuck in traffic, and left with the remaining 3 hours of your evening. And when you’re still doing your thesis, that 3-hour window is the only time you can work on it. I really stretched myself at that time.
I felt I was growing, but I knew that I didn’t want to spend my whole life doing that.
Introvert as a remote worker
Being a freelancer, and now a remote worker, is really my dream job as an introvert. I couldn’t ask for a better job. I don’t have to commute, I don’t have to sit on my desk for 8 hours straight. No one will hate you for leaving early.
Most importantly, somewhere along the work, I’ve found what I love to do and my ‘bigger purpose’. This purpose has moved me to do things I never imagined I would be doing, like being a speaker.
I felt helpless in the past, but now, I (mostly) know what I’m doing with my life.
What is your purpose? It doesn’t have to be complex or grand, it’s just something you care about, something about the world that you want to change. It will come to you when you’re ready.