Her Story: An Introvert's Journey

Do you often feel the need to spend time alone for a while? Does socialization sometimes wear you out? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may be an introvert.

 

 

At the risk of sounding too much like an infomercial for a weird disease, I am an introvert. However, the problem is that people treat introvert-ness like it is this weird concept that makes you awkward and friendless. And while I can be both of those things at some times, anyone can. Being an introvert doesn’t immediately mark you as such. By definition (of my own words because I didn’t feel like looking up the exact definition), introverts are simply just people who find pleasure in spending time by themselves and can often need long periods of alone time to recharge after spending awhile socializing. It’s not that we hate people, or we can’t stand going out, it’s just that we have also learned the beauty of spending time with ourselves.

 

So, where does college fit in this all? When I first applied to go to a school two hours away from home, I saw it as this distant idea that could be plastered over with vague fantasies of college movies and a less introverted me. Therefore, I was fine with it and imagined it as a way to take me out of my introvert-ness. However, when the move-in day arrived, I nearly dropped out of college before I even left my house. I could not believe that I was truly in my right state of mind when I agreed to move away for college, and I frankly wanted the government to scrap all records of my agreement to the school because I felt like my mental state MUST have been compromised at the time. I absolutely dreaded going to college at this point.

However, that was last August, and now it’s April. My first year has of course been a roller coaster of emotions (like the kind with the big drop that you can’t even believe you got on in the first place when you get to the top of the first hill), but all in all, I have loved my time in college so far. I came here alone, and I’ve made what I like to think of as a lot of good friends. I love my roommates, and I love the kinds of people I have gotten to meet along this ride. My most helpful realization is that I don’t have to change myself to get through college. Being an introvert doesn’t mean you can’t love and enjoy your time in college, it just means you might learn to enjoy it in a different way. So I guess my survival story is this: I am an introvert and I still went away for college.

And as someone who has almost made it through her first year with this “horrible introvert disease” (as some people see it), I would just love to throw out some things I’ve learned to help my fellow introverts:

1. Don’t compare your experiences to other people’s

 

I often find myself thinking I’m not doing the college thing right at certain points. If people are going out one night and I’m not, I sometimes think to myself that I’m doing something wrong. Shouldn’t I be going out? What if they think I’m weird for not going out? But, I have to remind myself that I am me and they are them. Being introverted, going to college is often a big enough step out of your comfort zone. You’re not obligated to go out every weekend. Some people were already big on socializing before they came to college, so it may be easy for them. You are in charge of when you want to do things and when you don’t. You don’t have to feel lame or weird for not going out when everyone else is. They aren’t you and there’s no need to compare your experiences to someone who isn’t introverted (or even someone who is, we’re all different). Do what you want to do, not what you think is the “cool” or “right college” thing to do.

2. You don’t have to like orientation

 

I feel like everyone brings up how awesome orientation was and how they knew they were going to the right school after they went. I somehow did NOT have that reaction. This is not to demean all the orientation leaders who put a lot of great work into it, I just think as an introvert, orientation was definitely not my thing. You could even say I hated it, and if you said that I would not correct you. But if you end up hating orientation, don’t worry. College is a lot different. You don’t have days full of forced social interaction that you can’t get away from. In college, you can always retreat back to your dorm room if you’re feeling uncomfortable or just need time away from people. Orientation isn’t like that, but it’s only two days so don’t worry and definitely DON’T try to predict the next four years of your life from orientation.

3. Don’t be afraid to say no but don’t be afraid to say yes

 

My first year has been a lot of “well I should have said yes to that” mixed with “I really wish I had just stayed in my room”. In the first semester, I was SO afraid of seeming like some awkward introvert that I said yes to everything. Anytime someone wanted to hang out, I was there. This lead to a lot of exhaustion on my part, and I got quickly annoyed with some people because I never found time to myself. In this second semester, I have learned to balance some “yes” responses with some healthy “no’s”. As an introvert, we’re often eager to avoid making plans to go out, and sometimes, like I was, we can be so worried about fitting in that we agree to every social hangout. Neither of these extremes are good for your mental health, as I have found out. Don’t be afraid to say yes because I know some of my best memories have been from going out to things I nearly said no to. But also make sure you’re in tune with your own mind and aren’t afraid to say no. If you need to lock yourself up in your room and take some time for yourself, do it. No one is going to judge you for it even if you think they are. They don’t care, trust me.

 

 

The moral of the story is, don’t worry about what other people think. More often than not, we are our worst critics. You’re not lame if you’re not out partying every weekend, and you’re not suddenly uninitiated from the introvert club just because you like going out sometimes. Enjoy college in whatever way you see fit. Leaving home was a big enough step for me in the first place, and I have to remind myself of that when I think “oh I’m not doing this college thing right”. There’s no right way to do college. Go be you and do what you want to do. You may feel like everyone’s judging your every move, but I promise everyone is too concerned with their own selves to judge your experiences. College can often be thought of as a terrible place for introverts, but it's not. It's what you make it to be. As someone who has gone out there and done it, you can too. 

Remember, you CAN be an introvert in college and you can love it all at the same time.