I am a raging introvert. By this, I mean that my introversion is raging. I almost never rage, and if I do, it is about infanticide or sex trafficking, both excellent reasons to rage, in my humble opinion.
I come from a family of introverts in the widely sown land of Texas, where, if you pick the right spot, you can go days without seeing people. Don’t get me wrong; I love people. But I need alone time to recover; to thrive. People make me tired.
From this view, moving to New York made absolutely no sense.
“Don’t you love the energy of the city?” people would ask me.
“Ye-esssss…” I would stutter out, noncommittally.
The energy? You mean the part about the millions of people packed like sardines but moving at a breakneck pace because, gosh darn it, this is New York City; you have to hustle, and if you hustle, you will succeed and if you don’t succeed for some reason, you continue to hustle until the city spits you out, at which time you may count yourself a failure or hustle for the chance to get back to the city and hustle there some more? Ah… I suppose it is an sort of exhilarating idea, but an exhausting one.
When I first considered moving away to college, I had this beautiful image in my mind of someplace with hills and trees everywhere. Someplace I could wander off with a book for a few hours without being seen or missed. Someplace in the middle of nowhere. Definitely not a city. Cities were unappealing. Cities were full of people with whom I have no relationship. Cities were tiresome things engineered for extroverts and workaholics.
All of this was before visiting King’s, of course. My priorities did a 180. Suddenly, I could not go anywhere else, never mind cities. Never mind sharing room with three other girls (we’re down to three to a room, these days. It’s far better than it might sound at first). Never mind swimming through tourists to get to school each morning. I shoved my need for space into a cobwebbed corner in the back of my mind and hustled my way to the King’s College. This was excellent! This was where God wanted me! Where else would I steep in knowledge with such likeminded people?
It took about four weeks for me to crash. I was never alone. I found myself staying up late into the night so I could be solitary. With a sleeping schedule out of whack, it is no surprise that exhaustion and emotional fragility took over quickly. I was never alone. I remember my sixteenth birthday, when my brother and best friend called to tell me that I was one of the strongest women he knew. At eighteen, I wondered what happened to that strength. In my occasional sneaky sobbing sessions in the stairwell, these bits of identity I clung to were splintering into fragments smaller and smaller, harder to keep from slipping out of my hands which, as always seems to be the case, was a growing up thing. I was never alone. I didn't know how to truly rest. Without rest, my strength was gone. “Get your God time,” my mother counseled. It was good advice. Meeting God in that stairwell was the only thing that kept me sane during my first semester.
When I returned in the spring, I battened down the hatches and prepared to be buffeted by a bursting city that never sleeps. I was sitting in a Starbucks, praying and people-watching when I made a startling discovery: I was resting. In the middle of a crowd, I was completely alone. Without trying, I found the beautiful solitude that is just to the right of "such an interesting crowd in here this afternoon" and to the left of "excuse me, sir, you're sitting on me." And it was good.
There are always a few days of adjustment whenever I first get back to the city. For a short while, I flounder to be physically alone (which, of course, is rarely possible). Then I go somewhere pretty like a park, a coffee shop, or the cemetery near my apartment, and I let the crowd wash over me. God is there, in the middle of the masses (no pun intended), and I am able to be alone with him and with my thoughts. It is the second-best kind of solitude, and, most importantly, it is enough.
Introverts, be not afraid!
Elizabeth D. Brown