There is a buzz of chattering and laughter in the dance studio as the group of girls find their positions for a team picture.
My daughter is one of these girls—fearless and confident—she takes her spot and smiles, staring the camera straight in the lens. The moms all gather round, snapping pictures on iPads and iPhones, while leaning in and checking each other’s shots, comparing and contrasting. I inch forward, pull out my phone, make a quick picture and retreat back.
I watch her from my place by the wall. She amazes me how at ease she is with everyone. No missteps, no hesitating and she is in her element.
It seems for me this has always been a struggle. Growing up as the only girl my age on a dead end street, I learned very quickly how to be alone and how to thrive in my own little world.
Of course I have friends, but when mixed in a group dynamic, I am faced with the urge to duck in the shadows. The second I have the chance to flee, I do, making my way out into anywhere but there. I can be in a crowd, a store or even just my car where I am surrounded once again by silence—sheltered.
Some might call this an anxiety disorder, and it may be. I just know at times it feels like so much work and takes quite a bit of energy to make conversation, chatter or small talk and I am much more at home in a place where I don’t need to talk, like a bookstore.
Bookstores are a sanctuary. I wander from shelf to shelf, my eyes grazing titles and the colors of book jackets. I let my fingers drift over the spines of each book, pulling them out a little here and there, until one sticks out more than another. It’s in spaces like these that I can let go of all that sets on my shoulders and silence the voice that forever chatters inside my head. I can find solace in a crowd, where I am seen but not, and find a way to go inward.
In yoga, I search out a spot near the wall. I stretch and I fidget and silently beg for class to start. Around me women and men chat about yoga pants or mats or how their hamstrings feel tight. It’s usually at this time I feel a smidge of panic and wonder why I came to class and think that maybe no one would notice if perhaps I slipped quietly out the back door before class begins?
Weighing my options, I realize that the time it will take to return the yoga blanket and props will most definitely lead to class starting and at that point l will probably make more of a scene. So instead I sit there and I stretch and I fidget, quietly in my spot by the wall.
And even though my daughter is extroverted and can talk to anyone (even a tree) I know my son follows in my footsteps. I see me in him and how he has a small group of friends. I see him search out the quiet places to eat lunch while at theater camp and how later he transforms into a different person on the stage. Then later, still he reverts back to mysterious silence, choosing to spend a little longer picking out just the right cookie at the dessert table. And while I wince at times at his shyness, I understand his need to pursue the places that are near the wall, like me, or off alone by a tree.
And while some see a person that is a bit stand-offish and maybe a little odd, I know that those that are like me just need time to recharge. We crave the quiet, we crave the feeling of being one in a crowd and yes, sometimes we crave a little bit of the spotlight—for a short time.
Sometimes I wish I was different; I wish I was the girl that could start up a conversation with a stranger and find something witty to say at just the right time. I wish I could be the mom that organizes the committee on fundraising with a silent auction or host a family reunion. Or the woman who could throw a party in her house and invite all of the neighbors and their children, and their children’s friends.
But I am not that person.
I am the person who searches out the quiet spots and finds comfort near the wall. I am the mom who can chat with another mom while waiting to pick up a child after school, but stays silent at the PTO. I am the girl who blushes at the stranger making jokes about oranges in the supermarket, or can’t find the right words at the right times or the wrong words in the wrong times.
I have come to accept that this is who I am.
I am inexplicably, introverted, me.
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Editor: Bryonie Wise
Photo Credit: h.koppdelaney/Flickr Creative Commons