As I lay back in the tepid water letting my body sink on exhale and rise to touch frigid air on inhale, I allowed the flood of emotions and experiences to race across my mind. I felt them in my body: the press of the water making it harder to breathe as deep as I normally could, being uplifted by the air I breathed in and sinking again, inevitable.
Parties are like being mostly submerged in a hot-tub.
I talked with a friend who said that events like the one we were at, formed of a large number of people that fluctuated based on personal schedules instead of a predetermined time-table, were like eating large amounts of sugar after not eating any at all for weeks. You could get sick from overindulgence easily.
She was right, too.
One of the most fundamental strengths of introversion is how I form connections. It’s not that all of my connections that I form are stronger or weaker than others’, it’s that the fundamental value that I place on connection, as a concept, is lower than others. Relationships are ephemeral things, prone (even destined) to end. Contrarily as a being and arbiter of my own universe I am enduring and there, even when others are not.
It’s not that I think that I am better than other people. It’s not even that I think that I’m more important than other people.
I know that, eventually, I’m going to leave them. That they’re going to leave me. That, sometimes, we’ll leave each other. I know that, because it’s an eventuality, it is no one’s fault except for the universe’s. The only input I have is on the quality of the relationships. This is why I endeavor to leave every relationship when it is still positive, to leave every person better than I found them, or at least not break them further.
This necessitates leaving when it would be much easier to stay, pretty much all of the time. Between ending friendships without anger, between ending romantic relationships before they turn dark and bitter, between distancing myself from loved ones whose own self-destruction will ruin us both, between distancing myself from loved ones when my own self-destruction would ruin us both, I find myself forced with some of the toughest decisions I could fathom.
Because I value connections less than I do other concepts, the transitional nature of relationships is one that comes easier for me. While the decision, ultimately, is a difficult one? The actual transition and process of following through it is simple. Matter-of-fact.
Sometimes I wonder why I am this way. I value connections, even need them, but a good romantic relationship, my family ties, friendships cannot make up for the driving need of purpose within me. Friendships, relationships, family, they all drain me and take energy, while working toward a purpose does not. They’re secondary. They’re low on the priority list of needs. I forget that some people need to surround themselves by others and insulate themselves from their own worries and fears by submerging into the lives of their fellows. I forget that being alone, thinking about my issues and making decisions, making the change that I want to see in my own person without help or input from others is something that’s foreign.
I’m never sure if this is a compliment or not. I know I take it as one; by acknowledging my change the speaker has acknowledged my power, my self-reliance and my own ability to drive myself through the world. What I hear behind those words are judgement, though; it’s scary, it’s strange, sometimes it makes others angry or sad or annoyed to not be included in the process of change. Sometimes it’s aggravating that I’ve changed at all, and no longer fit their concept of who I am.
This is their issue, not mine.
Being intentional about “giving in” to my introversion has really changed my philosophy on connection in general and it’s created some of the most memorable moments for me in my entire life. I am focused on the present, on that tiny bubble of time that we are creating together and on making it one of the most positive moments of interaction it can possibly be. On breathing life into it and co-creating it so that, when we both must let go of that moment, it is one of beauty and melancholy. Beauty because of how transformative it is, and melancholy because we can never have it again.
I’ve harnessed my nihilism to new heights, eschewing worries about the future that have created new depths of risk I am willing to take with friends, lovers, one-night-stands, family, and have become an actualized human being, aware of my own boundaries. Not only aware, I demand the agency to enforce those boundaries.
I’ve gotten a lot of push-back about that.
I assume no negative motives. I do not make meaning of this. All I know is that the overwhelming response is that this is not a “positive change.” That I’m healthier, happier, clearly doing better than ever before is acknowledged. People like the “new me” but they want “more” of it, unable to recognize that without scarcity this isn’t possible.
I’ve even had friends say that they wish I’d just go back to the way I was because now I’m “exhausting.” They wanted me to focus on quantity of interactions, of those individual connections, instead of quality.
And I don’t have the energy for that. I don’t have the ability to give of myself so much. I was killing myself by slow degrees by participating in social situations at such a high quantity, only hoping for connections of the same quality that I get regularly now. I’ve been called selfish but honestly, I question the motives of any person who declaims another’s selfishness.
Why is selfishness bad?
Why is taking care of myself bad?
Are others really, truthfully, entitled to my presence? Are they entitled to the life-blood energy that is drained from me each time I’m in a social situation? Do I have no choice in this?
Even if they are entitled to this presence, why am I not entitled to my solitude? Where does it end?
Our society removes agency and person-hood from introverts who choose to follow that calling. This is done in slow degrees, requiring social interaction for the acquisition of food for instance, and fast ones, such as requiring social interaction for the majority of the day (e.g. school). There is no place to stop and slow the world down, to reduce the amount of information we are being forced to take in; even the breaks that we get (lunches, break rooms, recess as children, etc.) we are expected (even required) to be social and connect to other people.
There is no down time.
There is no space for us unless we make space for us and we must fight for that space. And other people will fight us to keep it from us.
I’m writing this entry on the heels of a weekend-long event, where I did not go home for two nights (the majority of three days), where I was nearly constantly surrounded by people (many of whom I love as friends), and where I, quite intentionally, fought for some space at times.
But I can even see here, in this entry, the effect that it’s had on me. My writing is ragged, disjointed, rife with comma slices and poor grammar (moreso than normal), and banal diction that makes me fearful for whether or not this entry can command an audience.
In short, it’s perfect.
It’s perfect because, as a piece of contextual artwork it shows, especially against the backdrop of my other Diary of an Introvert entries, exactly how I begin to break down and fall apart. I slept probably 16 hours or more over the course of those two nights, which is a lot for me, and yet I’m exhausted (and was ready for bed at 5pm, staying awake only to keep my sleep schedule normalized). It’s hard to hear the words in my head as I write this entry.
It’s even hard to end it.