I did something recently that made me feel terrible.
Actually, I didn’t do something.
Here’s the story:
I was bowling with some friends, and another group of friends arrived at the bowling alley.
These are people with whom I’ve been close in the past.
Based on the good times we’ve shared and the randomness of the encounter, these are people who I should have been excited to see; an eventful turn of events on an otherwise uneventful evening.
One of them, who had been living away from our hometown for some time, noticed me and walked over to say hi and catch up. We talked for a moment and then it was my turn to bowl, so he politely returned to the group.
Basic social etiquette and the logistics of the situation would dictate that, following my turn, I should go say hi to the rest of the group rather than having the entire group come to me.
But I didn’t say hi.
Pulsing with anxiety, I remained rigid where I stood.
For that brief period I became the archetypal socially anxious person: absorbed in my worries, unsure of what to say, too scared of the potential for awkwardness to make my approach.
After an uncomfortable hour of trying not to acknowledge their presence while simultaneously bothering myself to go say hi, I finally glanced over to see that their time had expired and they were gone.
A rather mundane, borderline-pointless story, I know.
However, I couldn’t stop thinking about the incident. I couldn’t stop thinking about how I felt, how I failed to act.
During that time at the bowling alley, on my drive home, in bed that night, and for much of the next day, all I could think was: “what the f*ck is wrong with me?”
Am I so detached from my youth, from the good times that we shared? Has the increased solitude and routine of my young adult life dulled my personality so much that a friendly encounter is now a strenuous test of will?
I’m introverted, that’s the problem.
Actually, that’s not it.
The problem is I know I’m introverted.
I’ve started using it as a crutch, as I suspect most self-proclaimed introverts often do.
We forget that introversion is a state of energy-creation and not a social disposition. We tell ourselves that our introversion is a deficiency which impedes our ability to have successful social encounters.
When we tell ourselves this, our introversion becomes a built-in excuse for any situation in which we don’t make the appropriate effort to be present-minded and available to others.
Our introversion becomes selfishness, feeling that we are entitled to reserve a disproportionate amount of our time, attention, and space.
Our introversion becomes rudeness, viewing interactions with others as cumbersome and a burden.
Our introversion becomes cowardice, retracting from others out of the irrational fear that the interaction might result in disaster.
As one of my (extremely) extroverted friends assured me, these things happen to everybody.
The other night at the bowling alley, I wasn’t an introvert.
I was selfish, I was rude, and I was a coward.
I don’t ever want to be that person again.