Confessions Of A Former Extrovert

How Solitude Saved My Life

Photo by Vladimir Fedotov on Unsplash

There is nothing like a good get-together with group mates and sweet red wine that never quite seems to stop flowing. Although I was aware of my mild social anxiety, it was the knowledge that I would be surrounded by those who meant the world to me that helped me get through it. I usually felt depleted right after and needed an entire day to recover from even the most uneventful gatherings.

I was never one to turn down a chance to socialize despite the indisputable anxiety that seemed to be my permanent chaperone. I tried my absolute best to pass as an extrovert but the truth attacked my psyche like a creature of the night. At the least, I was an ambivert knee-deep in denial. Some of the signs that you might relate to are:

  • A lengthy pep talk with yourself the night before your scheduled event/outing
  • Practising possible conversation
  • Difficulty eating before the event/outing
  • Avoiding eye contact at said event/outing
  • Being conscious of what you are saying due to fear of making mistakes
  • Not talking enough
  • Talking too much
  • Extreme exhaustion post-event
  • Anxiety continues even after returning home
  • Mandatory recovery period post-event

Thanks to The Great 2020 Quarantine, I went through what I can only describe as the worst existential crisis I had ever experienced in my entire life. A part of me broke. Badly. And it was up to me to fix it. And so I packed my bags and left the city, retreating to an incredibly boring town so unremarkable that I could only compare it to an old age home. I had no friends in this dry part of the country and had to make do with the company of my extended family and their gorgeous (but clingy) dogs. There was a lot I hated about this town. It felt as though I was on some filming set of the most boring place on earth.

But it did not take long for me to “find myself”.

I know, I know. It sounds terribly cliché, perhaps even borderline patronizing. But there was something beautiful about physically disconnecting from my social life and taking the time out to focus on my needs. I took it upon myself to resume journaling, create a productive morning routine that included yoga & prayers first thing in the morning. My health became a concern to me once more, and thus my journey to healthier eating began too. Embracing a mainly plant-based diet was easy when I looked at all areas of my life and how one affects the other. This newfound determination to eat clean, wholesome food resulted in a healthier mind. It was finally about me. What I consumed made me feel good, and that manifested itself into overwhelming gratitude. Gratitude to the earth and those who helped bring my meals before me. I became more mindful. I opened myself up to the teachings of mindfulness and felt my chest crack with the staggering weight of knowledge. I looked at everything differently. What else could one do?

I began asking myself why I was so determined to be a social butterfly despite its negative effect on me, and one day it all became so clear. I was imprisoned by the reality of my dreadful high school experience.

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

I was seen as the friend who could help you with your Economics assignment or proofread your English Literature essay. I was the academic friend who you never really considered when you wanted to have some fun. But high school and its depressive era were long over, and I was finally in the midst of people who loved me and my nerdiness. I was loved. Deeply and passionately. I cried tears of pure happiness the night I came to this realization. It was time to break the shackles and embrace the solitude my spirit had been calling for my entire life. I returned to Cape Town a month and a half later, feeling far more authentic than when I had left and the potential of my new self sending me into a zealous half hysteria.

Solitude is the conscious decision to be alone and disconnect from the world around you. To me, it meant spending a lot more time focussing on my well-being without the guilt of letting other people down by my noticeable absence. Embracing solitude also made me aware of how much time I spent on my phone, and in turn, made me hate it entirely. Texting became a chore, and my FOMO reduced significantly because I understood that the problem wasn’t that I was constantly on social media due to the fear of missing out. Constantly checking my social media resulted in my fear of missing out. Nothing had made more sense to me.

Allowing myself to be the introvert I always feared being authorized a pivotal shift in my social life. I appreciated my friends even more than before and sought to nurture the wholesomeness of the sisterhood my female friends graciously blessed me with.

“Oh, how I pity the child who once believed that friendships carried insignificant cargo in the rough sea of life. Look how far you’ve come! The power of a platonic-turned-familial bond so strong you’d swear it was science fiction, had saved you. Finding your people saved you. You admire the absence of hesitation to come together & the freeness that presents itself each time you speak your mind. Scrutiny disappears entirely even as you dreamily dance around the lawn with your soul sisters, and sneak vodka up the narrow staircase of the house you now call your second home. You feel as though you’ve always belonged. As though for centuries the entire universe had conspired solely for your paths to meet. And that is why you love them.”

The above quote is from an Instagram caption. My Instagram. There’s a slight shyness that leaps into me when I publicly declare my love for my friends, but with solitude came the courage to be vulnerable. And what is more authentic than raw vulnerability?

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Plamedi Ngalula

Plamedi Ngalula

A twenty one year old first-generation immigrant navigating adulthood, drinking wine and trying to look good while doing both.