Those who know do not speak. Those who speak do not know.
— Lao Zi
June 27th marks the day I graduate high school and make my transition into limbo — the summer between high school graduation and move-in day at college.
The past four years were on the whole not a terrible experience. I found my niche, and that helped me go through high school with relative ease. But now, the comforting consistency that has helped me through these years, is going away. To most of my peers however, high school isn’t comforting at all — the monotony, the restrictiveness pains them. They can’t wait to move on to college.
This isn’t to say I’m dreading making the move to college — on the contrary, I think it’ll be a good experience. It’s simply the transition period, the time it’ll take for me to find my niche, that scares me.
I recently read Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, and I was struck by how similar I am to the typical introvert — quiet, analytical, and solitary. I do not have many close friends, though I can often get along fine with others. I don’t go out of my way to be social with my peers. I can’t easily express my emotions. And furthermore, I prefer solitary activities (like programming, for instance) to being around other people.
To the outsider, this could be described as shy or even anti-social. However, it’s not that I go out of my way to avoid social situations. If I’m confronted with one, I’ll most likely be fine. I will just require more time to “recharge my batteries” before the next social interaction. There is a limit to how much social stimuli I can take — once I hit that limit, I lapse into a cranky, almost sullen demeanor. I’m not angry, I’m just tired and need some time to be alone and collect myself.
I am the typical introvert. Western cultures (the United States, in particular) are not particularly well-suited for introverts like myself. Extroverts rule in areas from business to politics, as well as education.
Most college students aren’t going to be spending their time studying, socializing in small groups, or doing solitary activities. A majority instead will be partying and getting drunk, neither of which appeal to me in the slightest.
In fact, a lot of student commentary about Marist College, my future school, revolves around nightlife. Apparently, Marist is a bar school — a lot of students (“a good majority”, says one commenter) go out on Thursdays and the weekends and get drunk, despite their age.
This is problematic for me. I really have no desire to do this. I’m just hoping that there will be people on campus who are like me. To say that every college student is like this is a gross generalization.
Take this thread from the Marist College Class of 2017 Facebook group, for instance:
Most of these people are the ones I’m looking for. However, knowing who could be a good friend is only half the problem. The other half is plucking up the courage to actually meet them.
Some people have a talent for just walking up to people and introducing themselves. I am not one of those people. Small talk bothers me. Having meaningful discussions about something I’m interested in (like discussing how typography changes social behavior) does not. The former, unfortunately for me, precipitates the latter.
Having that ability to talk about anything and everything is something that extroverts typically possess. Introverts do not like myself to not. This is where I’ll have the most trouble. I know who I will most likely get along with — it’s just the act of befriending them that will make me anxious.
Introverted people are at a real disadvantage coming into a college-like situation. Confronted with all of the usual anxieties related to college (away from home, educational challenges, etc.), introverts have the added challenge of not having the demeanor nor drive to be sociable.
Hopefully I can get into the swing of things fairly quickly. It certainly helps I’m going with my best friend, but I need to make other friends too. It will be no time before I’m into a rhythm and able to go through college without trouble, just as I did in high school. That comfort in having a plan and knowing exactly what I’m doing will come in time. Until then, let the anxiety begin.