I am a proud introvert, took some years to be happy however.
Yes! Yes! Yes! Like one of those Head And Shoulders commercials with the screaming innuendo from a showering woman and her soap-sudded tresses. Yes, I have finally grown to appreciate myself, my personality and my approach to social situations.
When I was young I actually prayed to be more “vocal.” At church, a small Pentecostal church in a humbly dilapidated shopping center in Irving, Texas, I kneeled down and quietly whispered to my God while everyone else screamed like holy-ghost possessed evangelists.
“please God, give me voice so that I can speak my mind like everyone and be happy” end prayer.
I grew up in an outspoken, Igbo immigrant family. Mother spoke loudly in our dialect on the phone in public places and it made made me want to crawl into my sweatshirt and hide. My father always pulled up in his beaten up Mercury van to pick us up from school, one of the windows was gone so our native music bellowed out into the air and kids snickered as I slumped and walked to the vehicle. My brothers were always arguing about something, who’s turn it was to watch TV, how long someone spent hogging up the computer playing Age of Empires, how unequally fries were distributed at dinnertime. I just observed, face plain, eyes wide. I believe I was an awkward sight. Tall, dark and lanky with a thin neck with an oval head, two big bright eyes that just took everything in without giving much back. My hair was always braided, I never had the confidence to try other styles. I wore whatever my mother could find at garage sales, my garb usually reflected the fashion of the 10 years that preceded me, baggy jeans with patches, oversized Hawaiian shirts, bucket hats. I collected store magazines and stared at the displayed fashions that were unaffordable, I pictured myself in them, imagined myself in another life – popular, outspoken, beautiful, then I ran out of pages and had to find something else to do. I spent a lot of time reading in the closet, it was the only quite place in the house.
As I grew older, I fought harder and harder for the ‘voice’ I prayed for but always ended up short. I joined the track team and became one of the fastest girls in the school district. Coach Boyd called me “True Blue” and even though I never offered much back in the form of words, I was appreciative. I still sat alone, towards the front, on the bus pretending to be too busy listening to my Walkman. I still heard them laugh at me and make jokes about my being ‘African’ and stinky. I still won every race and brought home a medal, that no one seemed to care about. I did this up until high school, when I started to question if I really even liked running, or if it were all a guise. I was still not happy. Even in my pack of friends, I was always the quiet one. The one least likely to ever have a boyfriend, the last one to ever be invited to a party, the one that would hardly be seen on any pages of the yearbook. I had nothing to say about any of that. I was still fighting for my voice.
In college, I left the State, I felt I could turn a new leaf. Create a new me. I would fool everyone into thinking I was different, and my past actually hadn’t existed. I could make up the parts that I wanted to hide, fill them in with good stuff that no one could debate because I was a fresh face to everyone. I sought to join a sorority thinking I could be a part of something GREAT, but even then I was voiceless. A face in the crowd and a nobody, despite my hard work. It still makes me sad to think about it. I prayed to God in my car, howling with hot tears running down my cheeks.
“God? Why don’t you love me? Why don’t you want me to be happy?”
Then I started medical school. I wasn’t fond of the system. Morning rounds where you had to present a case about a patient to an entire team of students, residents, fellows and an attending. My cheeks burned, I choked on my words, I felt stupid. In the mornings, I would come in early to check on my assigned patients, I genuinely wanted to know how they were faring. They reminded me of myself. Voiceless. So many times we surrounded them, the Attending doing his teaching for the day, lecturing us on a patients’ illness or disability as if he/she weren’t even there. We took turns poking and prodding on the said individual, who looked off sheepishly. I always apologized when it was my turn, “I’m sorry Ms. Soandso, I’m going to listen to your heart.” Sometimes, he/she would turn to me in surprise, maybe smile or just stare perplexed. But I felt a connection, for the first time in my life. I would come back in the afternoons, to check up on them, but mostly to talk with them. Talk about their lives, their children, what they thought they would get out of the hospital stay. We laughed when they told me how they actual felt about the medical team and the hospital. I told no one where I was when I disappeared and slip back into the sterile hospital doors, retrace my steps back to rooms we had already visited. I felt I found my niche.
Fast forward, many, many years. From an intern to a superior in the medical wards. I had grown so comfortable in the hospital setting that my voice came out of nowhere. When a student referred to a patient in an offensive manner, I quickly corrected them. I lead the team from room to room with pride, I knew the numbers, conditions, treatment plans. I prided myself in the care I gave to those who depended on me. I didn’t care what my colleagues thought of me, I was in my second wind and enjoying every second. There were ups and downs (which I am sure I will touch on one day) but the ups built me up and up and up, the downs only nicked me and made me self-aware.
I got married to a man, correction, I am married to a man who I believe is my soulmate. We have developed this habit we call: life. We sit on the floor and watch movies on Saturday nights. We talk about the future. We made a baby that we love so much. He is so much like me that he makes me even more confident in myself because, he makes me understand how beautiful I must be. He doesn’t always appreciate me as much as I think he should, nor do I he. We are perfectly imperfect together. Symbiotic introverts.
I will never throw a party. I will never initiate a phone conversation. I will never show up at a friends door with wine and fried chicken, like Ive often imagined myself doing in playbacks of my life. I ignore texts messages because the anxiety of replying wrongly throws daggers in my sides. I like being invited places (the gesture) but I never want to show up and when I do, I find a quiet area where I can be incognito, take in the scene unnoticed. I used to see these things as flaws. I used to punish myself for not making more friends and keeping up with them. But seeing my husband in his obliviousness, cross-legged on the floor, watching TV and playing with our daughter… makes me realize that I love who I have become and possibly who I have always been. So I stop focusing on the negatives in my personality and count the blessings.
- Im a great listener. I often don’t have much to say, so I become a wonderful soundboard. People can never talk my ears off, I welcome whining, disgruntled rants and monologues.
- I keep secrets. By the simple fact that I am least likely to speak to others makes me a good diary. Ive heard so many intimate stories, with no urge to pass them along. Ive come to know the inside hearts of some, and truly understand what makes some of my friends beautiful inside and out.
- I always have a good hunch. Because I am always watching, observing, and calculating. I often see things before others even know its there. People think this is some sort of psychic quality, but I know it just has more to do with my quiet observation of minute occurrences.
- I read people, all too well. I figure people out very quickly. Almost too quickly, sometimes to my own detriment. I may see something in someones personality, the way they present, the first impression, that sets me off. I can tell people about themselves after a short time, which leaves them shocked. I can also warn people about others, or recommend continued interactions because I have become so good at people watching and following characters.
- I come off as easy-going. I hardly disagree or post defenses. Im just there. I don’t mind being just there, I quite like it, its funner for me to watch.
- When I do talk I surprise people. Yes, I understand that when you don’t say much it forces one to define you by their own means. But when I add to the conversation, some are astounded by my point of view. You really think that? Yup.
Ive had my setback in the early years. The times I depended on inebriation to lighten the mood and make me comfortable, often resulting in more awkwardness and my revealing more than I am comfortable with. I can put people off, as I seem so warm and inviting and at other times cold and disengaging. I seem to not give much effort in maintaining personal relationships, not because I don’t care, but because I don’t know how to. Im not socially daft, just awkward. But its me and I accept it, now proudly.
So I will sit outside on the restaurant patio dining alone. Find a
big comfy couch in a coffee shop and read my day away. Wake up in the morning, open all the windows and steep a pot of oolong tea while thumbing through Instagram like a troll. I will disappear and re-emerge so randomly, and you probably won’t notice me or care, and I will prefer it that way.
–Til I post again,
Ada aka YWAM.