From the eyes of the world, introverts seem to live pretty quiet lives. We tend to be soft-spoken and require a great deal of time alone. For me, life as an introvert hasn’t been as quiet or as boring as it may appear from the outside, because all the noise happens on the inside. Yes, I am soft-spoken, and yes, I spend a great deal of time alone. However, my mind is never silent. It’s like a highway, thoughts rushing in and out from the first chime of my alarm in the morning to when I drift off to sleep at night. My mind then paints vivid dreams behind my closed eyelids, leaving behind faint traces of thought for my imagination to develop further when I awaken.
I have always had an intensely vivid imagination. When I was young, I gorged my brain with ideas from computer games, movies, music and books. I borrowed my favorite ideas and blended them with bits and pieces of my own thoughts and realities to create my own personal scenarios. Finally, I would grab my scooter, hop on my bike, blast music and dance in my bedroom, or even just run around in circles outside. Once I engaged in an outlet, I would set my imagination free and plunge deep into a world of make-believe. I must have lived a million and one adventures by the time I was ten years old.
Growing up in a world of fantasies did have its hardships. When I was especially young, I didn’t feel the need to make friends. I could have plenty of fun by myself! I never felt the need to break out of my comfort zone. I never really developed social skills. I grew painfully shy. I was so afraid to participate in class that even raising my hand to ask to use the restroom gave me extreme anxiety. I became a target for bullies both at school and in the neighborhood. I didn’t know how to stand up for myself, and none of my few friends ever showed much interest in standing up for me. In fact, they usually just joined in on the teasing. I had my world of make-believe well mastered, but reality has always seemed to kick my ass.
I still have my imagination. It has matured a great deal, but it is still vivid and very much alive. Somewhere along the way, pursuing my imagination through the use of outlets caused me to blossom into an avid runner. There is nothing I love more than my ritual of waking up early in the morning to lose myself in a nice, long run before I take on my day. These past few months have been pretty rocky with injuries, but I’m trying to stay positive as I work through this rough patch in hopes that one day I will be able to achieve my dream of running my first marathon.
I have also learned how to use my mind a bit more constructively. I have always had a powerful mind, however I have not always had a smart mind. Up until my junior year in high school, I was a pretty mediocre student. I got mostly B’s with an A or C here and there. I knew my brain was extraordinary, but I couldn’t apply myself even if my life depended on it. I struggled to remember my homework; I gave up trying to pay attention in class entirely. My junior year of high school, something just seemed to click. I realized if I could channel my mind’s energy to learn, I could be smart as hell. It was like the perfectionist inside me came to life. Now I am halfway through nursing school with a 3.8 GPA, having made Dean’s List every semester so far. My passion for thoughts and ideas has matured to allow me to grow passionate about knowledge. I take pride in learning and I consider my education to be one of the most valuable things in my life.
I wish I could continue to rave about how greatly introversion has changed my life for the better. The truth is, being an introvert still brings many challenges upon me. Despite having an outstanding GPA, I found myself struggling often during clinicals last semester because my inadequate social skills prevented me from delivering care to level in which I know I am capable. At the end of the semester, my clinical instructor asked me the very question I’ve spent the past two years asking myself: “Are you sure you can do this?”. Without a doubt, I am smart enough. I care too. More than anything, I want to help people. I care about people and I want to do good for them, but after a childhood starved of friendship and interaction, I’m worried my social skills may never catch up.
So there you have me in a nutshell: a runner nursing injuries in hopes of becoming a marathoner and a scholar abandoning her comfort zone in hopes of becoming a nurse. As of right now, I plan on remaining anonymous because it helps me feel more comfortable in divulging the inter-workings of my mind and my experiences as I brave the territory beyond my comfort zone. To anyone who considers him or herself to be an introvert and to anyone who’s ever felt quiet or shy or awkward, please remember this: you are extraordinary and you are not alone.