I started working at my first-ever office job in March of 2019. During a typical week, I would go into the office for three days and work from home for two. I enjoyed working in an office, mostly because it was the definition of success and of being a true adult after college. My coworkers were all very close friends with one another, and I enjoyed the lightheartedness in the air that came with the camaraderie. Unfortunately, I don’t think I ever truly made my way into that circle of friends (I’m talking best-friends-outside-of-work level friends) for many reasons. I believe that the overarching reason is because they all shared common interests that I could not have cared less about.
For example, one of my coworkers’ favorite topics to talk about amongst each other was astrology. This isn’t necessarily a friendship-ender, but I wasn’t about to pretend to think astrology is fun just to fit in. I also wasn’t about to ruin the mood by going off on a tirade about why astrology is pseudoscience and it is an impediment to real science. So for most conversations, I would just sit quietly (or put in headphones to drown out the inanity).
At the same time, I felt that I still liked these people and didn’t want to pass up the opportunity to make friends. But how do I do that? For most of their conversations about fitness and beauty, I literally didn’t have anything to add. And when I did, I didn’t want to seem overeager to insert myself into a conversation that I was not invited into. (This was most of them.) I ended up attending a handful of happy hours and lunches, but it was mostly because I felt that I couldn’t complain about not making friends if I didn’t at least try.
Then in March 2020—actually, on the exact day that I was hired on as a full-time employee after being a contractor—we all switched to working from home. Our jobs have all been fully remote since, and I haven’t seen any of the aforementioned people. Outside of work-related conversations, I haven’t talked to any of them. When people ask me if I’m glad I’m working from home, I’ve mostly said that I’m just happy to not have to listen to their inane conversations about Mercury retrograde anymore. This is when I’d be called an introvert. It’s not wrong, but I realized this week that it wouldn’t be right to just paint someone an introvert and blame their social issues on that.
As I’ve said, my introversion at work wasn’t just because I didn’t like my coworkers, but trying to find where I fit in with them was such a constant chore and source of stress that I didn’t have the energy for it. I’m sure that even an extrovert can run into those same issues of not fitting in, but perhaps they would have more motivation to fight for a place in the group. Not me, though—I’m happier by myself anyways.
No matter what my Myers-Briggs says, or what my zodiac sign may or may not tell you, I’ve been an introvert for my whole life. I think everyone in my entire family is an introvert as well. This shared quality would manifest itself in that our favorite nights were always when we could each bring a book to the dinner table, quietly read as we ate, and not utter a word.
I was a little more outgoing in high school and college in my specific friend groups, but my memories of being an introvert in college were mostly, not surprisingly, due to being isolated as an atheist in a self-described “Christian bubble”. I remember the loneliness I would feel in my senior year every time I got the email from my RA that the entire hall was meeting for bible study that night in the lounge. The only people I knew on my hall were my roommates. And the only time that everyone else got together was for bible study. I’d spend those nights reading atheist books alone in my room.
This pattern has continued on through the years. Even before the pandemic, I was staying home and reading because I couldn’t find anyone else with the same passions that I had. I know that people don’t have to be atheists, or into science, or against astrology, to “qualify” as my friend, but I don’t think it is strange to wish that I had more in common with the people around me, and vice versa. The things I love most—reading, writing, playing video games, cuddling my cat—all take place by myself. I don’t have to worry about the anxiety I feel when trying to fit in, wondering if someone likes me, or being interrupted in conversation. (It tends to happen a lot.)
I find it fascinating that being introverted is not a one-size-fits-all trait, and we are all introverts to some extent and for different reasons. Some of us are shy, some of us haven’t found the right group of people, and some, like me, truly are just happier alone, at home, where they are comfortable and they can be their authentic selves.