Wednesday, August 28, 2013


A Day in the Mind of an Introvert

You probably know the differences between an introvert and an extrovert by now as it has been a huge topic of discussion. If not, this is a great article that explains the distinction and clarifies that most people are actually in the middle of the spectrum. I classify myself as more of an introvert than extrovert, though I do have some extrovert tendencies. Example, I get really outwardly excited about even the littlest of things. This only increases when my fiancĂ© doesn't express enough excitement, so I have to be excited for him. Howver, apart from my overly large levels of excitement, I tend to keep most things on the inside and I prefer to keep it that way. I share in the many stereotypes of what an introvert is seen to be. So here is what it's like to be in my brain for a day:

Today was day three of the new semester and I am taking five English classes: two literature classes and three writing classes. I've always enjoyed English because it lets me think to myself as I read and I can put my thoughts on paper (or screen) rather than out loud. Communicating verbally has never been one of my strong points. Unfortunately, it would seem that the English department does not share in this opinion of mine. On my first day of class, we had to introduce ourselves in two of my classes. I, of course, did not enjoy this. I thought I was off the hook with the other two classes of the day. Unfortunately, I thought too soon because today my professor (same for both classes) decided we should "get to know our classmates so we can have good discussions." Cue eye roll. We were told to take five or seven minutes to get to know or neighbors. I immediately began thinking about what I would talk about for that seemingly endless amount of time. The first class went okay. I had a very chatty neighbor, so she did most of the talking. Then we had to introduce our partner to the class. The worst part of this is that not only am I being forced to talk to the class, I now have to remember all of the details of the person I just met. And while I was speaking with this person, I had trouble memorizing her life story because I was too busy thinking about how I could contribute to this unnecessary small talk. The third class (with the same professor) went about the same in my head. It was the same activity and same frustrations, so I won't bore you with details.

In my second class we had already done introductions on Monday, so, I expected to be able to sit content and listen to the discussion about Robert Frost, only contributing when I had an opinion. Wrong. Today, my professor decided instead of starting off with a structured class discussion (which I'm totally okay with), that we should chat with our neighbors and see what their thoughts are on modernism and the poems we read. I hate these activities because it forces me to think about how I will carry on the conversation, not about what I am learning in class. To make matters worse, my professor said (in quick the joking manner) that he supposes if some people are for some reason tired of people they could think about the poems to themselves. This should ease my mind, but it didn't. The rest of the class laughed at the this joke, I suppose, because why would someone not want to talk to people? For me, it is because I am in this class to learn about 1900s American Literature and not to have superfluous conversations and "get to know my neighbors." I have a very nice group of friends whom I am now too mentally exhausted to spend time with because I spent the day being forced into small talk.

The large amount of group work and forced conversations in my classes do not help me understand the material better. It only causes me to worry about having time try to understand the content while at the same time trying to navigate social situations. It's too much at once. My classes were over by four o'clock and I have plenty of homework to do but am now stuck trying to gain my mental energy back before I can start.

If you read articles in order to understand introverts, or perhaps you are one too, you hopefully realize that introverts don't hate people. They also don't hate conversation. Actually, I quite enjoy a good stimulating conversation that I choose to have. What I don't like is being forced into a small talk on someone else's terms. I don't like showing up to class physically exhausted because I was up late doing the reading and then being forced to expend my mental energy because the professor thinks all students should be chatty. I am there to learn how to think about literature and how to write, not how to have a conversation loosely related to class. Perhaps these things make some people feel comfortable and ready to discuss, but they isolate others. Today, in the midst of too many people, I felt alone. Sadly, this is not the only part of society which caters to extroverts and excludes introverts. Professors, students, and people need to consider all personality types, not just their own.