Out of My Element: Living in the City as an Introvert

For some of you this may come as a shock, for others you might have known longer than I have, but I am an introvert. One of the most confusing kinds – I might add.

I am social. I enjoy being with friends and doing activities, but essentially, I get my energy from being alone. Days without solidarity and time to myself drive me to the point of insanity. It causes me stress and high anxiety, and if I’m not careful, some really horrific breakdowns.

Sunday is my favorite day of the week. It is my day to decompress, relax and crawl back into myself, so that I am prepared to face another week full of activity.

I live in a big city with lots of people and LOTS of things to do. It is stimulating to the point of being overwhelming. There is always something going on that demands my attendance, and for a while I struggled to turn things down.

See, I moved here right after college, not knowing many people. I believed that the only way I could survive and make this place my home was to immerse myself in the social realm and develop new and strong friendships. I felt pressured to keep up.

So I went out. I did happy hours, went to as many concerts and parties as possible and participated in numerous group dinners.

To an extent, I was successful. After two years of living in DC, I can happily say that I have developed amazing friendships that I truly cherish.

But I recently noticed that while I focused all of my energy and attention on building these relationships, I had neglected a big part of who I was. I oppressed my inner hermit and suffered greatly for it.

After experiencing what was a painful and troubling identity crisis, I rediscovered what brings me peace and joy: solitude. Through exercise, meditation, reading and journaling, I rebuilt my inner structure and found comfort once again in my own company.

For the last several months, I have been working on finding a balance between my social life and my introversion. I refrain from committing to anything that doesn’t require a ticket and ensure that at least one day a week, I stay in and limit the external stimulants as much as possible.

Instead of spending time with friends, I go for a run, cook myself something delicious, climb into bed and write or read whatever book is currently sitting on my nightstand. And I love it.

Living in a city can be extremely difficult and scary for introverts like myself. The stimulating environment can drive you inward, creating a lonely and recluse lifestyle, or it can push you so far out of your comfort zone that you suffer from anxiety like I did. 

However, living in a city can also be incredibly enriching and teach you a great deal about yourself and how to contribute to society without being too overwhelmed. All you need is a little balance.  Getting there is the tricky part, but stick it out, because once you get there, I assure you that you will be pleased with what you find.

I still dream of living in a cabin in the woods with a lot of land and the closest neighbor living over a mile away, but now I can say that before I got there, I successfully and happily lived in DC where I met amazing people, worked with some of the most influential people in the world and developed a stronger sense of self. And it will taste that much sweeter.

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