Introvert in the Big City

As I write this, I’m hiding. I won’t say where I’m hiding, in case I need to hide again, except that I’m sitting in a brightly-lit tea shop somewhere in Mid-ish-town with three notebooks, two novels, and a matcha vanilla latte in a paper cup.

It’s a good spot. Not quiet, but the chances of me running into someone I know are slim to none.

Meanwhile, my friends are several subway stops away, munching on reduced-price burgers as they prep for Tuesday Trivia. Name this 80’s punk song. Identify the politician by his crummy signature. List every member of the Brady Bunch in order by their shoe size. Fun, important stuff, and I like it—but sometimes, oftentimes, I can’t. I can’t go to Tuesday Trivia. I can’t go to Happy Hour. I can’t go. Not because I have an external conflict, to use an English major phrase, but because I’m serene and bookish and would rather have my fingers wrapped around a fountain pen than a five-dollar Stella.

In short, because I’m an introvert. And to be a twenty-something introvert in the City that Never Sleeps is hard.

I think, for me, it’s especially hard because I present myself as an extrovert. When I started college, I made the decision to reinvent myself as someone who said yes, yes, yes, to everything. Eventually, I let that façade drop, but I became so good at pretending to be an extrovert that I slip into it whenever I find myself in a new place. Which usually ends in me having to explain that I’m a dirty rotten liar. I like parties and music and dance, but given the choice between a bar and a book, I will always choose the book.

That moment of explanation is hard. Really hard. Suddenly, I feel raw and exposed, wondering if you still want to be my friend even if I can’t be the “fun friend,” and worse than that—I feel guilty. Like I’m letting you down. Which is a stupid way to feel, but its stupidity doesn’t make it any less real.

It’s hard in New York. It’s hard anywhere, really, but I feel it acutely now that I’ve been in the city several months. My extrovert shell is cracking. It’s time to say to my new friends, “This is who I am.”

And I pray to the old gods and the new that they still like me.

It’s hard in New York because New York doesn’t stop. New York is trivia night, but it’s also salsa classes, happy hours, writer’s circles, comedy clubs, speakeasies, film festivals. It is a city in motion, its characters spiraling into the next scene without pausing for breath. It’s hard to push pause. To stop when everything around you is screaming go!

It’s hard, but not impossible.

I swear I don’t always hide. Recently, I’ve gotten better at saying, “Thanks for the invite, but I think I need to recharge.” It’s not always easy; I still suffer from “guiltroversion,” a term borrowed from Eden Sher’s www.the-emotionary.com. But I do it, and everyone is better off for it—so when I do go to Tuesday Trivia, I’ll be rested and ready to win.

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