The Story of My Introversion

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic

"You see I have always hated school, not because the teachers were strict or the studies were hard or anything else but the overwhelming amount of people that used to be there. So much human presence used to intimidate me, not just the teachers, though they were significantly more intimidating but other children as well. I have always struggled to socialize and take my own sweet time-making friends."

My mother has always told me that when I was born, I was heavy, fat and had very little hair over my head. Concerned with my probable baldness, she used up all her Ayurvedic knowledge and perhaps, that might have worked. Thankfully, I am not bald, at least as of now. I have often been told by her that I was a difficult child to manage. When I protest by arguing that every child is, she almost instantly shuts me up with a loud no. As these talks proceed, we always tend to come to a point where I am told a story that has become so repetitive that I have become capable of recalling the exact wordings now. This is the story of my initial encounter with school, how I always cried all along the way and when left in school came running back to her and persuaded her to not leave, and when she left, how I made it difficult for the teachers and cried so much that they had to call her back to sometimes take me back home or send somebody to sit with me through my classes. It is here that I always give up, mostly because after listening to all this, even I think to myself and say that it sounds just like me. 

You see I have always hated school, not because the teachers were strict or the studies were hard or anything else but the overwhelming amount of people that used to be there. So much human presence used to intimidate me, not just the teachers, though they were significantly more intimidating but other children as well. I have always struggled to socialize and take my own sweet time-making friends. As a result, my friend circles have been limited with only a few people in my vicinity. The continuous presence of people bothered me so much that I needed lonely breaks where I used to be just by myself. All through my school life, I have spent a considerable amount of my time planning for ways to avoid school. From faking stomach aches to listing all body parts where a sprain could possibly become severe enough that I could just somehow get the permission to skip school. I have been to great lengths to avoid school, a lot of times my tricks would work, but most of the times they wouldn't and I would be dropped in a place full of noisy people all around. My parents were troubled with my differences with school and my inability to talk with anybody new, my teachers on the other hand were impressed, not because I was studious or something but just so quiet. For them, a child who didn't talk much with anybody, meant one less young hooligan to manage. They always praised me before my parents for how quiet and disciplined I was. There was just one anomaly that they struggled to understand. I appeared to be so focused and quiet in the classes but none of that focus used to reflect in my marks. Little did they know that while they went on with their puny lessons, I used to contemplate about the larger things in life such as how would I save everyone if the terrorists were to attack the school or why are Shinchan and his friends always dressed up in the same clothes or if I had the choice to become a power ranger, what colour would I choose. The teachers never understood that these were important factors of life and deserved the amount of thought that I was putting in. Isn't it important to understand why none of the bad guys attacked New York city before Peter Parker became Spiderman?  One of the few things that I liked about the school was the unhindered moments of peace when classes went on. In these moments, I could just sit back, appear attentive and lose myself to my thoughts. Teachers had no problem because I appeared attentive, I surely had no problem because nobody bothered me. My pure state of bliss was sometimes disrupted by a talkative classmate sitting beside me, and as a solution to that, if possible, I preferred sitting alone.

My parents have put in a lot of effort to make me more open and social. One of their numerous missions geared towards this objective was to push me into taking part in a fancy dress competition. My mother knew that the participants will have to go to the stage, face an audience, introduce themselves and talk about what they were wearing. She saw an opportunity. I was supposed to dress up as a brave policeman. On that day, I woke up excited, completely unaware of the stage part. Upon reaching school, I saw a stage arrangement and chills ran down my spine, but I reassured myself that they may be for a different purpose. But my worst fear came true when the teacher in charge lined us up for stage entry. I thought about running away but as soon as I looked behind, noticed a bunch of teachers staring at me as if they were making sure I don't escape. I thought about faking a severe health condition but none came to my mind, and before I could run through more options, it was my turn. What happened next is an unforgettable experience for me. I accurately remember whatever I felt, to this day. As soon as I entered the stage, my heart started rushing and as I took small baby steps towards the centre, I noticed that I was sweating and maybe even shivering. As the lights faded down, I could see an overwhelming amount of people looking straight at me. I couldn't move, stood still looking at the trees near the playground, avoiding facing the nightmare that was happening just in front of me. Someone came up and adjusted the mic to my height, reminding me that I will have to speak now. I knew it will get worse and then, it just got. The judge asked me my name, maybe twice when I finally mumbled but all in vain. They couldn't get it, but luckily let that pass on and now I was supposed to describe my police uniform. I attempted to start but before I could say a word, my endurance gave in. It was enough now, I was least bothered about anything but to get off that stage, so leaving everything aside, the supposedly brave policeman ran down the stairs towards the backstage, weeping all along the way. That incident marked the start of my paranoia for stages. In the coming days, I would run off from the stage two more times. Once in a mimicry contest, and the other when I was just called by a teacher to sing in front of the class.

Starting from the fifth grade, our sections were changed every year and the students were shuffled up. This did not help with my slow socialization processes. Every year, I used to get a new set of classmates, a few friends and one or two bullies. I have not picked up a lot of fights in school, perhaps because I often got beat up. In school, people tend to develop innovative ways of abuse. Sometimes, I would come home with my navy blue uniform blazer completely made white, because it was used to dust off the chalk dust from the blackboard, at other times my shirt would be full of pen marks as a result of a classmate's attempts at calligraphy, my navy blue pants with shoe marks was a relatively more common sight, but not more than my dusty lunchbox because somebody just felt like throwing it off. Whenever my mother used to ask me about these, I came up with a story. You see telling her the truth would be disobeying the most fundamental code of conduct that all the boys abided by, it would be letting go of all my pride and indulging in a cowardice act. I had to manage it on my own, but easier said than done. Picking up fights would mean heavy public attention, complaining to teachers was again not my thing as it requires you to go and talk to one, anyways this was also a violation of that code of conduct. The only way this could be solved was to retaliate, with equal force. But for that, I needed a strong enough push, which never happened until after a few years when it did. But before that, I would gravitate towards finding some solution through self-help books.

Have you ever read one of those typical cliché books which are supposed to motivate you into fixing your life? If you have, has it really helped you beyond telling you some things which may sound really nice but you never practised them because either they were intangible or unpragmatic? If this sounds relatable then we have had similar experiences. We had a good number of such books at our home. I still remember their covers, some with a picture of a random man walking in the fields in broad day sunlight, other with another man climbing up some random stairs or if not these two, a man smiling so happily that even the laughing Buddha would be jealous. I went through one of these books and leaving all the intangible motivational talks and undoable instructions, I found two suggestions that I thought I could implement. One of them was maintaining a journal. Write about yourself every day and push harder the next day thereby making 'sustainable progress'. It sounded really good and effective, so I gave it a shot. I found an old diary, brushed off the dust and kept it aside. The next day I went on with life as usual. Just before going to bed, I sat down with a pen, marked the date and was all set to write a page full of my experiences, just as instructed by the book. There was just one problem. After writing two lines, I ran out of things. Now this problem was not mentioned in the book, and never did I consider it. Writing a journal sounded easy, you just have to write what all you did, but what if you did nothing significant. Reassuring myself that maybe today would have been a boring day, I closed the diary, kept it back and went to sleep. The next day, I encountered the same problem, and this went on till the time I finally finished one page, on the fifth day. And not just that, when I looked through it, I noticed that every day, I had written more or less the same stuff. Amir Khan wrote journals in Ghazni, it never seemed this difficult when I watched that movie. Perhaps because he had a girlfriend and I didn't. But instead of finding a girl, I went on with the second suggestion. Now this one was a little weird. I was supposed to stand in front of a mirror, and talk to myself. Talking to myself was the easy part, I was a soliloquy grandmaster. But looking at a mirror while doing that was utterly discomforting. When you stare at yourself, directly in the eyes for a sufficiently long time, a strange feeling starts seeping in. In my case, I start laughing. And then talking while this is happening exponentially amplifies the madness of the situation. One needs to take exceptional care that nobody sees this side of you, for obvious reasons. Two days and I dropped this as well. My relationship with self-help books ended there.

By the tenth grade, I had developed a keen interest in Computer Programming. A lot of that has to be attributed to video games, which provided me with means of escape into the worlds of fantasy where I could do all those things which I had ever visualized in my daydreams. This fascination resulted in provoking curiosity about how these masterpieces were made. Fixing my computer, scavenging old computers for valuable parts which I could use to upgrade my own and trying different techniques of enhancing my computer's performance with all the limited resources I had at my disposal, soon became

beloved pass-times. Back in school, there was this one thing I was really good at. Nobody actually knew because I never expressed, wasn't confident enough to raise hands during the classes and too shy to teach those rookie classmates who could not even solve the simple problems, the ones I could do in a couple of minutes. But soon enough, my subject teacher noticed this. He used to check our workbooks routinely and there I was, solving almost every problem thrown at me. My experience with teachers hasn't made me appreciate the profession much. More often than not, I would describe almost all teachers I have encountered as boring and ineffective. But there are those scarce instances in life when your conjectures fail, and even more scarcely, for the good. Once, the computer applications teacher gave us a difficult problem and told us that whoever would solve this, shall also come to the blackboard, write the solution and explain it to the entire class. It took a little longer than usual, but I solved it. After a while, I noticed he was going around checking everybody's workbook for the solution. This was a problem. If he finds out I have solved it, I will have to explain it to the entire class. Just as I was thinking about hiding my solution, he found somebody. Someone else had solved it as well. I was relieved. The person started writing the code on the blackboard, and when he was just about to finish, I noticed a deficiency. As he started explaining the code, it started bothering me. It was wrong and would fail on a relatively common input case. As he went forward with the explanation, I noticed his slight smile, he was proud that he could do it and was perhaps thinking, nobody else could. I could notice the sense of accomplishment on his face, while he explained his utterly dumb code. Not efficient by the runtime, neither by space and inconsistent as well. Just before finishing up, he ended with a bloody taunt. He said, "This was easy only, but needed a new method". Now this, was too much to handle. I raised my hand, got up and told him how bad his code was, in a much detailed way and ended with announcing that I had an actual solution. Not just that, the drive to satisfy my ego was so strong that I went ahead, and wrote the entire solution on the blackboard and didn't explain but at least read it before the class. Oh, the sense of accomplishment I felt! When I returned to my seat, overwhelmingly proud of myself, I noticed that the code I had written on the blackboard, was too small to read, and tended to bend upwards towards the right. The teacher must have noticed it but didn't contravene. Usually, teachers would send you back, diminishing your self-confidence, but that didn't happen today. In the coming days, almost every day,  I would be called by the teacher to solve the problems on the blackboard. Slowly, I became better at explaining. I would still be nervous every time I went there, but a lot less now, less enough that I could write, could think and most importantly I could talk.

In our society, after the tenth grade, a humongous majority of people, regardless of their interests, ability or capacity, attempt at getting into an IIT. And for that, almost all of us get ourselves into one of those highly competitive and commercial coaching classes. I was no exception. In my initial days of school, my mother was often worried about the 'environment' of the school, whether it was decent enough, whether it was protected enough. It's good that she never saw my coaching classes. To give you an idea, they had bouncers for controlling people. There was a tough competition, high expectations and a lot of pressure. It was here that I started writing, as a tool to vent out my frustration, and sometimes anger. Filling a single page of my diary was no longer difficult, I had a lot to express and lesser means to do so. It was here that I went from a single page in five days to five in a day, or sometimes maybe even more. But this time, I wasn't keeping a journal.

A little light in the dark were the lively sessions that used to happen, meant to relax and rejuvenate the students. In one of these sessions, I was having my own lively session with some of my other friends. I was mimicking our mathematics teacher. And by the will of the winds of fate, the same teacher noticed me and as a punishment, told me to do whatever I was doing, but on the stage. The stage, in this case, was a little elevated area near the blackboard to overlook the entire class, the strength of which could easily reach 150 to 200. So yeah, a pretty uncomfortable area for me. But nonetheless, I had explained programs to classes before. Since this was a lively session, everyone was lively, the teacher too was lively and I was equally lively. So, I went to the stage and mimicked the teacher right in front of him.

Now this, was a gutsy thing to do. To my luck, the teacher took it lightly. This one thing made me particularly popular in the class. So popular that I even picked some fights. Hesitation and the fear of confronting people were the things of the past now.

By the time I had reached college, stage fear was minimal, which with time has reduced even further. I still struggle to socialize, but it is faster than before. The company of a lot of people still bothers me, and after some time, still becomes unbearable. The trouble in articulating responses to emotional interactions is still a difficult task, but easier than before. But the most important realization that has come with time is the acceptance of my nature of being. Being an introvert is not a choice, it is natural. It is not a condition, it is just how some people are and therefore there is no need to make attempts to treat it, or hide it. Based on personal experience, I believe that introverts are at their best when they do not try to stop being one.

Submitted: May 19, 2021

© Copyright 2021 Aditya Mishra. All rights reserved.

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