This Week

This week,

a cashier complimented me, after months of my complaining that New York cashiers walk around as if the world slapped them – which in fact, in a way, it does, through entitled customers. A cashier complimented me, and the sun was shining, and I was surprised as I said thank you, taking my change, but receiving much more.

This week,

i sat on the subway with my sister, as we speculated about other passengers, their life stories, their destinations, and I realized they might be looking at us, and for a moment, I was burning with desire to know what they saw. Two girls, on the subway, heading towards an adventure that would last a day, with flowers; and coffee; and too much dinner.

This week,

i boarded a bus alone, traveling by myself for the first time in months, among strangers, my head bent as I avoided eye contact, hoping for my own seat, finally winning, and then wondering why someone who loves connection finds isolation so dangerously sweet.

This week,

as i waited for my second bus, sleep heavy on my eyes, I observed two homeless women, having set up camp in a bus station in a city, but as they prepared for bed, they laughed together like schoolgirls, perhaps denying the truth of their middle aged homelessness, perhaps not denying anything at all.

This week,

i drove for the first time in a while, preferring the quiet NH streets to the wild ones in NYC, and my windows were down, and my music was loud, and I was all alone, and I was happy.

This week,

I laughed with a cashier, back in my hometown, and as I paid her I realized that people in this part of the world didn’t look like they were slapped, and that was pretty cool, and that being alone is great, but connection is all that sweeter.


Seeking Silence in the Concrete Jungle

I had some time off this week, and I’m traveling next week, so I decided to make the most out of this week without leaving New York.
I spent most of my week itching for isolation. A spot I could call my own, not surrounded by chatter or other people and what they bring with them.
A spot I could pull out my book or stare off into space without feeling like was taking up room or not noticing something I should.
I started my search with the library. I figured, in middle of the day, how busy could the library be?
It was packed.
There were so many people, it was hard enough to find a seat, let alone find a private spot to curl up.
I chose a seat, as away as possible, with my randomly chosen book.
The book was about Nigeria, a young man who had grown up there, left and returned. It was a look into a life I have never given any thought. Into a culture I have never been face to face with.
I finished the entire thing in one sitting.
I hadn’t looked up or spoke to any of my table mates, but as I left I felt a kinship with the people I just had spent a couple of hours near.
The next day, I headed out again, on my own.
This time to an area I knew would be wildly populated. But I needed to go shopping, so I spent my day in a mall. Alone, but again surrounded by so many. So many that I exchanged a smile or two with, but nothing more.
I wandered around the city afterward and ended up at the 9/11 memorial. I read the names of hundreds in my head, imagining the family behind the name, the real-life human who had been cut out of their story.
Today, I got on the subway with no destination. I took out my book as I got on, and only got off when my book no longer kept me enthralled.
As I stepped onto the street, I found myself slightly disappointed. I have never gotten off at this stop, but I’d barely know it. It looked the same as every block in Manhattan. Starbucks on one corner, CVS on another, skyscrapers towering, and crowds of annoyed people. I set off down one block, searching for anything that caught my interest. Eventually, I ended up at Barnes and Noble’s, slightly defeated. My day of exploration could not have been less adventurous.
I chose a book, sat myself down and got to work – once again, trying to be alone in a room full of people. Without even noticing, I began to eavesdrop on the phone conversation behind me – a tutor was discussing math problems with his student. They began talking about college, and as the tutor would pose a question and then fall silent, I imagined the little person inside the phone, maybe sitting on their bed, maybe at their kitchen table, filled with dreams of their future. A human that I could not see nor hear, yet was now a part of my life in this tiny tiny way.
As I turned back to my book, I heard three little girls begin to sing a song together. Their moms, suddenly distracted from their coffee and conversation, startled by their daughter’s loud reminder that they were still there, quickly tried to shush them. The girls laughed and sang louder, running around the quiet readers. I smiled at their enthusiasm, I smiled at the mother’s desperate attempt to get them to stop singing their sweet song.
The tutor left, the girls left, and pretty soon I was bored of reading a book I had no intention of buying, so I headed out.
I figured before I called it a day, I should just walk a few more blocks.
And there it was.
I finally chanced upon a place that was empty.

A New York City location empty of any tourist, residents, anyone.
There was only one other human, far enough away to not count.
I sat down, blissful.
I was finally alone.

The spot I had found was filled with all kinds of weird sculptures and things that I analyzed as I sat there, in the sweet silence.

I suddenly found myself wondering about the person who had designed these, created these and placed them. Did he wonder why his little park was empty? Was he thrilled that this was a place someone could find isolation in the busiest city, or did he envision children running around, families spread out?
After a good half hour, I finally stood up, ready to not be alone anymore.
Humans. They are the most complex creatures of the universe. The little girls in Barnes and Nobles. The Nigerians in my book. That one other guy in the park. The tutor, and the person he was tutoring. All the people on the subway rides I ignored. The artist.
In all my attempts to run away from people, I kept running into them.
I spoke to so few people during my field trips, yet I had learned so much about them.
I’ll never stop being fascinated by people, and I don’t think I’ll ever stop writing about them.
It was a good week. I learned about myself, I learned about NYC, I learned that there are very few places in New York that you can be all alone.
But I also learned that if you live in NYC, it’s best that you learn how to be alone while surrounded by people, and that sometimes, that’s the best kind of alone you can be.

Blog Post 20/52 (20! that feels like a milestone!)

Featured Photo by Christopher Burns via Unsplash.

I Don’t Hate You

Dear Extroverts,

How’s it going over there? “There” meaning the place that holds so much laughter and good cheer. Excitement, good stories, connections. It all happens there, the place that extroverts join together in unison in their extroversion.
I remain on the outside, an observer, a sideline-extraordinaire.
I am an introvert.
My happy place is an empty room, an empty bathroom, a quiet backyard.
My mood soars when I hear the key in the lock, representing all other human beings leaving me home alone. That aloneness is blissful.
I love being alone. My inner world is complex and miles long, and it takes me hours to travel the length of it. I savor every moment that I get to lose myself within myself, take the side roads and look at the scenery.
It’s how I work.
I understand myself.
But that doesn’t stop the introvert guilt from seeping in.
Why do I not enjoy spending hours on end with my dearest friends? With my family?
Why do I always need to escape, to find solitude for even a brief few moments of recovery?
Because it sounds incredible.
Your crazy stories.
Your raucous laughter.
Your late night parties.
Your interest in late nights.
It sounds like you’re living it up, and in comparison, it seems like I’m living it down.
But the way you seek to go out and chase the parties, I yearn to stay in with a book.
 To many, I appear to completely open. Until they get to know me.
I have several personas I give to the world and each of them are me yet none of them are actually me.
Most often is my extroverted mask.
That mask jokes around, talks a lot, keeps a whole lot under wraps and keeps smiling.
That me is the me that most people get to know.
That me cracks completely when it gets to be too much.
That me pushes the real me over the edge.
Because everyone needs energy, and my way of accessing it is by connecting to myself and getting away from external distractions.
When I try to fake it, when I try to act extroverted because I feel as if that is what is required of me, I sever my access point. My path to genuine happiness and full energy is ignored and pushed away.
It builds and builds and builds until it becomes a dangerous explosive, and either it’ll just destroy me for a short time or it will hurt others around me and that’s unfair to all.
Why am I writing this letter?
Extroverts, I am envious of you. I am envious of your ease and comfort in the big wide world. I am envious of your epic adventurous stories. I am envious that you can have such a traditional good time and nobody blinks an eyelash at your idea of an enjoyable night. I am saddened that I am envious. I am frustrated that I have to convince people of my introversion, that people are insulted by my unwillingness to spend an extended amount of time with them, that I have to defend my obvious thrill in a night home alone.
I am frustrated that I have to convince myself that it’s okay to be an introvert. It’s okay to be the way I am. It’s okay to have to recharge this way.
It will makes things harder. It will make things more complex and often painful. But it’s okay.
I am writing this letter to vent and also to inform you that while you are having your wild good time and begging, cajoling and joking around, saying: “come on, you’re so boring, come out with us,” I am closing up inside, and my mask is going on. Because I want to spend time with you. But I just can’t come out every night, unless you want to see me cry.
Sometimes I have to put my hands out full stop and disappear.
The mask is hot and stuffy and it makes me cry hot tears to be in it for too long.
So listen, dear extroverts.
I love you.
I appreciate you.
I find great joy in being your friend or family member.
But I am an intense introvert, and that has to be okay. Until you understand that my desire to be alone has nothing to do with you, I will be unable to rid myself of the guilt that permeates my alone time.
I am I.
You are you.
Let’s accept it and meet halfway.
I may need to take a few breaks, but I’d love to hang out with you.
An introvert of fantastic proportions