Top 5 places for a restless introvert to go alone

Just because we’re introverted doesn’t mean we don’t like doing things! Here is my list of the best fun things to do when you want to get out of the house but don’t necessarily want to talk to anyone.

  1. Shopping. For the ambitious introvert, shopping can be a lot of fun alone. I do my best shopping when I don’t have to worry about other people judging my purchases. Plus, you get to spend as much or as little time as you wish in each store. Shopping is low on the list because it often involves a stressful environment with a lot of people, and there’s a high chance of running into someone you know. However, more often than not it’s a fun break to do on your own.
  2. Nature. Grab your favorite copy of Walden and spend the day outdoors. It’s easy to feel comfortable in your favorite outdoors spot, whether that’s deep in the woods or your own backyard. Bring a snack, take your bike out. Your heart and your soul will thank you for it! Just remember to stay safe when alone in the wilderness; don’t try rock climbing by yourself, for example, and don’t get lost.
  3. The Movies. I know, it seems lame to go to the movies yourself…but think about it. What is social about going to the movies? If you’re going to sit in silence for two hours, might as well take away the social stress of being around people—and yes, there will be others in the theatre, but they’ll be quiet and ignorable. Plus, you get that whole popcorn to yourself.
  4. The Gym. Though not my personal preference, the gym can be a great way to get yourself active without being bothered. Plug in some headphones and enjoy some music all while getting that blood flowing. Many gyms also offer calm classes that involve little interaction, like yoga. The best part about the gym is that if you run into someone you know, there’s no obligation to talk to them. A quick smile and wave and you’re back in the zone.
  5. The Library. Many of you may be saying, duh. The library is practically introversion incarnate. Well, yes, it’s great to curl up in the comfy sofa and read a rented book, but libraries are so much more than that! They offer art and cooking classes, book clubs and author readings. They give discounted passes to local museums, they host farmers markets on the front lawn, they have cafes with rich coffee and scones. What’s not to love about a library? Whether you go with a book and a chair in mind or you go looking for inspiration for another activity, the library is the top hub for people who want to do things but would prefer to go alone. And the best part? Quiet is mandatory.

Berlin, England: Conversation starters

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I get compliments on my bag all the time, which is funny because it’s crap. I mean, I like how it looks too—that’s why I bought it. But it was $25 from a street vendor in New York City, made of fake leather that is already falling apart at just a year old.

Its leather isn’t the only thing that’s cheaply made. As you can see from the photo, it’s a map of the world in nice earth tones and fancy calligraphy. It looks great from a distance! But then I’m sitting on a New York subway, admiring my new purchase, and I notice something…

Every single country is spelled wrong.

At first I think, cool! Every country must be in its native language…or something? Or, maybe it’s supposed to be old English? I look closer. The calligraphy is hard to read, but it seems to suggest “Palaka” is Poland. Well, I suppose that could be true. But, “Dalaka” for Germany?palaka.jpeg

“Tuikiye” for Turkey?

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I get more suspicious when I see the Mediterranean is labeled “Madilseeanean,” and Algeria is “Algeica.”meditalgeca.jpeg

Again, I tell myself, maybe it’s old English. But then, the other shoe drops:

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London is labeled as “Berlin.”

Well, that settles it. Somehow, for some reason, everything on this bag is wrong! Could they not get the rights for the world? Do you NEED to get rights for the world?

I don’t mind my terribly-spelled bag. After all, it’s still adorable, and it’s a great conversation piece. People love spending time poring over every misspelling, wondering if it’s this language or that until I point out Berlin, England (or the “United Hingdom,” according to the bag). Then they throw their hands in the air and laugh, deeming the bag a mystery.

I too wonder how and why this bag ended up this way. I can only imagine it’s a knock off of a designer bag, and misspelling/labeling countries somehow got around copyright. But whatever the reason, I don’t mind. It’s a small-talk I don’t mind having, since it doesn’t focus on me. It’s a fun game to play when I don’t have anything else to do. It’s a centerpiece of a love of all things ironic, the love of ridiculous things that are so bad they’re good.

It’s the little things like Berlin, England that make life wonderful. While it’s unlikely you have a bag like this, a piece of jewelry or a shirt with a story behind it are great conversation starters in a pinch! You get to share a story, get a few compliments, and get out of the spotlight as people try to top your story. Good luck:)

Makeup: Short Fic Friday

Shane glared at his mirror, his shoulder blades pinching together, his hands gripping the rim of the sink. His eyes darted from his forehead creases to the zit on his chin to his appearing crows feet to the zit on his chin to his graying temples to the zit on his chin.

“Pick one!” he shouted at himself. His cat yowled from his bedroom at the sudden noise. Shane sighed and rested his head in the crux of his elbow. Now? It had to be now?

“It’s ‘cause you’re stressed,” he whispered and splashed water on his face. He ran his finger over the bump. It’s pretty deep in there. It wouldn’t be one he could pinch and have it disappear. No. This one was a fighter.

Marzia’s drawers in the bathroom they once shared were all but empty. A hair scrunchie, an old disposable razor. No tweezers, no zit cream, no makeup!

“I could run to CVS. No, I wouldn’t know what to get. The colors all look wrong.” He dried his face on the bottom of his shirt and left the bathroom. Maybe it only seemed big since he was staring at it.

The house was so empty, so big. His feet were so quiet on the carpet that he hadn’t vacuumed in months. The cat needed feeding, so he fed her. He would need to get more cat food soon. He fought tooth and nail for that money-sucker.

Shane paused outside the bathroom door, bouncing on his toes, then leapt in, as if he could scare the zit off his face. Nope, still there, and even bigger and redder than he thought it was.

“Okay, dammit,” Shane said. He checked his phone. One hour. Only one hour? He needed to fix this. It was so easy when Marzia was here. He would always use her concealer—they had the same skin tone. Meetings, holidays, regular Tuesdays. Since she’d left, though…

The cat yowled, there was a big clatter. Shane set his bepimpled jaw. That damn cat.

He caught his own eye in the mirror. Yes, perfect.

Not twenty minutes later and he was at Marzia’s door, cat carrier under one arm. He rang the bell, then knocked directly after.

Marzia opened the door, all six feet and three inches of her. He used to like her supermodel height, her lanky limbs that moved awkwardly like cheap animation. Now she just felt intimidating. Shane held the cat out to her.

“Please,” Shane said. “I need a favor.”

It took a little convincing, but soon he was in Marzia’s new bathroom, slathering his chin in concealer. It made him a new man. He rubbed it until it was unnoticeable.

He popped out of the bathroom. Marzia was stroking the cat on her bed.

“Thank you h…” He caught the  “honey” before it escaped his lips.

“Is it for a date?”

Shane didn’t answer quickly. Marzia nodded.

“A man, then? I presume, considering….” She sighed. “Unless you lied about that just to…well.”

Shane looked down to the carpet. Freshly vacuumed. “Yes…a man. I wouldn’t have lied about that, Marzia.”

“And this is what…you want, to make you happy?”

“Yes.” Yes, for the thousandth time, yes.

“Well, okay then. It’s what you have to do, then, okay. Okay.”

The cat leapt off the bed and stalked out of the room. They were alone.

“I don’t know what to say that we haven’t already.”

Marzia’s shoulders lifted once with a silent laugh. “Me either. Me either.” She gave him the once-over. “You look good…I hope it goes well. And thanks for the cat.”

“Thanks for the makeup.”

Misheard lyrics: Conversation Starters

This is the first in a new occasional feature called Conversation Starters, a lifeline for introverts who hate small talk. It will be a compilation of fun topics that will get others to share their own stories and take the heat off you. Hopefully you find this useful!:) Much love

 

Misheard lyrics are always a fun thing to talk about, especially when that certain song comes on the radio. It’s a go to for me, as an introvert. Conversation dies down, but the radio’s on? Perfect time to mention how you once thought “Burnin’ love” was actually “Monkey love.”

Sometimes, the misheard lyrics are better than the real ones! Some that I’ve heard and then was disappointed when I discovered they weren’t true:

 

“From head to toe-kyo. I’m so fancy. Can’t you taste this scone?”

“Fancy” by Iggy Azalea. First of all, “Head to toe-kyo” is a great pun on Tokyo/head to toe, and I think it would have been a great, if slightly nonsensical addition to the song. On the other end of the spectrum, “Can’t you taste this scone?” makes more sense than “Taste this gold,” and is a nod to the fact that only fancy people eat scones.

 

“The happiest back-stabber in the world.”

“This Girl” by The Punch Brothers. It works better because “back-slider” is confusing and it’s much more interesting to imagine the speaker telling God he’s going to backstab him.

 

“Showin’ a funky, strong Michelle Pfieffer.”

“Beat It” by Michael Jackson. Hey, Michelle Pfieffer is funky and strong, I’d take her over a fighter anyday.

 

“I’ll worship like a dog at the shrine of your life, I’d tell you my sins, and you can sharpen your knife off of me. That debtless death, good God!”

“Take me to Church” by Hozier. This is so much more dramatic than the real lyrics! Shrine of your life instead of lies. Sharpening a knife off his sinning body to achieve debtless death…I love it!

 

The two best misheard terms come from my five year old cousin Anthony. They’re not lyrics, but they’re adorable.

First is the common “Lifesaver” rather than “lightsaber.” Hey, they save lives! I think it’s awesome.

The second takes a bit of explanation. It was Christmas, and we’re over our grandmother’s house, who we call Nonny. Anthony is explaining to me all the knick knacks in her room, from the ornaments on the tree to the snowflake decorations he made in preschool. We get to an Annalee doll of Santa making a list.

“You have to be nice,” Anthony tells me. “Or she’ll put you on her list.”

“He, you mean,” I say. “Santa.”

“No, Nonny will put you on her list.”

I paused for a minute. What? …then it hit me. The naught list. Nonny’s list.

I couldn’t help myself from bursting out laughing, so hard Anthony was confused and asked what was funny. The Nonny list!

It was so cute—of course he would assume our Boston accent-laden family was saying Nonny’s list, not naughty list. But then I wondered the implications that Anthony had in his head—did he think Nonny worked for Santa? Did he think she was the one who went around the world with coal for all the bad children on her list? What kind of monster did he think our grandmother was?!

 

Mishearings are an amazing conversation starter, as everyone has a story to share. Use it next time you need to small talk, or the next time you’re on a date. Who knows? You might find out he wasn’t singing “Ate my mom” after all.

Those who prefer the mountains

I recently found this article in the Boston Globe discussing a study that found those who prefer mountain vacations tend to be introverts, and those who prefer ocean vacations tend to be extroverts. As a person who grew up going to both, this strikes me as both true and false at the same time.

First of all, the obvious fact is that not all beaches are packed tight with people, and not all mountains are lonesome escapes. In fact, one of my favorite beaches is in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, which hosts about ten people in the thick of summer. Then again…well, it’s in the mountains.

As a kid, I always dreamed of owning a private tropical island in the middle of the ocean and living there completely alone. I know, I’m about a level 100 introvert. I dreamed of a single hammock, a heap of bananas, and a few animal friends to keep me company. Just me in the warm sun, surrounded by parrots and palm trees. As I grew up and fell in love I hesitantly expanded my dream island to a population of 2…maybe. After all, even Robinson Crusoe had a partner.

I don’t think it’s exclusively the place, but rather who gravitates to the place. A private island, sure, no one else can go to it except who I invite, when I invite them. It’s paradise! However, a beach is usually flooded with people who like to show off their gym bodies and set off fireworks after dark. They like to jump in freezing water and play volleyball with strangers before grilling hamburgers and hitting the souvenir shops, casinos and bars.

Disregarding the fact that many mountain tourist spots are exactly the same, they do tend to calm down the further from the freeway you go. Those little log cabins do exist, surrounded by hummingbirds and wild raspberries. The people who go there enjoy skiing and hiking, and don’t mind when it rains because they have a bunch of books to keep them company. They like campfires with a few close friends, they like stargazing without light pollution and getting up early to see the sunrise.

I guess it makes sense for extroverts to gravitate to the ocean and introverts to gravitate to the mountains. But I’ve always found the ocean to speak to me more. Especially after most people have left it…a September evening, walking the empty beach in jeans and a sweatshirt. The ocean is gray, soft, cold. Massive. It comforts you with its largeness, assures you that your worries are small and will pass like the tides. Touching the water is to be connected to the entire planet. The mountains let you hide, but the ocean reminds you that you don’t need to.

More fake than Photoshop? Discussion

It’s so easy to look at humanity and feel we are all wearing masks. Some are more obvious than others: Meghan Trainor instantly comes to mind. I’m convinced her songs are written by the same kind of people who wrote the “gnarly” show Rocket Power. She’s built to appeal to focus groups and the most basic of ideas—good, positive ideas, sure, but they’re not “Meghan Trainor” they’re “What’s Trending on Twitter.” Even though she sings about body positivity, feminism, and self love, all things I agree on, something about her feels so fake—maybe it’s that she’s fighting tooth and nail to appear genuine.

When she took down her video recently because she was photoshopped, didn’t it feel like she only did it because it’s the cool thing to do, or because one of her songs bashed photoshop and she would’ve been criticized otherwise? It felt like a group of advisers discussed the best course of action for her. Maybe they even photoshopped her on purpose, so they could make a big deal about undoing it later.

But, honestly, we normal people aren’t much better. We all put on a show, 24/7. Hell, that’s why I like being alone so much, so I can act like myself without being judged by others, so I don’t have to “act” at all anymore. When my sister pretends to trip over her own feet or sing overly badly to seem quirky in front of her friends, it seems almost like manipulation…but I’ve also lied about having seen The Shawshank Redemption so my film major friends didn’t think I was lame, so I’m no better. I think we’ve all lied about having done this or not liked that or so on and so forth.

Code-switching is interesting too—when people talk or act different based on who’s around them. This is fascinating, and familiar to any kid who ever had a rowdy friend over before you were allowed to swear around your parents.

I don’t really know what to think about this. I get annoyed at this sort of acting but everyone does it, including me. What do you guys think? Is introversion enhanced by how tiresome acting is? Do you believe Meghan Trainor’s punchy activism, or do you think it’s born of a focus group? Do you think this acting is useless, or a vital part of a functioning society? I’m curious, because I don’t know what to think. This is a big, difficult topic, but it’s one we can have a good conversation about.

 

Where it rains

Where stupidity reigns, the closed mind domain,

Mem’ry retains only diamonds and pain

That are gained by the people preferred as bloodstains,

Who scream and make mountains of mole-hurricanes.

Ankle sprains, labor pains, they are one in the same

Blood runs red in all veins but some spill, some contain.

“If our rattling chains cause your painful migraines,

Equality! A solution that should be entertained.”

“Hold on, beautiful”

“This time be my only girl/We could undress all the world.” —Undress the World,” The Milk Carton Kids

If writing is the love of my life than music is my mistress. I suppose it makes sense that lyrics have always been the most important part of music for me. Of course, not just lyrics—that would be not much else but poetry—but the way the lyrics are sung, the crescendos and voice cracks, the harmonies and vibratos and emotions. Music is sound, which writing can never be.

When I am caught in the throes of a musical love affair I often only want to write the lyrics of already existing songs.  I have notebooks full of songs already written, recorded word for word. I would rewind the song until I knew every syllable, until I transcribed it totally, and then would listen to it again, my eyes following the guide I had made. It was time filler, but made my soul feel light.

I don’t know why. Perhaps it’s an expression of obsession, or a desire to recreate what they have done. Perhaps it’s my own way of honoring their work.

Whenever I don’t know what to blog, writing lyrics comes to mind. For split seconds it always seems like a great idea, to share songs I love with the world, but then again, copyright laws, and then again, why would someone read the lyrics when they can hear the song in full with half a dozen keystrokes? I could do song reviews, I suppose, but who am I to say what lyrics mean to anyone but myself?

Lyrics alone do not do a song justice, anyhow. While I love them best, they lose their luster without a singer and a band.

Well, I’m a writer, after all. I shall write my own songs!…but how could I write something more perfect, more capturing of my situation than these songs that already exist? I would get more fulfillment from writing down what they sing, from hearing their cadence until it’s impressed on my mind. And even then, even if I were to write the lyrics of a song and comment on it, I would probably only gush about its greatness. Or, quite the opposite, I would ignore the rest of the song for my favorite line, the one that gets stuck in my head.

Perhaps this is partly why I like quotes so much. Snippets that capture a situation, an emotion, the song they are plucked from in so many words. If only there were a quote to sum up everything in the world. It would certainly make it easier to sing about:

 

“Witness what I listen. There’s a world here you’re missin’ to behold

A fiery night under the skies could warm your heart and hide away the cold

Venture out a little further and somehow you might find the courage to go

‘Cuz if you stand there long enough, you will realize you’re really on your own

Go on hold me

Go on hold me

Hold on, beautiful.”

“Undress the World,” The Milk Carton Kids

Roam

When all I can say is repeat what’s been said

It’s hard to believe that the words in my head

Are anything worthy to write or be read

Perhaps I should focus on running, instead.

For who reads newspapers half a day old?

The company’s heart’s barely beating, I’m told

Surely my paper and life’s work will fold.

What could be better than hitting the road?

Making the stories I’d once been reporting

The future, the past, and the present distorting

What would mom say if she saw me resorting

To running and laughing and shameless cavorting?

As it turns five and of course I head home

The sky is an ominous gray monochrome.

I wonder which parent gave the chromosome

That gives me the hesitant instinct to roam.

It’s about time I mention Susan Cain.

What’s an introvert blog without Susan Cain, anyway? Frankly I can’t believe I made it this far without talking about Cain or her book, or her super-popular TED Talk.

Without going too much into detail, Cain is one of the most vocal introverts out there, dedicated to helping people understand the “power of introverts” in an extroverted world. She kind of opened the pathways to discovering the pros of having introverts in a work space. She made me, personally, realize that being introverted isn’t necessarily a bad thing or something to be “fixed.”

I could probably do a whole A to Z Challenge about Susan Cain’s work, with a different quote or philosophy of hers every day, but I’d like to focus today on a quote from an interview she did with TIME Magazine:

“Shyness is fear of social judgment and humiliation, and introversion is really preference for less stimulation. You could have a child who prefers to work alone but is not afraid of other kids, but just has this preference. They sometimes come together but they can be very different. It drives non-shy introverts crazy when people assume they are shy when in fact, they are [simply] not wanting to participate.”

Now this interests me because I was always called shy as a kid. Sometimes I felt–and still feel–shy, but I wonder if I was always so. Did I become shy because I was told I was shy? If you say something often enough, it can become true. Or, am I just a shy introvert? They certainly exist.

Either way, I have grown out of much of my shyness, but not my introvertedness. I love how she said, “introversion is really a preference for less stimulation.” I like to think of it as a preference. You don’t control what foods or colors you like, you just discover it on your own through trial and error. The same thing happens with stimulation levels; the preferred level is discovered over time.

Even though I just admitted to sometimes feeling shy, I hate when people call me that. Especially when they say it like I’m not in the room, “Oh, she’s just shy,” as if my shyness caused hearing loss. While I see introversion as a positive part of my personality, I see shyness as a bad thing. A fear, like Cain said, of other people. Nothing racks up my anxiety more than someone calling me shy when I thought I was doing well and participating enough.

Worse than “shy” is “antisocial,” which I have also been called (to my dismay). When I read Cain for the first time I was relieved to find my feelings validated, to hear someone else’s voice tell me that I wasn’t antisocial, I just preferred less stimulation. That there was nothing wrong with me–in fact, my quiet tendencies gave me “power.”

Cain taught me and countless other introverts that it’s okay and natural for us to want to be alone now and then and to prefer less stimulating activities. She’s a wonderful woman and I highly suggest all introverts, especially ones just beginning to discover who they are, to read her work.