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Value In Solitude - With A Free Essay Review
I avoid wasting my time with small talk. It’s an activity better suited for salesman and other talkers who are disposed to portraying friendliness by engaging in shallow conversations. I cannot feel comfortable feigning interest in someone else’s trifles. I convey pleasantries much more genuinely with a smile and flash of my palm. Later we can strengthen our minds by taking up a stimulating discussion over a tea latte. Assumed sincerity makes me uncomfortable. I spend the entire time thinking, I trust that you’re friendly; no need to prove it. Still, as a passive person, I force myself to endure the unnecessary routine.
“Hey, how are you?” they ask.
“Fine,” I say.
“Glad to hear it.” They pause, awaiting my return, before moving onto: “What are you doing this weekend?”
“The whole weekend?”
“I’ll probably do other stuff.”
“Cool. Well, we should hang out sometime.”
We part ways and, immediately, I think, what a clumsy waste of time, before analyzing the conversation in three steps. First I reach the conclusion that, due to my social impotence, I’ve bypassed an opportunity to attend a social gathering. Then I begin to worry that I came off as disinterested and, therefore, arrogant. Finally I praise myself as I have, unintentionally yet fortunately, avoided the hassle of expending all of my energy to chatty partygoers. I do not attend many social events because I invariably deaden conversations and, feeling nearly dead myself, trudge home as if I’d completed a marathon.
The world largely divides itself between introverts and extroverts or, as I like to think of it, those who save their words for important conversations and those who tend to talk too much. Of course, there is middle ground, as ambiverts do exist. While introverts are partial to lower stimulation settings, extroverts are most alive when surrounded by people. Most extroverts are fairly easy to discern. They like it that way. The quintessential extrovert is one that will enter a room and, seek out someone to talk to—about anything; in order to think, in order to reach fulfillment, the extrovert must talk.
Like other instinctive traits that defy majority—homosexuality and left-handedness, for example—there was once a time when introverts were strongly encouraged to overcome their “problem.” While the reserved are still seen as somewhat of an oddity, enough introverted thinkers, Mahatma Gandhi, Albert Einstein, and Mark Twain to name a few, have shown the importance of solitude for introspection. I should note: an introvert is not necessarily shy. Shyness is a false distinction in determining an introvert from an extrovert. Shyness is a fear of social rejection. Extroverts can be shy. Neither are introverts necessarily arrogant or disdainful of others. They are simply not interested in speaking unnecessarily and spending copious amounts of time around others. And sure, like most people, introverts occasionally attend parties—a stark reminder of the joys of solitude—just not as long.
My compatriots will be hard-pressed to ignore the disparity between the two groups. The internet and reality television create a means for talentless individuals to acquire momentary fame, thus stressing the appeal of charisma. And for the charismatic who, for various reasons, are forced to spend time alone, the pervasiveness of social media sustains them until they can trouble a stranger at the bus stop. My struggle with introversion is perpetuated by my lack of self-confidence. Paradoxically, while I am unconfident because of my silence, I am silent because of my lack of self-confidence. It’s difficult to overcome. The world is full of talking.
I recently completed work as a temporary office assistant. I shared my workspace with an effervescent girl who typed fifty words per minute and attempted to talk ten times as much. She insisted on sneaking peaks of Facebook at work, giggling like a high student after smoking a cigarette in the bathroom. While I usually found her pleasant, she was wholly exhausting. About a week after our ten-month residency, as we were celebrating our graduation, she jovially announced that she was asked to continue working throughout the summer. I only used two steps to analyze this information. First I wondered if she had a filter; next I recognized the undeniable: the world prefers talkers.
In my current job search, I constantly run into jobs for which I’m disqualified—employers seeking confident, out-going people. That’s how this preoccupation began. In the era of Abraham Lincoln, a notable introvert, the United States existed in a Culture of Character. Americans were appropriately judged by how they behaved when they thought no one else was looking. At the turn of the 20th century, the rise of big corporations stimulated a heavy migration to the cities for work. No longer working in rural areas, around the familiar faces of their childhood, the importance of character diminished under the appeal of charm. The popularity of sales and retail work prompted the requisite to impress customers, employers, and fellow employees, pushing America into a Culture of Personality.
I can’t deny the magnetism of charm. Neither will I deny my attraction to movie stars and those whose turn heads when they enter a room. I do, however, find great value silence. In high school, I made the mistake of immersing myself in a drug culture to overcome my extreme shyness. My schoolmates remarked, “I didn’t know you were shy; I thought you were stuck up.” I soon gained more acquaintances than I’d previously known, failing to appreciate close relationships, and most importantly, the necessity and benefits of solitude. I was among the first of my friends to move into my own apartment. Despite my conviviality, I remained somewhat passive. I hosted innumerable parties for insolent teenagers who wanted to be anywhere but home. I didn’t have time for college. I dropped out. I didn’t have time for myself. I met misery.
I was weak, but introversion is not synonymous with weakness. Rosa Parks, a stalwart introvert, confidently embraced her predisposition. She was remembered as “timid and shy” a person with “quiet fortitude.” The latter quotation sounds like a paradox. Parks, refusing to move from the back of a bus, risked, like her fellow Negroes, abuse such as having a pencil jammed into their ear. As an African American, I commend her for standing up for our race, but I have experienced more marginalization for my introversion than my darkness; and so I also admire her willingness to overcome her shyness for an important cause. Moreover, I most admire her for not deeming quietness a hurdle, titling her autobiography Quiet Strength. I once believed that I should overcome my introversion and learn the “proper” way to live, but learning to appreciate the value of solitude, I believe extroverts can learn from the reticent.
As usual when faced with this type of personal narrative, I find myself reluctant to respond, but I’ll force myself to share a few initial impressions.
I dislike the opening sentences and I think that dislike is based on a relatively significant problem, but one that is more difficult to specify than it is to recognize. The obvious objection to the introvert's plea (a version of which opens your essay: "I dislike small talk") is that it is merely an excuse intended to cloak a perceived failing in the garb of a virtue. Lots of people dislike small talk, but engage in it anyway because it serves certain social purposes, and it seems disingenuous to defend introverts by criticizing everyone who is happy to indulge in the minor delights of social intercourse. One of the strengths of your essay, moreover, is that it recognizes ultimately, and to some extent implicitly, the complexity of the introvert's attitude to social situations and conversations; it recognizes that introversion is a kind of social disease from which one suffers (from which I suffer; let me clarify that I am on your side!) and at the same time a possible badge of honor. The introduction for me, by contrast, is too one-sided. And, strange to say, given what you say about these virtues, there is not, for me, quite enough reticence or circumspection here, and perhaps too much confidence, although the confidence is not really convincing. I find the same problem with your treatment of the extroverted co-worker. Again, it seems one-sided, shallow, unconvincing; you are protesting too much. Neither of these elements of your story add much to your discussion of the value of solitude, and ultimately I don't see what a discussion of introversion contributes to a discussion of the value of solitude as such, or vice versa. The issues are distinct. Extroverts can find value in solitude. And introverts can spend their time alone surfing the internet or watching reruns of Jerry Seinfeld.