Notes and questions on enjoying solitude
It’s been about 40 days now that we’re staying in Ko Lanta, Thailand. I’m writing this note because I feel like my social behavior has changed during that period: I’ve not felt as comfortable with people as I used to, and I’ve enjoyed being alone a lot. I’m not sure if this is correlated with our life in Ko Lanta itself, or not. So I’m sharing this, hoping that maybe, someone experienced something similar, and would like to exchange about this.
Don’t get me wrong: I feel great! Life in Ko Lanta is really fantastic, even better than I imagined! Weather is great, beaches are beautiful, locals are amazingly friendly and always smiling… We really feel blessed by our stay, and by how locals welcome us on their island. Camille also loves this experience, and I believe that she feels very happy about us being together here. On a more personal side, I’m very inspired these days, so I end up spending a lot of time on my laptop, writing code for several side-projects of mine, in flow mode. So, again, I’m super happy!
So what’s the problem?
Well, when we meet people, I feel excited at first: we introduce ourselves, we talk about our trips, our discoveries, we exchange traveller tips, usually over beers or diner. (And, let me tell you, local food is really delicious!) But, after several minutes of conversation, Camille looks like she just made new best friends, and I just want to leave. Minutes become very long. I lose attention and interest about the conversation. I want to go home, in our modest but comfy bungalow, and write some code, or maybe even just chill on Twitter. I’m seeking solitude. And I really enjoy it when I finally get it. I feel relief.
Ok, I can hear you thinking “Oh, that’s ok to be an introvert! Embrace it!” Maybe. But then, why did I use to enjoy huge parties, going out every night, meeting new people in Couchsurfing events, meetups, etc…? I read that introverts are energized by solitude, whereas extroverts are energized by the company of other people. How can a real introvert enjoy getting involved that often in so many activities packed with strangers? Maybe was I driven by a motive that was strong enough to overcome my introversion and shyness, and I don’t feel that motive anymore? Was I looking for validation by others, in order to build self-confidence? Or maybe hunger for love, or even just sex?
More importantly, why do most people (including my best friends) think I’m joking when I tell them that I’ve always been a shy person, or that I don’t feel like I’m a “social” person?
As far I can remember, I’ve always enjoyed solitude. In boarding school, I mostly remember myself spending a lot of time looking for weird objects to collect from the gravel of the playground floor, and had more fun with teachers than with the other kids. When we had our first computer at home (I was 6), I was immediately mesmerized by the machine, and my parents had to limit my usage to a maximum of 2 hours a day, so that I would have to get involved in other (and if possible, diverse) kinds of activities. Every time I was asked to spend time with other kids (including my own sister and brother), I was always finding clever tricks to get them involved in an activity that would allow me to actually spend that time on the computer. During middle school, I spent most of my spare time between classes in the library, reading science fiction books that I can’t even recall, just to escape from other students.
High school was a relief: I finally started to have fun with more people, and enjoyed going out more. Was that sudden change of behavior driven by my growing consumption of alcohol, by my growing sexual appetite, or both? Or maybe was I feeling more confident and fulfilled because I was playing in a rock band, and/or because I had written calculator programs and games that other people enjoyed?
Pattern or joke?
It could be that, after all these years of studies, jobs, playing in rock bands, dating, I’m turning a new page, and need to go back into my introvert mode for some time. Maybe, I need to energize myself for a next big chapter in my life, and then I’ll act as an extrovert for a few years again? Has my social behavior been following a cyclic pattern? Or have I just been lying to myself during my extrovert years? These are the big questions that have been haunting me these days.
I’m happy of having found the energy to formalize my thoughts, and and the guts to share them publicly. As some of you may know, I don’t like to expect or hope anything from others, but if you think that you can help me with these questions, or that you have had a similar feeling at some point in your life, I would love to read your comments!
I’m not looking for popularity, but if you think that this article can help people feel better (or help me answer my questions), please recommend it and/or share it.