In their teen years, many people worried about being invisible, falling between the cracks and being forgotten. This was never my concern. I was always the popular — or notorious — girl wherever I went. My family moved often, sometimes leaving and then returning to the same area. I adjusted and made and broke connections easily. By my teen years, I had become a bit of an odd child: a proud, black sheep.
Today, people either love or hate me the first time they meet me, but most come to the general conclusion that I am an extroverted person who enjoys the limelight. Many of those people learn the hard way that this is simply not true. I am a chatterbox and enjoy picking people’s brains, but I am very much a closet introvert.
Put me in any room or leave me with a stranger and I’ll start up a conversation in 10 seconds. Catch me tomorrow when I’m home and you’ll wonder if I’m the same person. Many introverts complain about being misunderstood, but I don’t think anyone is as misunderstood as the closet introvert. We give “time and place” a whole new meaning.
I started school at two years old. If you’re wondering if this is legal, the answer is no. However, my house on the hill gave me a perfect view of the children playing below and I could hardly wait for the day when I would be one of them. I pestered my mother so much that at two and a half years old, she convinced the school to enroll me off the books.
I had just mastered basic literacy at home, so the teachers were fond of me and took me under their wings. Sadly, school was not as exciting as I thought it would be. I remember feeling horribly depressed for the first week while feeling I could not tell my mom how much I hated it because I had begged to go.
Fortunately, as the weeks progressed, I settled in and made friends with all the boys. School was easy, so I looked forward most of all to lunchtime when the boys and I wreaked havoc in the schoolyard.
“Alex is a very sociable child,” I remember the teacher telling my mother when it was time for one-on-one evaluations. “She’s friends with everyone. Everyone loves her.” That year, the teachers finally legally enrolled me for K1, but put me in K2 classes.
My mother, feeling thrilled and proud, decided to throw a surprise party for me. I remember being in my room while Mom slaved away in the kitchen downstairs. Then, I heard voices. Finally, she came to the door. “Food is ready. Come down to eat.”
I followed her down the stairs and walked into a decorated space with children from school eating, drinking and laughing. I helped myself to a plate, said hello to everyone, went back upstairs and shut the door.
Mom came up to find me a few minutes later. “What are you doing up here?” she asked me.
I don’t remember what had so occupied my attention. I was probably colouring on the walls or reading a book and told her so. By her silence, I recognised I might have erred and asked, “Was I supposed to stay downstairs?”
She looked back at me, wide-eyed. “Your friends are downstairs. Don’t you want to play?”
“Play?” I repeated. “Now? But I see them at school every day. Why now?” I felt distressed at the idea that I now had to put away my things, go downstairs and spend time with someone else.
I remember Mom looking at me as if she was seeing my true colours for the first time. Then, she said, “It’s okay. You can stay up here.” She shut the door quietly and went downstairs. It was my first time having friends over and my mother never had another party like that again. I am 30 years old and she still tells this story.
Tiny House Planning
In 2018, I worked 32 hours on the weekend — yes, you read that right — and then worked every other day during the week. I went to the gym. I went hiking. I took myself out on dinner dates and got taken out on dinner dates. I went painting every week. I published my novel.
Then, 2019 came around, and I decided to focus my efforts on working more hours to save for my next big adventure. At the stroke of midnight, my life took a whole new turn. I stopped going out and worked seven days per week. Eventually, waking up to due dates every day became the recipe for impending insanity and I cut it down to six days.
I looked forward to that one day off, but every time it came around, someone would want it. I could never get a second to myself. I found the solution by simply isolating and cutting almost everyone off. Since then, I have maintained contact only with my family and my two closest friends in Atlanta, John and Brian.
It seems drastic, but when I get time to occupy my own headspace, I like to occupy it alone as often as possible. This change completely threw some people off and I thought back to all the times I told them I was a closet introvert and wondered if they were listening.
Do not invite an introvert out twice per week. We will run from you and hide in a cave until you go away.
My family went into lockdown before America got its first confirmed case. We officially shut our doors to guests as of March 14th but had already stopped heading out about a week or so before this. My husband is also about to become my ex-husband, so I had my entire home to myself and was filled to the very brim with contentment.
I took up painting. I took out the old Wii. I started working on Alanis, Land of the Undead again. I enrolled in a few online courses. I spent hours upon hours watching videos of offroading, tiny house tours and RV living. I was having a blast. Meanwhile, people were sharing their struggles with quarantining online.
“Struggles?” I thought. “What a life!”
About a week into quarantine, both of my good friends messaged me to say, essentially, “I bet you’re enjoying the quarantine isolation, aren’t you?”
“You know I am!” I replied.
If this pandemic has taught me anything about myself it’s that I might love my own company a little too much. I hate that the novel coronavirus has turned everything from strawberries to doorknobs into potential death traps, but I do not look forward to coming out of quarantine. I like it here.
Future Desert Plans
When I first started my tiny home plans, I did not expect to be going into it alone. I spent hours with my partner in crime going over details of the build styles, potential locations and the amenities I wanted. Over time, I realised I was the only one truly excited about it and began to plan for the potential of heading out there alone.
More than a year later, I am 100% sure I’ll be staring up at the desert sky with no one but Shadow to keep me company and the thought puts a smile on my face.
Excuse me looking like mi ah nuh somebody pickney, but look how handsome this bloody cat is! 😍🥰 pic.twitter.com/4pENbIr8VN
— Alexis Chateau 🇯🇲🇺🇸 (@alexischateau_) May 3, 2020
When you have the kind of life plans I do, I think being a closet introvert is the best trait you can be blessed with. When I am around strangers, I will never feel out of place. When family and friends come to visit, I will cherish their company. But when solitude finds me, it will not find me lonely or sad.
You know what terrifies me? This unnerving comfort I have with the idea of being on my own and potentially dying alone one day. The fact that it does not scare me is what scares me. But, what scares me even more is the fact that one day, that might change.
“You know,” Mom said to me, recently, “if it’s one thing about the women in our family, we are not scared of being alone. Just look at your grandmother!”
This is very true, but will I wake up one night, hear the coyotes howling on my property and realise I have crossed everything off my bucket list and want to share some quieter moments with someone now? I guess there’s only one way to find out.
In closing, I leave you with this video from Twitter that inspired this post. Enjoy.
every smug introvert during covid pic.twitter.com/TF5JKeWAAq
— vidyAAAAAARGH (@vidyarrrr) April 17, 2020
What has quarantine life taught you about your need for social interactions or lack thereof? Are you ready to break free from isolation or have you enjoyed the quiet moments with family and to yourself?