Image courtesy of Kamil Porembinski / Freestockphotos.biz
I had a conversation with a young volunteer at work today. He’s a quiet, intelligent boy who - like me – is an introvert. It’s not always easy to engage him in chat. In fact, I've never known him to just ‘chat’ – he discusses. If a topic is of interest to him he will discuss it passionately and share quite complex thoughts and theories. The challenge is to find a topic that sets him off.
Today was an exceptionally chaotic and busy one for me with lots of discussions with new staff. At the end of it I flopped into the chair beside this young volunteer and complained that I was tired of hearing the sound of my own voice and that I couldn't wait to get home to my quiet little house and retreat into a book.
That simple remark led to a deep conversation about introverts and how we feel quite misunderstood by those of an extroverted nature. He told me how he struggled in school with being ‘different’ and that even his siblings still don’t seem to grasp his need for solitude and silence.
Image courtesy of Craig Sunter / Wikimedia Commons
As we talked I felt that I had made a real connection with this young man. He has been working with me for around eighteen months but today was the first time we really connected on a level we were both comfortable with. I saw so much of my younger self in him and it felt good to be able to share insights with him from the perspective of someone who had lived as an introvert for so many years. I was able to reassure him that it was OK to be different from his peers, and even his family, and that over time he would become more comfortable with his own character and be able to balance that with the demands and expectations of others.
Grandmother Willow - Courtesy of nutmeg00 / Imgfave.com
This could almost have been the same conversation with a young person who is struggling with issues of mental health, religion, race, gender identity or lifestyle preference - or anything that makes a young person feel 'different.' There are a myriad of inner struggles going on that we are not even aware of.
I felt a bit like Grandmother Willow, the ‘wise elder,’ imparting my wisdom on the young – One of the good things about getting older, I guess.
Good on you for your words here, and for having that conversation with the young man. Making connections without scaring people away, what a fine thing that is for both of you and for the broader community.
Feeling a part of things is a warm and caring feeling, and too many things can go wrong if people can't find that feeling at all in their life.