My introverted road

I’ve always empathised with E.T. the extra-terrestrial (Spielberg). Abandoned in this planet by his friends. How on earth did I end up in this planet? Why would my friends just drop me here and leave. This is not my world. I don’t fit in. I can hardly believe all those people are of the same species as me. I was born in the wrong place. Now, what do I do to get to my true home…? How do I “call home” like E.T…

Or should I get along with myself?
I never did get along with everybody else
I’ve been tryin’ hard to do what’s right
But you know I could stay here
All night
And watch the clouds fall from the sky
This pain is hell in me tonight
Because this river is wild
Godspeed ya, boy
This river is wild

The Killers, This River is Wild

I have always felt like a misfit. Always. My entire life. When I was young, I was in constant fear. Everything in the outer world scared me. I think this is one of the reasons why I was so well behaved as a child, because I was scared of everything and good behaviour gave me a minimal sense of control. Following rules was a way to obtain some certainty in an ever changing and threatening outer world. I had this inner insight, but didn’t know what to do with it. When I read LOTR I empathised so much with Frodo. I had this inner “gift” that didn’t feel like a gift at all, it was a burden I couldn’t get rid of. I knew this inner insight was what separated me from the rest of the world. When I was a child, I had this book about a boy who was punished at home and saw his friends on the street, having fun playing with the snow. That was exactly how I felt, I wanted to be one of them in the outer world, they all seemed so happy. Often people would say to me “Smile! You have to mile more!”. I’m sure they meant well; they will never know how much I hated that. I felt completely stranded, like the mermaid in the song (The Stranded Mermaid, Heroes del Silencio). I knew I was “different”, this was pretty obvious from a very young age, and “the others” knew it too. With time, I started liking it. I enjoyed being on my own, reading, writing, listening to music. I decided that this “uniqueness”, however painful it was at times, was my trait, a sort of badge of honour. I didn’t hide it anymore and just accepted it as part of my life. Outside was like a desert for me, boring. But inside… inside was like a tropical garden, thriving, full of life. I looked for answers and I found that there were actually other people like me. Unfortunately, they were all dead writers or fictional characters.

No one can build you the bridge on which you, and only you, must cross the river of life. There may be countless trails and bridges and demigods who would gladly carry you across; but only at the price of pawning and forgoing yourself. There is one path in the world that none can walk but you. Where does it lead? Don’t ask, walk!

Friedrich Nietzsche, Schopenhauer as Educator

My first job pushed me into the outer world with no mercy. I could no longer hide. Science made me live in the world of facts. There is hardly anything more extroverted than a cold, soulless, simple fact. I had to actually learn to live in the outer world. The ability to socialise didn’t come naturally to me. I developed it by imitating others. To my utter surprise, it worked. I still felt a bit like a stranger, or rather like an impostor, but I enjoyed external life.

However, one cannot hide his true self in the basement forever. Our souls sooner or later come back to claim the space they believe is theirs. Mine. It just imploded. Like a massive explosion, but towards the inside and with no noise. An implosion. Like I was hit by a train coming out of nowhere while I was still wondering why… I used to think that midlife crises were unreal, something funny, an excuse for a sitcom chapter. But they aren’t funny. On the contrary, they are dead serious and also fascinating. I look back now and I remember feeling anesthetised, numb. And suddenly, abruptly, painfully, my unconscious, my soul came back from under and took the veil from my eyes. And I saw myself right on the edge of a cliff. It was metaphorical, but I still remember the mental image. Looking down at the ocean and wondering how the hell had I got there.

There started a true crisis in the Greek sense of the word. A crucial, decisive point in life. I revisited everything in my past. Every song, every page of my old journal, every memory. And I accepted. This, I believe, was the key. I accepted myself. It was one of the most painful things I ever had to do. But now I see how necessary it was. I discovered Jung. I read that the aim of the second half of life was to live inwards. This gave me an enormous sense of purpose. A drive. Hope, I guess. I felt reborn, with a passion I didn’t know I was capable of. And the fear was gone.

For the idealist the materialistic view severs the vital nerve, because his main source of strength—active apperception and realization of the primordial images—is sapped. Such a view of the world must appear completely pessimistic to him, as it robs him of all hope of ever again seeing the eternal idea embodied in reality. A world composed only of facts means exile and everlasting homelessness.

Carl G. Jung, Psychological Types

I finally understood what it meant to be an introvert. I understood that this inner life is actually normal. That I am not unique, not a misfit. Introversion is quite common. I understood that it is just a trait of character. I read a lot about it and I understood so many things. Now, after many decades, I can say I am very happy to be an introvert. It brings me joy. It allows me to see my inner world and enjoy it, while accepting that there is an equally valuable world out there.

Maybe we are all looking for the same thing. It doesn’t matter if we call it inner peace, inner balance, nirvana, individuation. Even so, I know all our paths are different. I know that no one can fight my dragons for me, build my bridge for me. “This was appointed to you and if you don’t find a way, no one will” (LOTR). Indeed. No one can live for me. If I don’t find my way, no one will. But I have found it, a glimpse at least. After decades stranded, everything that I lived, the suffering and the joy, the outer and the inner world, they all come together now. And I see how each step of the road was necessary, painful as some of them were.

I smile now, mind you. I wrote these lines for the person I was so many years ago. Almost to tell him that there is light at the end of the tunnel. To tell him to have confidence. To tell him to go on. That nothing is in vain. That every step counts, even if it is in a wrong direction.

Introversion is not a disease, it doesn’t need to be cured or treated. It’s a trait, like having green eyes or curly hair. I have come to a point in my life where I actually enjoy introversion very much. I can enjoy the outer world, more relaxed now, and I still enjoy my inner world, so full of life. I am alive, what else could I ever say…