On being alone, but with strangers

Has a bewildered friend ever caught you in the act of having fun in a busy, public place and asked, “Are enjoying this? I thought you liked being alone!

How do you begin to dissect the intricacies involved in answering that question. How do you explain that yes, you do enjoy solitude, but you also enjoy people. Sometimes, at least.

The common perception is that introverts are wired to completely alienate themselves from spaces that are shared or occupied by other people. And maybe we do need quieter spaces in growing urbanized cities. However, the notion that the mere sight of another person is enough to drain an introvert’s energy is not always the case.

There are certain moments–sadly brief, but disproportionately magical–that constitute the lives of introverted people. Being around people does not always imply having to interact with them. In fact, occupying a public space, without the silent obligation of small talk, can be uplifting.

Sophia Dembling, author of The Introvert’s Way: Living a Quiet Life in a Noisy World, supports this idea. She explained that although introverts don’t always engage in direct interaction, “observation is fun for an introvert.”

Public transportation

In that break you take between engaging in deep introspection and reading all the signs inside the bus or at the subway station, you suddenly realize there is very little that takes the cherry from sitting quietly on a moving train. Traditionally, a train hosts a number of people, but the sheer thought that each person has a story, a goal, and a destination is enough to bring out the beauty of being strangers on the same path.

You might be reading a book or counting the number of yellow cars you see, but if you think about it, have you not felt the immense connection between all these strangers and yourself? Remember the time where a child pointed at something out the window with an exaggerated smile, or the time a man gave up his seat to an older woman–and you smiled? You were proud of the man, you were happy for humanity. You were simply content with the fact that you were present in that moment in time.

Live concerts

Sometimes your body reminds you where you are. In this case, you are in the center of parallel vibrations. There is energy coming from the speakers which drum inside your throat. There are people screaming around you, those shedding some tears, and those who are singing along. You are just looking at the stars above you, with heartfelt gratitude for that moment when your favorite song starts playing. You don’t need to look around for direction, you know exactly what to do, and you do it. Though you share this space with thousands of people, you feel as if you are the only one who really matters and this feeling, magnified, lets you know that in fact, everyone around you feels the same.

So what is that special thing about concerts? What is it that makes it difficult for you to stand still at its end, to shake as you walk because of the sensation it gave you?

It’s your subconscious that shared an experience and forgot to tell your conscious. The very fact you sang the same song as all those around, and vibrated to the same frequency, made you all feel as one. You never needed to ask the name of the person who hugged you in that moment, nor did you need to greet politely the group that carried you so you could see. It was all a silent agreement, a memorandum of understanding between individuals such as yourself, who have experienced the time of their lives alone, but together.

Cafés and restaurants

You might be thankful for the waiter who keeps refilling your glass of wine without judgment, but deep inside you cannot contain yourself, for you may just sit there for 2 hours and watch people come and go. You feel this place belongs to you, and you to it.

When the food comes, the scent takes over the space, and everyone participates in the involuntary manifestation of content–you can see it in their faces.

It amuses you to know that everyone approves of your meal choice. You taste it lightly, and let everyone know that it indeed tastes great, with a light grin on your face.

It is this simple shared experience with strangers that constitute the act of eating as a social experience. It is this shy interaction that rejuvenates you and gives you something to review when you can’t sleep later at night. You might even replay this moment over and over again, and analyze it and try to tell people why this mattered so much to you. They might not understand at first, but you will know that eating that meal was a better experience just for the fact that you felt others shared it with you, even if they were sitting on their own tables, speaking to their own partners, and living their own lives.

Introverts are like this, and you are like this too. You sit on a bench and accidentally hear your personal narrator’s account of a “meet cute” with the person who asked you for an extra cent. You pay attention to the shape of that kid’s toy and you are confident the man across the bus smiled at you. Introverts don’t necessarily need to move to the mountains in order to be recharged.

Sometimes, we rediscover our inherent batteries that never run dry. These batteries come into action through human contact, without social obligations that are imposed on us. And it is these moments that often provide us with a brief, but entirely wonderful view: the familiar stranger.

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Read this: 21 Undeniable Signs That You’re an Introvert