Living quietly in a loud world
Sometimes, you do weird things as a child.
I rode one of the three school buses to my grade school and for whatever reason, mine was typically the first to arrive, long before the first morning bell.
After departing from the bus, I stood alone, sometimes sat, with my back up against a cool concrete wall, effectively holding up one of the four walls of the school’s infrastructure.
I watched from afar as other children began to arrive and join in play with other classmates - swinging, chasing each other yelling nonsense, and jumping from heights they probably shouldn’t jump from.
I remained alone.
I wasn’t sad, or lonely, and I most certainly wasn’t shy. I did have nice friends.
It was just so quiet there, and I loved that, especially in the early morning. The spot was a particular place of comfort for me, where the delicate threads of my sweater often attached themselves to the subtle irregularities of the wall. A place where I could, without fully knowing it at the time, mentally prepare myself for the day.
Unfortunately, school curriculums typically don’t do a sufficient job of teaching you about your personalities or thought processes, nor do they aim to cultivate emotional intelligence. This is, of course, is by no fault of teachers, as they are already chronically under-supported and can barely afford school supplies, often dipping into their own pockets for resources.
Our society just hasn’t historically put much of an emphasis on learning these attributes of our personalities. Perhaps because they are more abstract and harder to define, then say, GPAs, SAT scores, college acceptance letters, or making partner.
As a result, I grew up thinking that quiet people were inadequate, that they will always be overlooked. That they are weak, weird, shy, or uncertain about themselves.
I feared that I was living a life that wasn’t “loud” enough.
One that should have involved more. More excitement! More people! More exclamation marks!
Yet I knew that I wasn’t a person that could command a large audience, or be the most outgoing person at a party, or maintain a circle of 100 close friends.
But then I stopped and thought - did I even want to?
Of course, the answer was no - but societal pressures made me feel like I should.
So naturally, I read a lot of books about it (Recommended: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking) and learned that there are a lot of quiet, yet successful, people out there.
I also read - and can personally attest to - that introverted people make great solo travelers. Interesting right? One might easily assume that the extrovert would do better because of their more outgoing tendencies. But if the stimulation of other people is removed, they may struggle, whereas a quieter person is more likely to relish in moments of solace, like long train rides or quiet museums.
But before I go any further, this isn’t an argument that introverts are better than extroverts, or vice versa.
It is just a reminder that there are tons of people out there who are living loud, exciting lives but maybe in their own quiet way. And until now, perhaps you’ve felt inadequate because nobody has ever encouraged you to hold up a mirror to yourself and find out what exactly it is that appeals to your soul.
I want this post to challenge you to take a closer look at the types of moments that bring you happiness. If you could carve out a perfect day (or life) that made your heart burst with fulfillment, what would it look like? Mine would look like this -
An early rise for a brisk hike, by water or in a thick, fragrant forest. A breakfast that warms me up and a few hours of writing or reading. An afternoon nap, following by a small gathering in somebody’s home, cooking together and engaging conversation. Hopefully, they own a dog. Spiked mulled cider would be nice too.
Not very loud and exciting, is it? But I like it and what does it particularly matter to anyone else?
There are lots of us out there, quietly living in a world that might be a little louder than us - but that doesn’t mean our days aren’t fulfilling in their own soft and gentle ways. A quiet life can be its own reward, and it’s one worth celebrating - even if that means a small simple gathering with a handful of dear friends.