By: Brian Brandau
I am an extreme introvert.
I declare it, if not proudly, then certainly definitively. It’s not that I hate people. But sometime I’ve just had enough of them. So imagine my trepidation when I moved into a noisy, raucous, social beehive of a dormitory my freshman year of college. College pushes all of us in one way or another. The challenge of dealing with lots of people in a confined space was my stretching experience.
I need to make a few disclaimers here. My college loves community. We often mock the fact that it’s such a big deal. So I don’t have to try hard to be in a community. If your school isn’t so big on community, keep the last three points in mind especially.
1. Focus on a few close relationships
As an introvert, l don’t get much from having a lot of surface relationships. People are great for talking, but if they aren’t interested in depth, there’s not much that an introvert can take from such a friendship. For meaningful conversations and deeper friendships, pick a few people who really get you and invest, invest, invest. As an introvert, you will doubtless be hesitant to talk about your thoughts and feelings, but it can be really helpful if someone else knows what you’re dealing with and how you tick. You probably have a lot going on inside, so you can’t expect everyone to really understand your complexity or your pensiveness. So take a few people aside to show them the real you.
2. Don’t be afraid to leave the dorm. Often.
Sometimes, just shutting your door is not enough to be away from people. Social claustrophobia can set in if you feel confined and restricted by the presence of other people, even if you can’t see them or aren’t talking to them. You might think others are accusing you of “hating community” or “running away from the dorm,” but people are more understanding than you might think. Even if they are thinking these things, you’ll be no more socially engaging if you’re hating every minute you’re forced to be in community with others. Go for a run or take a walk if you prefer. I do both.
3. Don’t retreat entirely
Life is a balancing act. As an introvert, it’s far too easy to retreat from society, but I need to make it clear that community is a good thing. It’s a God-given thing. We need people to survive, even as introverts. So make sure that in your pursuit of solitude, you don’t put yourself in isolation. Make sure you do spend time around other people and grow comfortable with the company of other human beings. It’s good for your soul.
4. Leave if you have to, but don’t be too quick to flee
Other housing options are typically available on college campuses. I live in an apartment this year with a few other guys and I think it was the right decision. If the dorm life is suffocating or oppressive, then don’t feel pressed to stay. Leaving doesn’t mean you hate the people around you, just that you value a few deep relationships and some privacy over the many benefits of dorm life. I would, however, encourage you to stay in the dorm as long as you feel you can keep your sanity at the same time. Community is healthy.
5. Uncomfortable things can be really good for you.
The dorm life was one of the best growing experiences I ever had. I met a lot of wonderful people, had a crazy number of profound conversations and really enjoyed myself most of the time. Although it sometimes rubbed me the wrong way, we Christians know that adversity and difficulty is often the best way to grow closer to God and improve our souls.
Jesus left and went off by his own to recharge. But he also loved people and spent time with them. As his introverted followers, we can draw a lot from that example.