March 10, 2014, will be a day I never forget. After waiting four years to see my favorite band, Arcade Fire, perform live, they were finally coming to play at The Palace of Auburn Hills for a stop on their Reflektor tour. My friend Ethan and I bought tickets and I drove so fast to the Palace after school that I broke my record time driving there by 15 minutes. However, because I accidentally bought the wrong ticket, I wasn’t able to get one of those yellow wristbands that allowed you to stand on the floor, looking up on the stage. I told Ethan to go have the time of his life, and he descended toward the stage while I settled with the most expensive ticket in the lower bowl.
Initially I was frustrated that I couldn’t let Win Butler’s guitar burst my eardrums from up close, but I was even more anxious that I was around so many people. I was surrounded by strangers with no one to talk to. The band asked that everyone wear either a costume or formal attire to the show. I took my coat off revealing a Where’s Waldo outfit and saw everyone else in dresses and dress clothes. How ironic it was that I wanted someone to find me.
Once Arcade Fire started to play, I couldn’t help but sing along. These were the songs that my heart had been humming for years (I know all 69 of their songs by heart). But my mind was hesitant to dance when my body wanted to cut loose. I looked next to both sides of me and saw two women in their late 20s and a middle-aged man looking back at me. We danced and lost our voices singing and I felt awesome being able to be myself around complete strangers.
I thought that was the moment I broke out of my shell, but the reality is that I’m still in the process of emerging out of it.
Like my hesitancy to dance at the concert, I have a hesitancy to be fully myself, displaying my complete personality around people I don’t know as well. The people I know well and feel I can completely trust see my inner layers — the layers that express my religion, show how I convey feelings through poetry and do weird things like churn out fake details about a beverage after wafting it like a sommelier (“oak after-tones, French, from the southern Rhône valley, circa 1985”).
If the people I am close to enjoy peeling away at these layers and learning more about me, I should be able to do this easily around everyone I meet. But I have struggled with thinking what I have to say won’t be worthwhile. The introverted parts of me have caused me to be quiet, sometimes making me feel out of place around a lot of people, the inner dialogue I’m having with myself giving me more anxiety because I’m not speaking.
I’ve always thought that getting to know people is a process, and it is. But I’ve been thinking about it in the wrong way. I’ve saved more of my personality for closer friends, presenting a held-back version of myself to others that is more reserved, quieter and less prone to sharing my emotions. I have always wanted to share the deeper parts of my life with people until I know them very well — as I should. But there’s nothing wrong with letting other people see the wannabe-sommelier, air-guitaring, dance-loving me.
Sure, if I reveal more of who I am initially, people may think I’m weird, but the reward far outweighs the risk. If I don’t allow my mind to be so reserved and watered down, I have more opportunities to build friendships and show people that I am interested in what they have to say. I enjoy getting to know people, hearing about what intrigues and excites them, but sometimes that doesn’t come across because I don’t speak up.
I may have missed out on opportunities to learn more about others, but there will be plenty more. As I’m breaking out of my shell, I’m attempting to be more outgoing and let go of the reins that have slowed me down. I don’t want to filter myself so much. I want to go on adventures and try new things. I want to say yes instead of saying no and retreating to being by myself.
Just over two years have passed since the Arcade Fire concert. Instead of being a high schooler next to two women in their late 20s and a middle-aged man, I’m in college, surrounded by extroverts, and I want to be outgoing and free like them. The process won’t be easy, and I’ll always be introverted in a sense, but I’m confident that I can start saying what’s on my mind no matter who is around because that’s what I want to do. I want to be the same person whether I’m next to my best friend or an acquaintance.
We introverts can still take time to recharge. But if we’re having trouble being outgoing, we have the freedom to and can be ourselves without fear. It can be very out of our comfort zones, but I believe we can learn the most about ourselves from and by being around others as opposed to alone.
I’ve felt alone and different in a crowd of people. But this at this time in my life, I won’t dress up like Waldo. Instead, I’ll always try to just be my real self.
Chris Crowder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.