On my tenth birthday, my parents bought me a Maltipoo puppy. My sister, who turned eight that year, got a Sheltie. We gave them the most logical names that sisters living in the 90s would give two puppies. We named them Mary-Kate and Ashley.
Ashley, my Maltipoo, was a hyper, lovable, adorable maniac. We dressed her in Beanie Baby clothes and took pictures. We sat with her at the piano and made her play songs with her paws. We buried our faces in her cotton-ball fur and chased her in circles around the living room. Ashley embraced all of it with a big puppy smile on her tiny puppy face.
Then there was Katie, the Sheltie. Katie preferred to lie under a table rather than on your lap. She spent all day, every day, running alone around one particular pine tree, barking at squirrels. If you turned on a hose, she tried to eat the water until she choked on it. She was terrified of men, bolting as fast and as far away as she could whenever one entered the house. She got so anxious about car rides that she started drooling before the trip even began. One time, my cousin got too close to her face and Katie bit her.
Here’s what gets me. When people came over and met the dogs, they said, “They have such different personalities! They’re opposites to you, don’t you think? Tiana should have Katie and Stephanie should have Ashley!”
What. The. Fuck.
Every time that happened, it took me aback. So you’re saying Steph’s the fun one and I’m the weirdo?
This type of stuff has happened my whole life. Stephanie: the happy, bubbly one. I: the weird one. Frozen? Yeah, I’m obviously Elsa.
It wasn’t until recently that I realised these people were trying, in an unintentionally insulting sort of way, to point out that I was the more introverted one. They were pointing out that I like to retreat to my den if there’s too much noise and chaos around me.
Comments like this led me to consider myself strange, neurotic, less fun. I felt an implied connection between introversion and weirdness. Many people are uncomfortable around those who spend a lot of time silent. I know this because I’ve spent my life hearing things like, “You’re hard to read,” and “I wish I knew what goes on inside your head all the time,” and “Smile!”
Maybe I am more like Katie. I like my den. I like silence. Maybe I will bite you if you get too close to my face. Maybe I do spend a little too much time thinking about squirrels. I’m an introvert, and I know I’m not alone. I know there are others who are even more like Katie than me.
And you know what? I like being Katie. My love for my den, along with that same persistence that took Katie around that tree 3,000 times a day, is what brought me where I am today. It helped me study hard enough to get a bachelor’s degree. It helped me write three novels. Introversion helped me form deep, meaningful connections with important people in my life. It gave me an appreciation for intellect and literature and introspection, and a few close friendships with similar people that I wouldn’t trade for anything.
If I am weird, then I like it this way. Cheers to being an introvert. And cheers to you, Katie.