I was too shy to tell you this upfront, and therefore I have decided to write a letter instead. No, I really do not hate you. I do not ignore you either. When you walked up to me the other day and said a big hello, I know you must have thought that my response was rather cold. I am often misunderstood as being detached, insensitive, unfeeling and aloof. I want to make it clear today that I am in fact none of these things. Let me explain.
My mind is constantly lost in thoughts. I am usually talking to myself, trying to find solutions, trying to come up with ideas and trying to understand my purpose. When I meet you while crossing the road and I do not respond in the way you expected, it is because I am shy and am not the paragon of social etiquette. If I do not talk to you immediately, I am not arrogant. I just do not know how to handle social situations with people I am not extremely close to. When you ask me to tell you about myself and I give short answers, that does not mean I find you boring or unworthy of my time. I just do not know what to say when I am asked a question immediately. I like being given time to think so that I can respond. I never talk before I think.
When I was in school and the teacher asked a question and I knew the answer, I rarely put my hand up. I hate being the centre of attention. I always have. Therefore when we sit in a large group of people and you discuss Syria, or nuclear warfare, or Kafka, and I remain uninvolved in the discussion, it does not mean I do not know what you are talking about. I have very strong opinions about these issues, but again, when I have not been asked for my opinion, I do not barge in.
For pity’s sake, I’m not ‘slow’. Just because I do not immediately understand what you are saying sometimes does not mean I am dumb and stupid. It means I have a massive cloud of thoughts circling in my mind at any given point of time. Usually I inadvertently switch off during a discussion to think of different things and miss out on what the topic of discussion was.
I am very quiet, and this has had its own problems. People think I am not interested in talking to them. They do not understand that I prefer to listen sometimes. Organisations have in the past thought that I was ‘too non-assertive’ for the job, and refused to roll out offers to me. Potential dates thought I was ‘too boring’ or bored of them. None of these are true of course – though I have never understood why being non-assertive is such a drawback. We weren’t all made the same way in a mass production factory, were we?
When I was smaller, I used to think that there was something wrong with me. I used to try hard to be more talkative, more ‘open’ with strangers, but I failed to do that. It is hard being an introvert in a world where quiet, private people are considered strange. I have taken years to accept who I am. I may not be the most confident of people, but I have finally come to embrace the fact that I am different (and that there is nothing wrong with me).
Most people look at me and can never guess that I have friends, or that I actually like to write, or sing, or act in plays, or make movies, or paint, or a whole lot of other things. That is because I do not ever declare that I am a poet, artist, filmmaker, or any of these things. I am an extremely private person. My interests are personal and when I find someone I can share them with, I open up slowly. I know many people, but I open up only to a select few. I take a very long time to make friends. If you are one person I do open up to, believe me, you must be really special to me.
I am not cold. I cry when something hurts me, or when I see the suffering of the world. However, I will be very careful not to show you my tears. When something bothers me, I do not immediately tell my friends about it, but I first spend a great deal of time reflecting on my own, and then I share it. If I do not share things with you even if you’re my closest friend, it is not because I do not love you, but because I sometimes do not like to bother the people closest to me with problems I can solve on my own.
I am terrible at congratulating people, offering my condolences, appearing elated at marriages or naming ceremonies. This does not mean I do not feel genuine happiness or sadness. In fact I spend hours being upset when I hear about the death of someone I do not even know. However, I am bad at expressing it face to face. For that reason, people think I do not care. Ask me to write, and I perhaps could express better. I am not at all insensitive. I simply fall silent when I think I cannot express emotions in an appropriate manner. I may think a lot about you, but you would never know.
I do not hate people at all. I love my family and friends, and I love animals and other human beings. However, I like being on my own mostly. I am energised when I have the time to think on my own. Time alone opens up my creativity – something that is extremely important to me. So if you call me to hang out and I decline, it is not because I hate human company, but because I am going through a creative phase right now and do not want to be distracted. I love your company, but today is not my day to hang out.
So I hope that when we meet next time, you do not feel overwhelmed by my quietness, reluctance to talk and my reserved attitude. Do not misunderstand my love for peace and solitude. I like you more than you know, but please understand that I will take my time to express it. Give me time, give me your trust and friendship and you will realise that all your first impressions of me were wrong. Once we are friends, know that it will be for a lifetime.