Introvert and extrovert are terms that get thrown around a lot. Technically, they refer to people who get their energy from looking inward or outward. Colloquially, we use them as ways to describe how people act in social settings: introverts are more quiet, reserved, and self-conscious, while extroverts are more loud, outgoing, and comfortable. Most of my life, I felt I fell into the latter category. I’ve always been loud and somewhat boisterous, and as a kid I made friends easily.
When I transferred to a new college my junior year, all of that changed. I made some friends during orientation, but I had trouble feeling comfortable in my new community. I walked around campus with my head down, and was too scared to talk to my RA or go to parties. I was tongue-tied and anxious, and I didn’t know why.
After a few weeks, I realized what I was feeling: shy. Which was strange and confusing — I had always been the one who made other people feel comfortable, the one who started friendships and friend groups. How did you join a community if you were too terrified to talk to people, to ask them if you could join in?
Enter Megan, the sort of person that you dream will come into your life. Smart, funny, loving and loveable, and a Friendship Extrovert. We were in the same writing class, and I was immediately drawn to her. I liked her sense of humor and how easily she spoke in class. She seemed like an unattainable friend though, since she was so outgoing and charming, and I felt so insecure.
Then, some kind of friendship miracle happened. About a month into the semester, Megan and I happened to spend an afternoon together buying groceries, and afterward, she told me point-blank:
“You’re great. I think we should be best friends.”
My eyes bugged out of my head. Was she joking? Nobody in my adult life had ever offered me friendship so readily and genuinely. I remember laughing because I was so taken aback, and I wasn’t sure if she was for real. But I said yes, of course, I wanted to be best friends too.
Megan was completely serious. Best friendship forever serious. She asked me if I wanted to do our writing homework together, and, not quite believing my luck, I said yes of course to that too. We started meeting in the library a couple of days a week after class, and that turned into making dinner together and movie nights.
Megan introduced me to her roommate, her boyfriend, her friends. It was easy to feel comfortable with Megan around, so when meeting these people, I felt like I was actually introducing them to my real self. I could joke and smile and overall not feel like a ghost who keeps accidentally making eye contact with people.
It helped with my academics too. Megan enjoyed interacting in class, and talking to our professor, but I was new to the school and felt too shy to speak up. Which was weird, because at my previous school I loved class discussion. But once Megan and I became friends, I felt I could follow her lead and ask more questions in class, even after class.
That’s the magical thing about people like Megan: it only takes one person to make you feel more at home in a new place. By initiating our friendship, she validated me and made me feel more confident in who I was at school. This awesome person wanted to be my friend — maybe I was awesome too?
With Megan’s friendship, I started to feel at home. Slowly, my social confidence gained. I branched out into my new college community, spoke up more in class, and joined a club and a committee. I think my social introvert tendencies were sometimes helpful for her too — Megan likes to be social 24/7, so we made good study buddies. We got the study time in, and we both got socialized.
Moving forward, I’ve realized this is part of who I am. When I move to a new place, I experience social anxiety, and feel “introverted” for a few weeks, or a few months. Maybe even a year. It’s hard for me to make the first move to make friends. But like magic, there is always that one person, an extroverted friendship expert, that makes me feel at home.
I am so grateful for this league of wonderful people. Maybe one day I’ll transition back into being more socially outgoing, and I can apply to be a friendship extrovert. Their secret society meetings must be THE MOST fun.