As you may or may not be able to tell, I had written the body of this piece before choosing the title and writing this introduction. Before you go any further, I know how the word “hermit” might be an exaggeration of the concept I am trying to talk about, but what is life without a little dramatic flare and hyperbole?
I don’t have a lot of memories of my childhood, mostly because I have suppressed a significant part of it, so much so that it seems like I have lost those memories. I know I haven’t; I am simply unwilling to dredge them until necessary.
I have flickering memories of being the happy-go-lucky child who talked to everyone. I always had something to say, and people loved hearing my stories (well, because EVERYONE loves gossip). My Mum didn’t like that. She kept telling me I talked too much- I guess she didn’t understand how or why a child my age had the boldness and freedom to talk to anyone that much.
Interestingly, She didn’t mind me expressing myself at home, just not with people outside our home. Then at some point, I went utterly mute and wouldn’t talk except it was absolutely necessary. I guess it happened because I became self-aware and conscious of people’s feelings and emotions, so much so that when I eventually needed to say something, I wouldn’t because I was busy with the mental debate of whether to speak. I am not saying I understood them(the emotions). I am just saying that I started to recognize them for the first time.
I have always known I am “weird.” Apart from the hundreds of people I have met who have found ways to say this in different nomenclatures and synonyms, I know what/who I am.
How deep this goes? I am still determining. How I came to be this? I don’t know, either. Is my current character or disposition a product of nature or nurture? I am on a journey to finding out. For as long as I can remember, I have been hyper-aware of myself, not other people, just myself. Would that be self-absorption? I am not sure either. But it has worsened because I have been seeking to understand myself more. Finding a definition, a classification, and maybe a better way to navigate the world.
I have been doing a bunch of reading- articles, research papers, books. I have taken many online tests too, and gradually I am painting a better picture of the blurry canvas. One fascinating book is Jenara Nerenberg’s “Divergent Mind: Thriving in a World That Wasn’t Designed for You.” I am almost done with the book and have never felt more seen, heard, or understood. Ideally, I should be doing this with the help of a licensed Psychologist/therapist. But today is not the day I rant about Nigerian therapy; let’s do that some other time, shall we?
I am not anti-social.
People regarded me as a snob for a good part of my life. I don’t know if they are/were right. It used to bother me, but not so much anymore. I can only say that being comfortable with this comes with aging. But I do know that I enjoy the company of Me, myself and I a little too much.
There are many reasons I dread interacting and being around people. One is that I worry I am not a delight to be around. At the base of my feelings and emotions is simmering irritation with many things in my environment, especially when it is not my home. It is mild and easy to ignore. However, it also means makes me impatient and a bit intolerant. However, I stay there seething since I have mastered the art of keeping my feelings to myself. I can be fun for a few minutes, maybe a few hours a day, but most times, I am numb, zombie-like, and the other times, I am sad. Some days are worse than others; those days, sadness wins, and I don’t think it is ideal to actively share that sadness with the world.
I know you might think that I am depressed. But I am not. I don’t think I am, or maybe I am in denial. But this is how I have been for the longest.
To be fair, I am great (…well, I think I am ) at cosplaying extroversion, so my outlook can be deceiving. Social media also plays a massive role in this facade. I have learned how to fit in and be the most delightful person. To smile, give hugs (even though I struggle with physical touch), and be as entertaining as possible to make people around me comfortable.
However, I find it incredibly exhausting, and these days, I ask myself, why should I do this? The older I get, the more I wonder why I feel the impulse to be this way when I clearly know that it isn’t “the real me.” I know I talk about how I don’t care a lot, but more and more, I realize that it's just my way of taking control of the people-pleaser in me.
Another reason is that I constantly worry about what people think, feel, or say without actually “saying.” It makes no sense to worry about these things considering that I have no superpowers and can’t read minds, but I can’t help but wonder/worry about all the other things they aren’t saying.
The worst fear when interacting with people is that I would be caught. You see, I space out a lot, and it gets significantly worse with conversations on topics I have no interest in. So I sit there and nod while staring intently, but I promise I am not listening to their words. Well, usually, I am hearing, so I can easily regurgitate the last few words if asked, but that’s the best I can do. Fearing that my fraudulence will be discovered, I limit my interactions.
However, the Internet and Social media are to the rescue!
I used to think my hate for “being outside” was a money problem. That I was too poor for the money I would end up spending. Outside is so expensive, and with the growing inflation in Nigeria, all you need to do is step outside to breathe fresh air, and one-quarter of your monthly paycheck disappears. Now that I am a bit comfortable (not wealthy yet, still a slave to capitalism), I realize I detest it even more.
I struggle with the outside. Once in a while, I indulge, do the drill, go out, listen to deafening music, have a lot of forgettable conversations with people, pretend to dance (I do love dancing, but I am not sure I am good at it), and spend a lot of money. But every time I do, I return home feeling exhausted and drained. I do not feel refreshed or energized.
I went partying with some friends and acquaintances a few weeks ago, and I suffered for it for the next week. It’s taken me a while to get back to regular mental equilibrium. I must admit it is fun in the moment, so I guess I understand why people do it. It’s not just my scene.
I try to conserve my energy for ‘being outside’ to being at the office or the gym. Occasionally I go to the beach, but I wouldn’t say I like the beaches in Lagos.
A few weeks ago, I watched some videos on NYC meet-cutes and how people met their partners. Then the realization suddenly hit me that if I didn’t want to spend all of my days alone with three cats and two dogs (not that I think anything is wrong with that?), I had to go outside and actually talk to people. Oh, the horror!
At the gym last week, someone tried to ‘play with’ my racked plates ( I am guessing it was a poorly thought-out attempt to start a conversation). I didn’t smile, and neither did I start a conversation. I think I even gave them a bombastic side-eye. ( I am really going to end up alone with those cats, aren’t I?)
But seriously, being outside can get super overwhelming. All the noise, the movements, sudden sounds, bright lights, and whatnot. It can feel like too much a lot of times. Though I am adept at navigating, managing, and pretending to be okay with it, I do everything possible to minimize overstimulation. The other day I got to the gym a little late, and my irritability level went from 30 to 100 due to the number of people there. I did try to make myself feel better, but it wasn’t very effective, so I ended up leaving earlier than usual.
To avoid experiences like this, I intentionally go out on days or times when I know there will be fewer people outside—for example, Sunday mornings.
By the way, Sunday Mornings are pure bliss. That is until you remember that the next day is Monday.
All about the ‘VERTS
When I meet new people, I tell them I don’t like being outside. Then, they go, “Oh! So you are an introvert”. I am not one for labels or putting people in boxes, but more and more, I can see why they are essential, especially in navigating interactions.
Being introverted doesn't mean a lack of expression or an inability to talk. In fact, some of the most talkative people I know (including myself) are introverted.
I am not shy; I say whatever and talk to whomever I want when I want to. But the thing is, I have to want to talk to them. I know it sounds selfish (sue me), but sometimes I can’t muster up the energy or mental fortitude to carry or participate in the conversation.
But for all my introversion, I still need a way to express myself. I think we all need outlets. The other day, I was reading an article about how writing is a great way to network for introverts. I couldn’t agree more. I have tried different means of expressing myself. I used to host a podcast, although it was purely educational. I have/had a youtube channel. But of all, writing has been the most comforting and comfortable means of expression.
With my youtube channel, I realized that I had the same struggles as I did with in-person interactions. I feel the need to smile, be bubbly and interesting, and I am not, at least not always. So for people who wonder why I stopped posting on youtube, you have your answer now.
Social media has made it easier to be introverted. Because you interact behind the veil of a smartphone, it's very easy for people to forget that you are very different in person.
So, I am saying that, somehow, we all find outlets that can make us seem introverted or extroverted. Whether it's oversharing on Twitter, TikTok, or IG reels, there’s always a channel. I don’t think we are ever going to run out of platforms.
My Ideal World
My ideal world would be one where I didn’t have to leave my house, especially for mundane things. I feel the need to make others feel comfortable when they are around me. But when I am at home, alone, I don’t have to be that person. But I know that is not entirely possible.
I know this sounds counterintuitive to my earlier love declaration for travel. But in my head, it tracks (don’t ask me how. MFJPM, but it does). I still love to travel. Preferably alone. Ideally, with a partner, if I am lucky enough to meet one who loves to travel. But when I am done exploring the curiosities of the world around me, I want to lock myself in a dark room and minimize my human interactions as much as possible.
I once said that I would love a house on an Island with many trees and as far away from civilization as possible, but I am beginning to think that won’t be a great idea considering the wildlife.
But I want a home somewhere quiet. Where I can finish all my meetings (on google meet, of course) and complete my job tasks, then tend to my garden. I would go to the gym, swim, run, and then come home to my quiet life and family. Then once a month, I would invite my friends over for a barbecue or potluck, and we would catch up and share stories of our joys, pains, losses, and wins as we support each other through life.
I try to make my house a place of comfort and solace because I am my most authentic self at home.
Ok, I will stop now.
I started out wanting to defend people like myself but ended up doing a lot of random ramblings about different things. Well, I guess that is okay; I hope you found my ramblings entertaining, at the very least.
So if you have a friend who keeps “Slying” when you invite them out, maybe, just maybe, they are experiencing something similar to what I am. And if you feel and experience the world like me, I hope my writing cheers you on somehow to be your most comfortable and authentic self.
Love, Keyu 🖤
Ps: If you ever run into me outside (mistakingly), now you might get a teeny-weeny glimpse into what is happening in my head. Still, say hi, though. If there is one thing I am, It's courteous. Who knows, maybe we might have a conversation that won’t bore the both of us to death.