I’m very picky with whom I give my energy to. I prefer to reserve my time, intensity and spirit exclusively to those who reflect sincerity. – Dau Voire
“You’re so quiet.”
“She hasn’t said anything in 20 minutes.”
My throat tightens and my stomach flips when I hear these words. What the fuck is wrong with me? SAY SOMETHING! ANYTHING WILL DO! I can’t even string together a few words to save myself from this torturous situation.
I’m surrounded by people I hardly know and I feel trapped.
This is the reality of being an introvert.
Fight or Flight
Its taken me up until this point in my life to finally accept the fact that yes, I’m an introvert. I still don’t think I’ve fully grasped it, because I put myself in uncomfortable situations, hoping I will break out of my cocoon and evolve into a social butterfly.
Since moving to Vancouver, I’ve had lots of time for introspection. While I’ve known I’m an introverted person for a couple of years now, I didn’t really think about what that meant until recently. A couple of months ago, a new friend invited me out to celebrate her birthday. I knew she would be the only person I’d know in the group, but I felt completely confident and even excited because she was one of few friends I’ve been able to connect with on a mental level. Although we didn’t know each other well, we both had very similar personality traits, and one-on-one I could be myself completely.
The night of the celebration came around, and it started off very well. I met with my friend (let’s call her Kelly) and her cousin at a Sky Train station and we headed downtown together. The entire ride was full of laughter and silliness, and it was wonderful. The plan was to head to a pub downtown near Rogers Arena to meet Kelly’s other girlfriends who had just come from a Canucks-Leafs game (Leafs won that night!). Upon hearing the plan I was excited and relieved. I’m a hockey lover myself, so hearing the news that her friends had just come from a game, I already knew I’d have a talking-topic to break the ice (pun most definitely intended). When we arrived at the pub I was euphoric. The pub was filled with hockey fans who had just left the game, Kelly’s friends included. I introduced myself to the two girls, and then I said to one of them (we will name her Beatrice), “So I heard you were at the Leafs game?” She coldly said, “No. We were at the Canucks game.” I may be naive, but I didn’t immediately pick up on her sarcasm. I was thinking in my head, maybe she isn’t a huge hockey fan, does she not realize the Leafs played the Canucks? Just as this thought left my mind, she points to me while addressing the other girls and said, “She just asked me if we were at the Leafs game and I said, No. We were at the Canucks game.” This is when things began to spiral downwards for me. My confidence in this situation was completely shattered, I started to enclose myself, I started to panic. And this all happened before we even had a table.
As we were sitting down, Beatrice began her interrogation, “Who is your favourite player on the Leafs.” Yes, I ended that sentence with a period. If you’re a female sports fan, I’m sure you’ve been quizzed like this before. It’s not so much a question as it is your opportunity to prove that you are indeed a sports fan. I began explaining honestly that the Leafs as of late haven’t been very good, so I’d have to pick a retired player as my favourite, Mats Sundin. She shot back at me, “So you don’t have a favourite player.” And those were the last words she spoke to me. After this, every time I tried to interject in the conversation, there was silence and I was hardly acknowledged. This is when I began to get that all too familiar feeling again. The lump in my throat and that suffocating feeling of extreme social anxiety that wouldn’t surpass. I shut down completely, stopped talking and sat in silence. I entered fight or flight mode, and this time, I chose flight. I excused myself to the washroom and I left. The moment I exited the pub I broke down in tears, and what I can only assume was some sort of panic attack. I immediately called my boyfriend and asked if he would pick me up. I had barely been gone an hour.
I wish I had handled this situation differently, as my friend Kelly and I haven’t really spoken since. After the fact she was gracious and understanding of my selfish decision to flee her birthday celebration, but I understand why she wouldn’t want that in her life. I wouldn’t either. I should have told her honestly why I needed to leave, or just told her, “Hey I’m extremely uncomfortable and probably seem like a mute, I better take off.”I didn’t know how to say these things, because at the time I felt so shot down, so mentally drained and so trapped in my own mental battles that I felt I couldn’t speak.
If you aren’t an introvert you may not understand why this traumatized me for a while. I’m used to feeling mental exhaustion after a night out with friends, no matter who those friends are. That’s a reality I’ve accepted. After being busy with social events involving more than one or two people, I need alone time to recharge and recuperate. This particular bad experience had me feeling drained for much longer. Initially I was battling embarrassment from my dramatic exit coupled with disappointment in myself. I shut myself away from the world because I was scared to put myself out there and get shut down again. But as my favourite fictional character Dumbledore once said, Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, when one only remembers to turn on the light.
I spent this alone time in deep self reflection, finally allowing myself happiness in my own right. I began blogging again, finally finding the confidence to share my writing and thoughts with someone other than myself. I also reconnected with an old friend who has never asked me to talk when I’m quiet, someone who has never drained me of my energy: Mother Nature. Hikes became a weekly venture, and while my body may tire and grow sore, my mind is peaceful and quiet. I’m not suggesting that all introverts need to cut themselves off from socializing, but during my own mental battle it was exactly the remedy I needed. You can look up the standard definition of introvert, but I think it’s a trait that is different for each individual. Here are a few personal traits that I associate with introversion:
I experience mental exhaustion during and following social situations involving a group or people I am not familiar with.
I need to “recharge” following social situations. I often don’t enjoy sleepovers because it allows me no recharge time.
I have a difficult time hosting people in my house. My home is my safe zone, it’s where I can relax my brain after a long day of being surrounded by people (at work, etc).
I am terrible at small talk. I am very unlikely to initiate it, but I greatly appreciate someone who can get the ball rolling.
If I am talkative around you, it means I trust you and/or feel comfortable around you.
I pick up on bad or negative energy right away. I also pick up on positive energy right away. If I don’t like your energy, I will find a way to escape.
I’m not writing this blog post to share my expertise on the topic. All I can share is my personal experiences and hope that someone can relate. Furthermore, if my friends or family read this, I’m hoping it will give you a little insight into why I am the way I am. For many years I didn’t understand why I didn’t want to see my friends everyday. During university I avoided short trips home because I knew that meant being surrounded by people everyday and every night. I avoided sleep overs because I knew night time was the only chance I’d have to recharge before the next day of visiting and catching up began. I know it sounds selfish, but this is my reality and it has taken me until this point to truly understand myself. I am so grateful to my friends and family for putting up with me while I’ve been trying to find myself.
Some Advice for My Fellow Introverts
If you are having a difficult time balancing your introversion with your life the way I did, I’d like to share some words of advice. I’m no psychology expert by any means, and I still struggle sometimes, but I’m still hoping I can provide some sort of guidance and support.
It’s OK to enjoy spending time with yourself rather than in large groups
I promise, it’s okay. If anything, it’s truly a blessing. Don’t worry about those people on social media who have 20 bridesmaids in their wedding or photos with different people every weekend. That’s perfectly fine too! But at the end of the day, you’re the only person you have, so if you find fulfillment in hanging out with yourself, you won’t need to seek it elsewhere.
Don’t set yourself up for failure
I’ve done this far too many times. I’ve made plans to see people a few nights in a row, and then when the time comes I’m absolutely dreading it because I haven’t allowed myself any “me” time. Don’t overwhelm yourself with more socializing than you can handle. You’ll only run yourself to the ground and disappoint your friends when you are too exhausted to follow through on your plans. On the topic of friends,
If you think you’re an introvert, it’s in your best interest to share this with your friends and family
They probably already know, but if you address it, they should have a better understanding of why you need so much alone time. Especially with your extroverted friends. I personally find that I associate better with extroverted personalities. When I’m in a room with another introvert, it’s usually horribly uncomfortable because neither of us know what to say. That being said, my extroverted friends are often let down by me because I can’t keep up with them. If you explain to them why you may not be able to hang out as much as they would like, they should understand. If you avoid expressing your introversion to them, they may take it personally and over time it will harm your relationship.
It’s OK to not have a gaggle of friends
For far too long it upset me that I have like, 4 friends. It would have me in tears, wondering what is so wrong with me that I don’t have an army of girlfriends to see everyday? And the truth is, I’M the reason I don’t have a ton of friends. I’m sure there have been tons of opportunities which I have shot down because I’d rather be alone. Now, I am so grateful for the few amazing friends I do have. They are life long friends who I’ve bonded with on many levels, and you don’t need “filler” friends to waste your time. Cherish your wonderful friends who have been by your side through the good and the bad.
That’s all for today. If you’re a fellow introvert, extrovert, or anything in between, I’d love to hear your stories or your tips on how to find balance. Please share below, I seriously love interacting with the blogging community.
We arrived in Medicine Hat, Alberta early on August 24th, 2015. We continued on to Calgary and decided to drive around the city for a while since I had never been there before. Jon took me to the rugby pitch he once played at, and we explored a bit of downtown. There’s something I find so calming about driving through a city’s downtown core. I feel as though it’s the window to the city’s soul, revealing beauty and chaos intertwined.
A quick car tour of Calgary was sufficient, as our minds were focused on our next destination: Banff National Park.
Banff and Yoho National Parks
I’ve been struggling to find the words to describe our time in Banff and Yoho National Parks. Yoho is named after a Cree expression for “awe and wonder,” need I say more? The pictures I am sharing are only a glimpse into the displays of nature’s breathtaking beauty.
Once we arrived at Banff National Park and paid for our day passes, we stopped at the shops near Lake Louise to stock up on food for the evening. If you’re planning a trip to Banff, I strongly suggest packing a cooler of food before entering the Park; the prices are nearly double what they would be in a regular grocery store. Our next order of business: find somewhere to camp. While Banff isn’t lacking in campgrounds, every site we found was at its capacity for the evening. Much to my dismay, the campgrounds nearest Lake Louise were full, too. Although I dreamed of camping by the stunning Lake Louise, we continued onwards toward Yoho National Park, and upwards into the mountains.
Although you can’t see over the edge, this drive was terrifying and awe-inspiring all at once. The lanes on these Rocky Mountain-roads were so tight, and if I am not mistaken, we drove upwards for about 20 minutes. Since our entire trip was impromptu, I don’t exactly know how high up we were or how long it took us to get there. We finally pulled over when we found a walk-in campground with vacancies. This campground was definitely designed for a more seasoned camper, and it was a fascinating experience. There was no office to ask questions or pay for your campsite, no showers and little guidance. We eventually figured out the protocol after talking to the other campers. Once you’ve picked an empty campsite, you fill out a card with your information and your campsite number, put the fees in an envelope, and drop it in the designated box. This trust-based system felt very Canadian.
Once we got settled in, we began exploring the area. I am forever grateful that we stumbled upon this particular campground, because it was right next to the glacier waterfall, Takkakaw Falls.
The sound of the falls washed away every thought, every worry, every struggle leading up to that point of our trip. The beauty of the icy-blue glacier stream was unparalleled by anything I had ever seen. Every doubt I had about moving across the country without a plan or a clue as to what was next on the horizon vanished at this moment. When you are surrounded by natural beauty of this scope, everything in life is put into perspective. These mountains have been here for millions of years. They preceded and will succeed my existence. It is truly a humbling experience that can hardly be put into words, and must be experienced to be understood.
Back to reality… It was getting cold as the day turned to evening, and we needed to build a fire. Simple enough task, right? Wrong. All of the kindling we were able to find was damp, and we were struggling to get this fire started for around an hour before a kind family next to us gave us some dry firewood. We continued to struggle because we needed some dry kindling to start the fire. Yet another family came by and provided us with some kindling. We were so amateur compared to the seasoned campers that surrounded us, but their generosity and neighbourly attitude saved us from having a cold, dark evening.
Once our fire was burning, we were joined by a fellow wandering soul. I don’t remember his name, but I will never forget his energy. He was on his own, and had been driving through the Rockies on his motorcycle for the summer, stopping to camp at various sites along the way. His story inspired me. He had found contentment and clarity in simplicity. He didn’t have a regular 9-5 lifestyle, and he wasn’t dragging around a plethora of useless stuff. It was him, his bike and the road. He did, however, share some delicious pastries with us in exchange for us sharing our fire with him. He was the true embodiment of that saying, those who wander are not lost.
As night fell, so did the temperature. I forgot to mention earlier that we decided not to pack sleeping bags, thinking a couple of blankets would suffice. I woke up in the middle of the night, my body completely stiff as we only had a blanket between us, the tent and the ground, and I was freezing. Poor Marley was even shivering, which brought me to tears. The temperature must have been around 0°C or below. Jon in his brilliance decided to put the warmer blanket underneath us to create a warmer barrier between the cold, hard ground. we also brought Marley under the blanket and sandwiched him between us for more warmth. We made it through the night, but it was tough. Lesson learned: Do NOT sacrifice sleeping bags when camping in the mountains.
Final Destination: Vancouver
Although we wanted to stay in the National Parks and continue camping for a few days, we were too ill-prepared to survive sleeping in those conditions. We had one more stop before our final destination: Lake Louise.
Before you comment on my outfit, let me explain. When we woke up that morning I was still freezing, and it was still cold outside. There was no way I was changing out of my pajamas. I was tired, bones still chilled, but euphoric nonetheless. Lake Louise’s beautiful blue and calm water with its mountainous backdrop was so incredibly picturesque it didn’t even seem real.
There’s nothing more that is needed to be said about Lake Louise. If you ever have the chance to experience it, I urge you to. You won’t regret it.
The final stretch of our trip is when reality set in once more. This is it. Once we arrive, the vacation ends and we have to figure out our lives again. Although I was scared, I still didn’t have a single regret. The absolute worst case scenario was that it doesn’t work out and we go back home. Even if that were the case, I still wouldn’t have regretted this trip. In this case, it wasn’t the destination, but the journey that was the most defining part.
The drive to Vancouver was eight hours of driving through the mountains. My jaw was dropped in awe for its entirety.
Arriving in Vancouver was a huge feat. Although our trip had been shortened to half the time of our original plan of 10 days, it felt so good to reach our destination.
As we approached Vancouver, I booked a hotel room for the evening at the Holiday Inn Express in Richmond, BC using Hotwire, a website for getting last minute cheap hotel rates (special thanks to my sister, Kaitlin for recommending this site!). We got a room for around $67/night, which is unheard of in the Vancouver area. Much like our night in Thunder Bay, were thrilled to finally have a bed to sleep in and a shower to use. I think Marley was the most excited of the three of us.
Once we settled in at the hotel, and ordered a celebratory pizza (my favourite), we began apartment hunting on Craigslist. One ad stood out among the rest, and had only been posted a few hours previously. It was a small modern suite in our price range, and the best part was: it was dog friendly. We made an appointment to view the suite the next day, with very high hopes.
We can thank Marley for winning the hearts of the landlords, because after meeting with us three, they agreed to have us sign a lease on the suite, and they even let us move in the following day! Some may call it luck, but I call it fate. Or maybe it’s a bit of both. Jobs followed hastily and with ease. Although I miss my family and friends greatly, the transition into this new life has been surprisingly natural. Maybe it’s because we are two wandering souls hungry for adventure, maybe it’s because we forged the path ourselves. With sharing my story I hope to inspire anyone who may be on the verge of taking a leap of faith, whether it’s deciding to take a big trip, or making a big life-changing decision in general. Thank you for following my journey with me, I hope to have many more journeys and share them with my fellow bloggers and readers.
I will be writing a Part 5 of this series, it will be my final reflection piece on this trip. It will include more details about the signs preceding the trip that should have stopped us from going at all, what I would have done differently and more.
The following is a short poem-type-thing I wrote in the middle of the night as we waited in an emergency pet hospital. Marley had been neutered a few days earlier, and something was terribly wrong. His sutures were incredibly red and swollen, he was feverish and in a terrible amount of pain. There was only one Veterinarian on site. We were made to wait for hours while our poor baby suffered. Marley and another dog howled back and forth, clearly both in tremendous pain. It was an awful, gut-wrenching time. The only thing I could do to calm my nerves was write, and this is what I scribbled down. I’m happy to say that Marley is a happy and healthy dog now!
Howls of Pain
Their painful cries fill the waiting room with sorrow,
Listening intently to each other’s whines, howling in sync like a melancholic song.
Their eyes jolting around the room but meeting so often in pain.
It’s as though they were empathetic of each other’s suffering,
consoling and understanding.
There was beauty in this pain, one that made us all hurt,
but also connected us with the dogs more than ever.
Their unified pain was an understanding of one another.
If that isn’t true emotion I don’t know what is.
Let me know if there is any interest, maybe I will share the entire story behind this.
Canada has always been there to help people who need it.
(August 20th, 2015)- We began our trip bright and early from my parents house in Lakefield, ON. The car was uncomfortably full, with my most treasured belongings at my feet, a cooler full of food on the arm rest and just enough space for Marley to lay down in the back seat. We barely made it out of Lakefield before we transferred the food to a cooler bag and ditched the bulky cooler in a McDonald’s parking lot. Freeing up the arm rest felt wonderful considering how crammed the car felt. The reality of everything only truly sank in once the trip began: We were modern day hippies with no income and no plan. It felt freeing and terrifying all at once.
Less than an hour on the road Jon and I had a scary experience that could have ended our trip or worse, our lives. We were driving along a 2-lane country highway and laughing about something I thought I saw(I mistook a haystack for a Buffalo). When our eyes returned to the road an 18-wheeler in the opposite lane was quickly drifting into our lane. We suspect the driver may have fallen asleep at the wheel, because at the last minute he swerved back into his lane, missing us by mere inches. My heart felt as though it fell into my gut. We sat in silence in the car for minutes after, blankly staring at the road. As much as we wanted to pull over and process what happened, we continued driving. From this point on, the sight of an 18-wheeler on the road would cause us great anxiety.
The first day of driving was definitely eventful. We stopped in Sudbury, ON so Marley could reunite with his breeders and birth mom. As we continued on our journey, we experienced the vast beauty of Lake Superior. At 11:30 PM after a twelve hour travel day, we decided to rest in Wawa, a small town a couple hours outside of Sault Sainte Marie. While we had planned on camping in Wawa, by the time we arrived the campsite’s office was closed, so we found the next best thing: a Tim Hortons parking lot. It wasn’t glamorous by any means, but at least we were able to get something to eat, take a sink-shower in the washroom, and get some sleep in the car. The car was so jam-packed that we couldn’t even put our seats back to sleep, but sleep we did.
We awoke around 5 AM absolutely exhausted, but ready to continue on our journey. Our next destination was Thunder Bay, ON, our last Ontario stop before we would officially leave our province and enter Manitoba. Thankfully Thunder Bay was only about five hours away from Wawa, so our second day involved much less driving. Furthermore, Jon’s friend’s mom was gracious enough to allow us to stay with her while visiting Thunder Bay, even though we had never met her before. This part of the trip was a pivotal point that I am forever grateful for. We hadn’t eaten a real meal since we had left, nor had we properly showered, and we were running on no energy. Hattie and Phillip were wonderful hosts, and true Canadians. They allowed two strangers and their dog to stay in their home, treated us to an amazing dinner, and took us site-seeing around their beautiful town. We were able to shower and sleep in a real bed, and even though we had only been gone for two days, we really needed this recharge. It’s hard to explain how amazing it feels to have your basic needs met when you are without those things. It felt as though we hit the reset button; we were refreshed and our trip began anew. After what felt like the greatest sleep of all time, Hattie and Phillip made us a wonderful breakfast before we hit the road again (seriously, thank you). Our goal was to reach a campsite in Brandon, Manitoba on day three, which was about a ten hour drive. We blew this goal out of the water.
Manitoba and Beyond
It took us a total of seventeen hours of driving time to defeat Ontario. Our goal for day three was to arrive in Brandon, MB and camp for the evening. As we passed through Manitoba the time zone changed, and we gained an hour of daylight. We knew that if we continued to Saskatchewan, we would gain yet another hour of daylight. We decided we would stop in Winnipeg to quickly experience the capital of Manitoba and stretch our legs. We aimlessly drove around the city until we found a nice park to stop at. It was a quick rest-stop, but in the time we were there we heard a voice yelling “SODA!” (Jon’s nickname). Much to our surprise Jon’s good friend from high school in Ottawa just so happened to be walking past that park. It was one of those funny coincidences that made Canada feel so small and so large all at once.
When we passed by Brandon we were feeling pretty tired as we had been traveling for nearly ten hours, but we really wanted to take advantage of the extra driving time we had gained. We fuelled ourselves with some 5-Hour Energy drinks and surpassed Manitoba altogether, continuing through to Saskatchewan. Saskatchewan’s beauty was something I had never experienced before. Ontario seemed to be defined by its lakes and green hills, while Saskatchewan was defined by its wheat fields and flatness. The night sky was lit up with stars, and we even got a shadowy glimpse of the Northern Lights. While they weren’t in their full illumination, it was still an astonishing thing to witness. After sixteen hours of driving we finally settled in yet another Tim Hortons parking lot. Something about Tim Hortons felt like the closest thing we had to home. It was inviting and safe.
This time around, sleeping in the car was much more unpleasant than the first night. We woke up cold, our bodies stiff and heads aching from shivering and clenching our jaws. We continued on, driving another couple of hours to Medicine Hat, Alberta. In four days we spanned four provinces. It was beautiful and difficult and tedious and profound. I felt as though the country was testing our ambition, our wills. We fought the terrain and we fought our own mental battles, and we made it to our final expanse of the journey.
The Road to Vancouver: Part 4 will cover my favourite part of the trip: Alberta, camping in Banff, and our arrival in Vancouver. This final part of our journey is the most defining part of the trip, something I will cherish forever.
There’s a mountain holds my name, close to the sky
and those stories made that mountain seem so high
There’s a mountain way up there
I used to dream I’d breathe its air
And hear the voices that in me would never die. (Margaret Laurence, The Diviners, 522)
Moving away from everything you know isn’t easy. I’ve now done it three times, each time a little further than the last. When I was 17, in my final year of high school, my parents told my brother and I that we were moving to Lakefield, ON, about two hours north of my home in Toronto. This was tragic to me at the time. I was leaving behind all of my friends, my older sister and my grandparents, my hockey team, but I had no choice. And while it was one of the most difficult moves I’ve ever had to make, I would quite literally not be where I am today if I hadn’t made that move. My personal growth depended on it.
Attending high school in Lakefield was very difficult for me. It was grade 12, everyone had already established their cliques, and I didn’t fit into any of them. I felt a loneliness I had never experienced before, and I shut myself out. I didn’t want to know anyone, I didn’t want to be remembered or noticed. I just wanted to do well in school so I could go to university. While I have always had a love for literature and writing, my passion flourished while studying Canadian Literature in English class. I started to look at Canada through a different lens. My teacher Mr. Milner painted Canada so beautifully, as a wholly complex country waiting to be discovered. In discovering your country, in turn, you may even discover yourself. I fell in love with the way Margaret Laurence wrote of Canada’s terrain, and how her characters develop as organically as the weather changes, from a crisp and colourful fall to a frigid and bleak winter. I wanted so badly to discover Canada so I could write about it with the seemingly effortless eloquence of Laurence. I promised myself that one day I would take the trip across Canada, and while it wasn’t an easy road, this journey has been everything I needed it to be.
Now, seven years later, I am fulfilling my teenage dreams, I am writing a series about our journey across this vast country, and I am so excited to share it with whoever is willing to read. I don’t know how many parts will be in this series, I am going to let it unfold organically.