Words by: Kiera Eardley Art by: Natalie Tran
“The greatest thing in the world is to know how to belong to oneself.”
Michel de Montaigne might have written these words in the 16th century, but it’s still a sentiment that would resonate with introverts everywhere. In a world that places a lot of importance on life-long partners, and at an age when popular culture is screaming from all angles that you should have a huge, boisterous friendship group that does everything together and goes out every night, it’s an easy one to forget. Society is built for extroversion in many ways, and there’s a lot of good that comes from that — but at the end of the day, all you really have is yourself. And that deserves to be celebrated.
As a textbook extroverted introvert, I’m in a near-constant battle between wanting to be out with my friends until 4am and staying home nestled safely under my doona. At the crux of it all, though, I never mind what the plan ends up being, because I am completely comfortable with my own company. Almost scarily so; while isolating with a bout of festival-acquired Covid at the beginning of the year, I was shocked by how quickly (and happily) I adapted to the hermit lifestyle. Just me and my dog living our best lives? I couldn’t complain. This contentment of mine, whether a product of nature or nurture, has shaped much of my life so far. Being my own little party of one has gifted me an independence that’s seen me travel solo to Europe twice, and an ease of satisfaction that made me happy to sit back and people-watch instead of stressing about making friends in every hostel. In my eyes, a glass of wine at a table for one is better food for the soul than talking to a drunk group of German backpackers could ever be.
I’m also a famously indecisive person, a trait I’ve recently been rebranding from a downfall to an asset; I’m indecisive not because I don’t know what I like, but because I am genuinely happy with most options that are presented to me. Thai or Italian restaurant? I don’t mind! A walk in the park or brunch? Whatever suits! Bridgerton or Drive to Survive on Netflix? Both sound great! Whatever the situation, I’m pretty easy to please — and I think that has a lot to do with how comfortable I am with myself. By knowing who I am, I’ve found friends who I adore so much that it really doesn’t matter what we do, what we watch or where we go. I’m just happy to be along for the ride.
My friends joke that I have two personalities hidden inside me that are in a constant battle: a 23-year-old who loves being busy and going out with her friends, and an octogenarian who delights in cups of tea, puzzles, and walks to the local library. That internal old lady is who gives me my contentedness — as embarrassing as it might sound, I’m often just as excited by the prospect of a day at home with no plans and a good book to read as I am for a night out on Chapel Street. I love being around people, but I also really enjoy just doing my own thing. So thank you, inner old lady.
This isn’t all to say I don’t sometimes feel lonely, or even wish that things were different. A lot of my independence and comfort in myself is a product of having been single for most of my life. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t crave the closeness of a relationship, of having a partner who has seen through to my very core and still says yeah, this is the person for me. Sure, I’ve had relationships and situationships and promising almost-somethings where I’ve poured my hopes into another person. Each time so far, it hasn’t worked out; and each time, I’m devastated. Past a certain point, it’s difficult not to interpret a growing string of rejections as an insult or personal fault. But each time, once I’ve cried and holed myself up in my room and vented to patient friends via voice memos, I eventually come back to that place of intrinsic ease. I am happy with where and who I am, and I’m excited for a time when I can share that with someone who’s just as delighted to have me in their life as I am to have them in mine.
At the end of the day, I really value knowing the person I am. It means I can live in a way that’s authentic to myself, and I’m never afraid of sitting with my own thoughts. I’ll always appreciate my ability to listen, my strong moral compass, and the fact I can find things to smile or laugh about at least 25 times a day. I’ll always be a person who’s comfortable asking for a table for one, who has no qualms taking herself on a solo cinema date. I’m a lover of slow evenings reading my book until the early hours, and of slow mornings drinking coffee by the sunny window at the front of our house. I’ll only read the sports pages of the newspaper and rush the crossword, if I have time. I’ll never read the last page of a book before I start it, and dog-earing a page will always feel like sacrilege to me. I’ll always be quick to cry and quicker to laugh.
Whatever happens, it’s comforting to know I feel at home within myself (even if that home does host an eternal fight between my inner old lady and chaotic twenty-something).