Sunday morning, my pastor spoke on the four factions he saw in our congregation. Our church had gone through some major changes recently, and the lines of these factions were so much clearer in the chaos that accompanies such change. He said he saw the hypocrites, the Pharisees, the pariah, and the indifferent. Each faction has a major problem, and the issues with the first two factions are obvious. Hypocrites are fakes, those who say they tow the line and judge others for not following the rules, but go home and do that thing they were judging others for. The Pharisees are the law-abiders, they honestly believe what they believe and will follow the strictest letter, but they try to teach tradition as doctrine, not allowing the world to change, because their way is the right way, the only way. The pariahs are those subjugated by the hypocrites and Pharisees, bullied and shoved out in the cold because they recognize that tradition does not equal doctrine and refuse to conform. The indifferent are similar to the pariahs, but instead of being pushed out, they’re ignored, because they ignore everyone else.
I sat back in my pew, and I tried to honestly gauge myself to see where I fell in those factions. I don’t believe myself to be a hypocrite; I’ve never believed in being anything except what I was, and I have a strong dislike for people who follow the crowd because it’s “hip.” I’ve had several friends confess to me that I have never made them feel pressured to conform or judged for not conforming, so I don’t believe I’m a Pharisee. I could be a Pariah. I don’t tend to follow the norm, and there have been several moments of my life where I’ve felt actively pushed out. Unfortunately, I think the faction I am truly in is the indifferent. I have always existed in my own little world, and I miss a lot of what happens in other people’s lives. I had to look around the congregation then, at all the people who had helped raise me, at the people I had grown up beside. I have been in this same church, with the same people, for twenty-six years, and I didn’t know who they were.
Sure, I know names. That’s Mrs. P; she taught my nursery class. That’s Mr. and Mrs. M, the church grandparents. That’s B-Boy, who I’ve known since we were seven. That’s Kay, that’s R, that’s S. I have memories of them, with them, I know Facebook details about them (mainly because we’re friends on Facebook), but I don’t know them. I’m fairly sure I used to, but, somehow, we became strangers. How did that happen?
Yes, I’m an introvert, but if you want to know the truth, I don’t think I always was an introvert. I think it’s something I became. I used to be comfortable going up to strangers and talking to them like we were the best buddies. I used to be comfortable performing on stage. I think I was quite extroverted up until I was a teenager, but isn’t that always when things fall apart? The crazy thing is, my extroversion resurfaced during college. I was always making friends, and I was happy with them (until Senior year when things fell apart again). But then I came back home, and I’m drained by social interaction. I don’t feel welcome in my group of “friends,” and I look for any reason to avoid any extra-curricular socialization. Here in my hometown, I’m happiest in my own cozy room with my dog, and not with the people I grew up with.
Because they don’t know me.
They don’t know you because you don’t spend any time with them.
And when I do spend time with them, I’m off in the corner because everyone else is doing stuff with the people they like better.
You don’t try to join them.
They don’t really want me to. They just invited me to be polite.
How did I get like this?
I think it might have started when my church started their school. It was a one-room schoolhouse type thing, all the grades in the same room with one teacher overlord to instruct them. The rest of my church friend were enrolled “to support the church,” but my parents decided to keep my siblings at the school we had been going to since birth: homeschool. I’m thankful they kept us home and taught us themselves, because I’ve heard some stories from those schoolhouse days. But it meant that the rest of the church would be hanging out 6/7 days a week, while I was only there 2/7. Everyone else became close knit, a family of little rebels seeking secret ways to escape the teacher overlord, and I was forgotten.
I learned to be introverted at home, too. In a family of extroverts, someone has to be shoved into the introvert box, and I guess that was me. My older sister and little brother used to play a game at the dinner table. A family conversation would start, about the movies, upcoming competitions, or church events, and everyone would be talking—mainly my sister and brother. I would have a comment or idea, and try to speak up when someone else finished, but then my brother or sister would cut me off with their own thought. I would try again when they finished, and again, get cut off by the other one. It would never be intentional at first, but then they would see me getting frustrated, and keep cutting me off until our mom finally got fed up and told them to “shut up,” so I could speak, but by then what I had to say no longer mattered. Then in the car, I would try to sing along with the music, and then promptly told to stop singing. I would try to mouth the words to the song, and my little brother would snap at me to stop. It felt like every time I sang, someone told me to shut up, and it felt like anyone else could sing but me. Now they try to tell me that I have a “nice” voice and complain when I won’t sing loud during family specials. You told me not to.
I think I’ve forgotten how to talk to real people in real life. I talk through my stories, blogs, and books. It feels so freeing, because I can talk about whatever I want, and no one interrupts me. And it feels so amazing when people actually want to read my stuff, because it feels like they’re actually listening to me. Maybe that’s why I’d rather go home and write than go out and talk. People actually listen to me when I write, and it’s so nice to be heard.
But this is all conjecture, and there are probably parts that are exaggerated. It feels worse to be told to “shut up” than to be the one shouting it. And it honestly doesn’t matter how I became so anti-social. The point is, I don’t feel welcome around most people. I can think of three people who I feel comfortable talking to, and one of them is my mother. There are two people I’ll willingly leave the house for; everyone else is under protest. And this isn’t because I want to be like this. I actually want more friends, I want to be comfortable and feel welcome around people. Half of that is up to me, putting myself back out there, conquering this fear of continued rejection.
I don’t often have nightmares, but I do remember two very clearly. In the first nightmare, my family boards the last spaceship on the planet. My dad stays behind for a minute to say goodbye to me, but then they just leave. In the second nightmare, the world is flooding. My family is on a boat to survive the flood, and I’m trapped in the house, the water climbing up the stairs to drown me. When people ask, I tell them I’m scared of sharks, but my greatest fear is being alone. Does that sound introverted to you?