“Solitude matters; for some people, it’s the air they breathe.”
I first heard this statement in a TED talk, and it was surprising how relatable the words felt to me.
Susan Cain introduced me to the power of introverts. All my life, I had always been “the quiet one,” leading to people misinterpreting me and making me think I was shy. However, after finding Susan Cain, I discovered that being quiet and being shy are very different.
I always stand up for myself. But I also value silence and don’t feel the need to fill everything with words. I gain my energy when I’m by myself. This doesn’t mean something is wrong with me—it just means I’m an introvert.
When I discovered Susan Cain, I was 15. My family had just moved to South Africa, which was a massive step for me. I was trying to get used to my new environment and find my identity as a teenage introvert.
But, you know, it was probably the fact that I moved to South Africa that triggered the change in me. It was a beautiful place, surrounded by endless natural beauty, and I had always felt a connection with nature. Lakes, the smell of grass, meadows, trees, mountains… it felt like home, a new feeling for me.
It inspired me to write poems, play music, and unleash my creative spark. I always loved the way words could eloquently convey emotions in a manner that seemed like an enchanting melody.
It was my getaway, my freedom.
That’s the thing about introverts. They need their solitude; they need their escape to truly understand themselves. When psychologists look at the lives of the most creative people, they see a serious streak of introversion in them. And this is because solitude is crucial to creativity. For example, Darwin took long walks alone in the woods. JK Rowling created much of the magical world of Harry Potter in solitude on a train, in a café, or a hotel room. In fact, for centuries, we have known the powers of solitude and introversion. It is only recently that we have strangely begun to forget it.
That fall, when I started my new school in South Africa, was a fresh start, and I wasn’t going to waste it. I went to school as the person I wanted to be. I made some amazing friends who I am still in touch with (even after moving to another country, again!) and participated in group discussions and activities.
I’m not saying I became an extrovert, but I did respond confidently in my own ways.
I found a way of using my introverted nature to my advantage.
There are still days when I feel lost and not like myself, but I don’t let that bring me down. Because I know that as life goes on, you continue to invent parts of yourself you didn’t think you were capable of before.
And now I’m open to that. Change. The word I always dreaded finally sounds okay to me.
I am slowly learning to approach life’s challenges with the simple knowledge of who I am. That’s the key to not losing hope and overcoming anything in your way: knowing who you are.
I try to see the world as it could be rather than how it is. Some people see that as a disadvantage, and I did too. But not anymore. Because I realized that if you first don’t believe that the world is worth saving, you won’t be able to save it.
Imagination. Passion. Gentleness. All the things that I stand for and deeply believe in.
It was at that moment I realized that this is who I am.
What I believe in is who I am.
It wasn’t about finding myself. It was always about nurturing myself into who I wanted to be.
South Africa helped me create myself, and I am truly grateful for that. This place will forever have a special place in my heart. It’s where I learned to sit and share my quiet, introverted nature with the stillness of the surrounding lakes. It’s where I learned to love it. It’s where I found my home, which after all, wasn’t a place but simply me.