Introverted 18 y/o seeks advice.
March 7, 2012 7:00 PM Subscribe
I'm an intensely introverted 18 year old living in somewhat of a social vacuum. I need some advice.
posted by csjc to Human Relations (18 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I'm an 18 year old guy in a major rut. On paper my life is going exactly as I've wanted it to for the past 4 years (ever since I started seriously thinking about the future).
Wall of text ahead, but I'd really appreciate your advice.
A little background: When I was 14 I began to be interested in learning languages and took up a new one, Icelandic. I began to start exchanging messages with native speakers online and decided that Iceland was a place I definitely wanted to live in the future. For 3 years I worked tirelessly, often ignoring all kinds of social and societal obligations (including just about the entirety of high school) to improve my language skills. I found the university program I wanted to apply to and was intent on getting there as quickly as possible, high school wasn't quite where I wanted to be. I finished high school a year early, was accepted into the program and moved here last September. At the time I was still 17, and this is my first time taking care of myself or having any real responsibilities.
Personality-wise, I've always been quite an introvert. I used to have quite severe social anxiety (as a kid I would break into tears at the thought of using the phone or saying hi to a cashier at the grocery store). I was diagnosed with autism as a 6 year old, a diagnosis which later became Aspergers. I've spent a lot of time reading about social skills and observing people. Through this systematic learning I think I come across as slightly aloof, but by no means socially incapable. I have a lot of social quirks that are mostly a result of my really poor motor skills and balance. I doubt I'll ever be able to ride a bike or drive a car; my posture almost always looks strange/awkward; I will without question fall on most slippery surfaces; It takes me perhaps twice as long as most people to tie my shoes; I get persistently lost in places I've been to dozens of times and I have very little sense of time.
I moved into the only dorm-like building here, primarily composed of foreign students. I made friends pretty quickly both within the building and outside of it. I'm pretty good at becoming friendly with people and exchanging eye contact or small-talk here and there. I'm not that shy about going out and meeting new people. The nature of Icelandic society is such that social groups are extremely small and within a couple weeks you'll know enough people that no matter where you go out on the weekends, you'll see someone. It doesn't hurt that I've been in the media here a number of times as a result of my language skills and constantly have people coming up to talk to me.
On the weekends I'm almost always downtown, bouncing from place to place, finding people I know and hanging out for a short while. At the end of it I'll end up at an after-party at someone's place which is always a great time to meet more people.
The thing is, I never have anyone to go out with. I'm constantly ignored and I don't know why - in 6 months, I have maybe been asked five or six times by someone to come spend any time with them. I make a lot of effort to ask people to hang out, go downtown with me, etc. And usually people come with. I really despise asking, though. I feel incredibly worthless when everyone around me is building relationships with each other and I'm consistently ignored. I have a constant longing for people to pay any kind of attention to me and it's driving me crazy. I know, I know, I have people coming up to me all the time telling me how awesome I am. But they usually just say it and leave, even though I would more often than not love to continue the conversation with them.
Then there's the matter of developing friendships once I start to spend a lot of time with someone. Whether it be by chance (always running into each other, floormates, etc.) or intentional (say, girls I'm interested in). As I mentioned earlier, the social circles here are incredibly small. Among Icelanders, most people have known their friends since first grade or something like that. Whenever I spend time with Icelandic social groups I feel like such an outsider, and I know it's not due to the language. On the other hand there are the foreign students, 90% of them are exchange students here for a year or just a semester. They're having the time of their lives doing whatever they please knowing that they have no obligations here. I'm planning on being here for another 2-3 years. I want to build real friendships and relationships. Reputation and gossip is a big thing here. Everyone really does know everyone. Speaking Icelandic puts me in a slightly different position, too.
I feel like I'm putting in an incredible amount of effort to build friendships with people but it never seems to work. I have a lot of shallow friendships and I seem to be well-liked, but perhaps people think I just want to be left alone, despite all my efforts. Once upon a time I would motonously monolog for hours on end, now I'm very aware of body language and rarely talk about myself if at all. Before I came to this country I was doing well socially and satisfied with the relationships I'd built. Now I feel beyond clueless. It's not loneliness, really. I'm around people all the time, usually having a good time. There's just no depth to it. And above all, I feel like much more of an observer than a participant to the fun. I don't usually have much to say, anyway - I wish I did. Maybe it just takes time? It's been half a year, my patience is weaning.
I hope this makes some semblance of sense.