How to Befriend People as an Introvert

It was around 2020, the peak of the pandemic, when I finally entered college. Everything was held online, except for a few college events. I'm not the type to join organizations and prefer to stay at home, indulging in my hobby as a writer. I don't really have friends in my neighborhood, either, being known as a shy and quiet girl. But I had high hopes that I'd befriend some people. Even one is enough. Despite my loner tendency, I do feel lonely sometimes. I want to talk and laugh about meaningless things with friends, or vent and cry about deep things. But, alas, I've never been fond of chatting. Because of that, somehow, they all had their own groups once we had an offline meeting. They sat close to each other, whispered, and laughed together. I remember standing on the doorway to the classroom, feeling incredibly left out. So, I picked a seat near the door and just played with my phone, hoping someone would talk to me. They didn't. Perhaps, it was my fault too for not reaching out to them first. But how should I start the conversation? I'm never up to date with the current trends or gossip, and when I do open Instagram or any other social media, it's rarely about the things they usually talk about. Also, I was too shy and awkward to speak first. My emotionless face didn't help me seem any friendlier, and I laugh at memes more often than people's jokes. Then again, it wasn't my first experience. As an introvert, I've always been envious of extroverts' ability to socialize. To me, it feels like people just naturally gravitate towards them, and it's painful to watch. I want to be both accompanied and left alone. It'd never occurred to me that introverts can be friendly too, and that some of my classmates are introverts. So, I thought to myself that I want to leave the country and befriend people there. It doesn't matter if it's the locals or international, I was just desperate for a new friend. I applied for a scholarship abroad where I competed with more than 1000 students around Indonesia. My mother handled the documents, while I wrote the essay. Of course, I told her about my main motivation to apply for that scholarship. She was as supportive as a mother could be, which I was incredibly grateful for. I succeeded in the scholarship tests, but the insecurity still lingered. My roommate was close to my other friend and they often visited each other's rooms. I knew I shouldn't be jealous, but seeing that just left a bitter feeling in my mouth. It reminded me that, whenever I go, I'll always be forgotten. I'll always be lonely. It didn't matter if they talked loudly beside me, enough for me to know about their problems, they didn't talk to me. I was just a listener. An audience. Sure, it saved me from any petty troubles but was it too much to ask to be included for once? Apparently, yes, because I never told them I felt that way too. Once again, it was my fault. For the sake of maintaining harmony, I chose to keep my true feelings inside. One of my friends did notice, and I was happy to finally have a friend to talk to, but it still wasn't enough. Was I being greedy? Probably. I wanted to fit in, and yet, I never did anything about it. No, I did some things about it. Otherwise, I wouldn't be there, miles away from my home. And yet, I still didn't understand what they were talking about. And, worse, I never cared enough to dig deeper. I pretended to tease my friend about her crush, but I was generally apathetic to her longing sighs or complaints. It was weird. It was confusing. It was isolating. I don't know why I was born this way, and I'll probably never know. But I learned that, sometimes, you do something because it makes people happy. You have to, if you want to be included. I listened to their gossip, and occasionally chimed in, just so I wouldn't be excluded. I greeted them, I asked them questions, and I complimented them. They were happy, and although my insecurity hadn't fully disappeared, I resigned to enjoy my longtime position as a listener. As an audience. Regardless, I'm not always that apathetic. There are moments when I feel genuinely curious about someone, and when I wasn't hindered with my shyness, I became a whole new person. I became direct, friendly, and touchy. Such was the case with my crush, who came from France. He spoke to me first, so I took the initiative to continue the conversation in real life and social media. It was upsetting how slow his replies were, but I couldn't complain much because I'm like that too. I invited him to go shopping together, even if I had to endure my friends' teasing. And, ever since then, it became easier for me to approach other students, both locals and international. Another lesson I learned was that enthusiasm and curiosity are really the only thing you need to befriend people. It was that simple. It was that hard.

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