Student’s Vanguard: Interpreting the Intimacy of Isolation – Ferrying Down the Foaming Funnels of an Introvert’s Mind

Photo by Simon Berger on Unsplash

by Praniti Gulyani

One look at me will make you think that I am a recluse.

You might even feel sorry for me. Intrigued by my absurd attire, you will position yourself at a respectable distance from me. Then, you will see my table and take in the laptop, books and the concerning number of pens. You conclude that I am a student.

As you continue observing me, a porthole of pity will form in your mind. You will think that I probably have no friends and look at me sadly. College life without a social circle leaves a constantly metallic taste in the mouth of the individual experiencing it—leading to exhausted incisors and an aching tongue.

After all, a continuous gustatory engagement with the steel of silence is no easy feat.

Drawn to me by the slight smile on my face, you see me pick up my phone. For you, this is the great point of reveal  and to mark it, you exhale sharply. For most young people, the distinct boundaries between their phone and personality do not exist. Since I am young, you assume this to be true of me as well.

You lean over my shoulder, and peer into my screen—only to see notifications from four different people. The first one wants to get lunch, the second one wants to meet outside a cafeteria to say a brief hello, and the third one wants to confirm if plans for coffee after dramatic writing class are still on.

So she has friends, you conclude—as you keep looking. Your eyes widen as I send polite refusals to the first two, and agree to get coffee with the third. Pondering over the rationale behind this decision, you assume—in the typically ‘GenZ’ manner—that I might have some ‘beef’ with the ones I turned down.

It is the beginning of the semester after all and I do not have any academic commitments holding me back. You click your tongue in disapproval, and mutter about how I will never be able to achieve a work-life balance in this way.

You go back to your spot and continue to observe me. Your otherwise inquisitive eyes seem to have softened with the subtle shades of apology.

You realize that you had probably been a little too prompt in drawing conclusions. Maybe I actually was not as alone and pitiable as I seemed to be, and was in fact waiting for someone to come and join me.

As you continued waiting, seconds turned into minutes and minutes elongated into hours. However, I was still alone. Your eyes were firmly positioned on my face, as you scanned the back of my lashes and bottom of my lids for hints of tears—or at least smoldering spitfires of impatience. To your surprise, you see none.

That is when our gazes meet. You fumble, and then place the flute of formality to your lips—so that your questions take on an expected and somewhat monotone rhythm. You ask me my name, my major—and then tenderly bring the topic of our conversation to my apparent and obvious isolation-by-choice.

Even though I have made significant attempts to fight the urge to do so, my face breaks into a somewhat amused grin.

As I reach into my reservoir of possible answers, I run ‘I like to spend time with myself’ and ‘silence is the best teacher’ through my fingertips, and conclude that they might be just a little too overused.

Above everything else, I am irked by the protruding need to come up with something excessively philosophical and spiritually inclined—in an almost feeble attempt to justify my social choices, no matter how non-conventional they are.

“So, you spend time with groups of people?” I ask, putting forth a question before you can.

“Yes.” you respond, only to be hit by my counter-question, “Why?”

“Because that’s the way to be,” you respond, as realization wraps its assuring tendrils around the doubts pushed into your brow.

“Exactly. And for me this…”  I say, spinning my index finger around like an enthusiastic compass so that it encompasses it all: my half-opened books, ink-kissed pens and annotated stories that contain a combination of my passionate handwriting, around the text, beside it, and sometimes even over it.

“Is the way to be.”

About The Author

Praniti Gulyani is a second-year student at UC Berkeley majoring in English with minor(s) in Creative Writing and Journalism. During her time at The Davis Vanguard as a Court Watch Intern and Opinion(s) Columnist for her weekly column, ‘The Student Vanguard' within the organization, she hopes to create content that brings the attention of the general reader to everyday injustice issues that need to be addressed immediately. After college, she hopes to work as a writer or a columnist in a newspaper or magazine, using the skills that she gains during her time at The Davis Vanguard to reach a wider audience.

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