I Vant to be Alone… by
(118 Stories)

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(Featured image changed when I realized it’s a quote from Greta Garbo, not Marlene Deitrich…)

It was introvert heaven! For a couple of months.

I don’t remember a time when I was not deeply introverted. Classically, introversion is described as the weariness, almost dread, that social interactions, even good ones, if prolonged, have upon the psyche of the introvert. We tire,  become withdrawn. I personally begin to hear voices the way adults talk in Peanuts cartoons, no longer words but meaningless sounds and background noise. Wah wah wah wah wah.  It’s such a profound change in mood and perception that I’d not be surprised if certain neurotransmitters are depleted or receptor sites overloaded.

This results in a need to withdraw, to be alone for some time to recover, to “recharge.” That is why at parties we intros so often wind up playing with the dog. Or the cat. Or watching the fish in the tank.

Animals never judge.

The proximal trigger for that reaction seems to be fear, the toll exacted by a steady excess of adrenaline (one hell of a drug, that) that we intros produce in social situations as our primal fight-or-flight response slowly rumbles to life, unnecessary, unnoticed but active. I’d love to know the size of my amygdalae.

Maybe it’s genetic, but then again, so much of my early life was spent feeling that I was under attack, by the sound of my parents fighting, by their anger, by the bullies who zeroed in on me and kids like me the way that mosquitos sense the  warm blood just below the skin. Fear was natural. Fear was useful. And fear can become a reflex.

The very few people who don’t cause mental weariness in me are those few in whom I have total trust, in their good will, in their love for me. Of them, fear is inconceivable. Betrayal by them is devastating. Luckily, such betrayals have been rare.

When COVID shut down the world in March of 2020, my University went with it. Almost everyone would work from home for a while. The very few people who had to come in would be in mostly empty buildings, would shout across large rooms at each other if meeting was needed. I designed a few large data-driven projects, my Department supplied a computer with the requisite software, and home we all stayed. I didn’t begin even limited in-person hours for over three months*. No face to face meetings. No casual small talk, which us introverts detest because we absolutely suck at it.

It was introvert heaven! For a couple of months.

Gradually I started to notice changes. Mental changes. My attention span, never all that long, shrank alarmingly. I’d be working at my desk, only to realize that I had been staring at one sentence or diagram for ten minutes while my mind was out somewhere  digging up reasons for me to recriminate myself about past transgressions or long-ago failures. Insomnia and depressive episodes became more frequent. I started to hate nearly every song in my fairly large collection of music, which fortuitously led me to find new genres and new artists who make me happy, so that was a silver lining.

And I began to fantasize. About people. About talking to strangers in bars, sitting among the appreciative audience at a movie, play or concert. About group bike rides. It was a completely unsuspected side of me; I craved the presence of people. New people. Lots of them. Most of all, I wanted to hear all the new musical styles and artists I had discovered play live. Since things began to reopen in late 2021, Gina and I have been doing just that.

All my life I have daydreamed of solitude, of escape, of the safety of being where no one can get to you. If this story has a moral, it’s to be careful what you wish for.

* Even now I go in only three days a week. This has forced me to reorganize my work flow, to devise new ways to track tasks, always a problem because my job description is rather vague around the edges. I get more done now than ever before.

Profile photo of Dave Ventre Dave Ventre
A hyper-annuated wannabee scientist with a lovely wife and a mountain biking problem.

Characterizations: been there, moving, well written


  1. pattyv says:

    “ People who smile while they are alone used to be called insane, until we invented smartphones and social media.” ― Mokokoma Mokhonoana
    When I read you, I always reread you. You give us so much. Your honesty never fails to touch the places inside me that mirrors your emotions. Coveting my solitude has always been important to me. But unlike you I was a partier, a people pleaser, a social extrovert for years until I wasn’t. It was like having a secret, a split personality. And so I too embraced the pandemic,
    still do to this day. But I love the treasures you found in your need to escape, especially the music. Hang on to that 3 day work week.

  2. Thanx for your very personal story Dave, and thankful for those silver linings. I’m so glad you found some solid ground at Retro and delighted to be on the admin team with you!

    A song that’s constantly in my head and seems to resonate even more since the pandemic is What’s Up by 4 Non-Blondes and I seem to hear it on the radio daily.

  3. Laurie Levy says:

    As someone who also tends toward the introverted side, I also experienced some relief in the initial months of the pandemic. But then I realized who I really missed — my kids and grandkids, my real friends. Zoom saved us and I still have some zoom encounters going on with people who I can’t see any other way.

  4. Dave: You have provided me with a new perspective on introverts. As a professor we are taught to draw out the student. But for me as a student I hated discussion classes. The teachers were bullies: “speak up!” “what do you think?” We were graded on participation. Yet, I never heard a defense of refusal or disinterest in performing.
    We have created a view that free speech is a right, even if it is stupid, bullying, or uncivil. We need to promote the idea that the road to communication, is a right, even if it through being quiet. I wish I had your example to change my own pedagogy.

    • Dave Ventre says:

      For some reason I have never had any trouble speaking up in class, or even speaking before a group. Possibly because a class or presentation doesn’t last long enough to deplete me. I start out loquacious, then gradually trail off into distracted silence….

  5. Betsy Pfau says:

    Thank you for this honest take on being an “intro”. I remember a friend who used to comment that I was “recharging my batteries”. I’d be really engaged for a while, then drift off. I did, indeed, need to disengage and recharge, as he put it. I was a very shy kid, came out of my shell when I got into sales, but still had that quiet side to me and long for some solitude, as I described in my story.

    COVID seems to have changed everyone’s work patterns, for better or worse. It seems to be working for you (even if it changed your attention span too). I like that you found a whole new take on music with Gina. That’s a breath of fresh air!

  6. Jim Willis says:

    Nice work, Dave, and some of your observations reminded me of my own persona and how the social distancing in Covid affected it. I like your allusions to the adult voice sounds in Peanuts, and to the way we can be attracted to animals because they don’t judge. They just accept and love. Now in retirement, I find myself cut off from others, and it has been an adjustment and made me wonder if I crave aloneness as much as I thought I once did.

  7. Khati Hendry says:

    Another wonderful piece Dave. I smiled with recognition at the description of playing with the cat or dog in a social situation, and the reprieve from in-person meetings. Was also happy to hear how you grew to love new music and appreciated connection after the prolonged isolation. Thoughtful and insightful.

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