There are introverts, and there are extroverts. There are people who’d prefer to order a pizza and watch a movie by themselves, instead of going for a drink with friends.Being alone and being lonely are two different things. Some people like to spend time with themselves. And then there are people like me. Ambiverts. We walk amidst you, live life just like you do. Some days we want to be the life of the party, dancing on the table. And on some others we want to turn off all the lights and hide in dark rooms. But the catch is, more often than not, we can’t control which we want when.
I met Aidan on my recent visit to Amsterdam. Amsterdam is a very alive city in general. Introverts are hard to spot, and the extroverts will want to take you to bed with them. It was probably on one of my last few days there, that I decided to go explore museums. Honestly, I didn’t want to check out any more strip clubs and I had read that the Van Gogh Museum was worth a visit. It was my day alone in the city, and I made a new friend that day. Aidan. For the first half an hour, we talked about where we were from and what we did, and other such ice-breaker shit. And then when the dude opened up, blimey, I thought I’d fall into the canal right next to us.
I had just finished telling him about dating taboos in India, and he told me that his first kiss happened when he was five. I almost choked on my ‘Amsterdam-special brownie’ as he continued about how one of the servants had molested him. He remembered every detail of it, and all I could think of was how that should never be anyone’s memory of a first kiss. Aidan then told me, that a few years later, he started flunking Math because he could only add in multiples of five. When he walked and his foot touched a pole, he would have to bump into five more poles alone the way, just to make sure he did everything five times. It was then that Aidan was diagnosed with O.C.D. His parents counselled him, got medical help, and even to this day, Aidan gets panic attacks. He told me about how he always stays fully alert and pre-occupied so that the restlessness doesn’t kick in. All this took a toll on Aidan’s personality. The boy I was talking to, snapped at me if I interrupted him, got over-excited for absolutely nothing at all, and believed to his very soul, that everyone around him was stupid.
He was bullied. In most cases, troublesome experiences like this lead to an insecure personality. But here, Aidan had instead, turned into a pompous character who believed the world wasn’t good enough for him. When I casually asked him about his social life, he took out a notepad and pencil from his backpack. And started drawing concentric circles. The outermost circle was for his peers. Then came his parents, cousins, relatives and people he grew up with. In the innermost circle, he put a dot and said, ‘that’s me!’. I wonder what that meant. The concentric circles, his trembling hands, and him in the middle of it all.
But what I did realise was that, Aidan was not simply narrating. He was reflecting. It was as though he was trying out his personality on a stranger. He told me how he sometimes felt alone in a group. Funny thing is, in that one conversation, I had understood why he could come off as hard-to-like.
We always meet people like this. Some of us are people like this. Our experiences turn us into arrogant, over-confident pigs that never have faith in anything. We all have ‘those’ friends, always pushing us to do better, supporting us and saying they got our backs. But only as long as we don’t do better than them. Our parents want us to excel, but within the boundaries they set. This is why, despite loving company, we sometimes like to operate alone.
All I could do at that point was promise to keep in touch, wish him the best of luck and walk away into the city lights. Before I fell in love with Amsterdam all over again, I realised something.
The good thing about the Aidans is, knowingly or unknowingly, they teach us about ourselves. Just talking to some people, teaches valuable lessons. My Aidan taught me to remember and respect the fact that everyone has baggage. What did yours teach you?
(Aidan – name changed for anonymity)
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