My family talks, a lot. My parents still mostly maintain the same group of friends they have had since childhood. They keep in contact and when my parents meet up with their close friends, it’s time to whip out Instagram and start scrolling through the feed.
If you have Asian parents, you know to expect to stand in the grocery store for at least double the time you would have normally been there if your parents see someone they know.
Me, I consider myself an introvert, although others may argue differently.
I was painfully shy growing up, and did not really start reaching out and connecting with other people until high school. Even then, I just had trouble picking up on social cues. In a sense, I could not make up for awkward conversation by just masking it with speech; I made up for awkward conversation by just staying silent.
I put my nose in fictional books instead, preferring reading conversations of fictional characters as opposed to having any real meaningful conversations with other people.
In high school I forced myself to start reaching out and attempting to make new friends. I would read conversations in books and try to remember them so that I could practice them in real life. One of the hardest things about making friends was grasping for anything at all to have a conversation about.
It was mentally exhausting trying to be social and opening up about my feelings. When it came to more personal issues that I harbored, I was taught, and from what I’ve noticed in the Vietnamese community, it is frowned upon to speak about your own problems, but it is fine to speculate on what other people’s problems may be.
I found, in high school, that it was easier to listen to people who talked a lot and were more extroverted than me. From there, I could agree or disagree and go along with the flow of the conversation that way.
Coming to college was the most socially exhausting event of my life so far. It was a new challenge because now I could reinvent myself, with no one knowing my personality previously.
One of my main thoughts was, could I actually become the extrovert that my parents were when they were young? Could I emulate my talkative peers from my hometown and in the characters of the books that I read?
I tried to find a balance of both at first, reaching out to new people and getting to know who they were and what they were all about.
However, I noticed, yet again, that I was drawn more towards people more extroverted than I was.
But, yet, I don’t view it as negatively as I thought I would have in high school. I find that listening and having more thoughtful, deep commentary is more appreciated and allows me to think more carefully about what I am going to say. I also try to pay attention to how my friends talk and apply that to other conversations that I have.
One of my personal social experiments, and something I picked up from my dad, was just talking to random strangers in line at stores. I would never have to see that person again, and it would help me practice common ground in speaking.
Over the summer, I worked in the food industry and retail for the first time, both of which are jobs that require speaking to tourists and trying to convince them to buy a product. I took that one step further and tried to get to know the customers more personally, asking questions about them and why they were in the area. Conversations started off awkward at first, but then became more natural.
I will always consider myself an introvert. However, I am constantly trying to improve myself socially with challenges that I set myself and by sharing more of myself, although I would not consider myself on the path of becoming an extrovert.
If you find me at a family function, I’ll be the one in the background, listening and speaking when I feel as if there is something that is needed to be said.
Kimberly Nguyen is the associate managing editor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.