But I would venture a guess that most of my fellow introverts were picked on at some point in their middle/high school years, whether because they were deemed the teacher's pet, a nerd, antisocial, or unnervingly quiet.
That's why starting college was undoubtedly a breath of fresh air in many an introvert's eyes. Newly released from the stigmas that followed some of us since elementary school, we viewed it as an opportunity to rebrand or reinvent ourselves.
No longer would Kenny, whom you met in kindergarten and graduated high school with, ensure that everyone in your midst knows you're exceedingly taciturn, as he was now off to a college thousands of miles from yours.
In college, everyone is treated like an adult because now they're footing the bill for their education. Students looking to be spoon-fed need not apply.
Don't want to go to class? Fine. Want to show up to class in slippers, sit in the back, and listen to music while your professor drones on about financial models? Go nuts.
College perfectly suited introverts' independent nature. For example, I took a management information systems class that required a slew of group projects. After being paired with myriad freeloaders, I vowed never again to register for a class that did not at least provide the opportunity to work solo. Secondary school never afforded us this flexibility.
Whether you wished to remain reclusive or jump on the extrovert express (hopefully not), it was up to you. College provided a wealth of opportunities.
But as they say, all good things must come to an end.
In a way, I've seen Corporate America as marking a return to the petty politics and childish behavior characteristic of our school years. Once again, an introvert can be chastised for being too quiet. And once they're branded as someone who doesn't speak up and isn't throwing themselves at every opportunity to work in teams, it reflects poorly on their review.
This is a stark contrast from our time at the university, when our papers and exams did the "talking" for us. When we were judged based on our work and not our penchant for brown-nosing.
And it isn't like introverts hide under a rock while in college and never speak to a single soul. The difference is that now we're at liberty to make friends and cultivate relationships with whomever we so please. That you tend to be in classes with entirely different people each semester helps facilitate this, unlike our younger years when we're stuck with the same cohort of students.
In sum, college really does afford us the opportunity to spread our wings and begin anew. Thanks to Covid, it seems many companies are adopting a more flexible model where employees can work at least a few days from home. This perk is reminiscent of college -- where you might opt to take hybrid or fully online courses -- and a welcome change to introverts who relish being able to work independently, away from small talk and pointless in-person meetings.
If you're currently in college, do make the most of the experience. In a sense, you'll never have this much freedom ever again in your life. And if you're an introvert, never feel any pressure to change you who are, whether you're in the 7th grade or starting your first job. Always be your truest, most genuine self!