If I must go out into the wider world, I prefer not to have to engage with it. This might be another tick in a box on the List of Introvertisms, or it might just be me. I don’t know, and I don’t much care, but floating around in the general tide of humanity, getting on with my own thoughts and being quite unnoticed, is soothing. I like being invisible, safely bobbing along inside my hamster ball. I’m fortunate in that I don’t look particularly approachable (hopefully because my mind is elsewhere rather than because I’m a hatchet-faced virago, but whatever), so it’s rare that someone I don’t know tries to strike up conversation, unless they’re the kind of nutter who is simply talking at whoever is occupying that bit of space at the time. That’s fine, because it’s nothing to do with me qua me and doesn’t require acknowledgment, let alone anything as tiring as a response.
Cities are, of course, great for this kind of unnoticed existence. There are simply so many random people that no one gives a damn who any of them are. I wouldn’t want to live in a city precisely because there are all those people all the time, but I like wandering around them. My favourite parts of various trips have been the solo walking times: double the anonymity because I’m not in my own country. This is also one of the great things about road trips, that if you keep your itinerary vague, no one knows where you are. There’s probably a multi-syllabic German word for revelling in the sense of being deliberately displaced and unfindable; it would be a useful addition to my vocabulary.
Recently, I joined a gym, and in the few times that I’ve been so far, I’ve been enjoying the anonymity there as well. I don’t know a single person, there’s no pressure to engage in jolly chit-chat with the receptionist and I can communicate with my trainer by writing notes on my training card. It may not be everyone’s idea of a welcoming environment, but it’s contributing enormously to my willingess to go. Mens sana in corpore sano indeed.