I grew up on a very isolated farm in Illinois during the 60s and 70s. Old school, rural route, backwoods. Cornfields, old barns, and narrow oil roads. Secluded, tucked away, and yes, quiet. It was a young introvert’s rural sanctuary though I had no concept of introversion at the time. I was just “me” in the country. I flowed; I was free; I was unstifled. For the first 16 years of my life, my closest companion was my dog. Animals made sense to me. Nature and the earth were natural connections. We had very few people come to the farm, and when they did, I often hid.

By the time I started school, I had rarely been around other children. I felt completely lost at school. I did not understand why I had to be in a big, boring building. Why all the rules? When could I go home, and where was my dog? Recess was chaos to me. Kids everywhere, yelling and screaming, and I was certainly not in the popular groups. Often, I just wanted to go home. Eventually, thankfully, the school bell would ring, and I could take the long bus ride home to see my dog waiting for me as the bus pulled up to the lane. I was finally home, back to the country and to what made a whole lot more sense to me.

First school, then society at large with all of its man-made norms, standards, expectations, expected behaviors, etc. were something I could only guess at understanding. I was a “misfit.” And that only snowballed over time.

I did not completely understand I was an introvert or what introversion was at its core until just recently, when I read the words of Susan Cain. I had thought the stigmatizing and negative treatment I dealt with all these years originated primarily from me being a “country person,” who initially grew up in a non-social environment out on the farm. And while being from the country was a part of it, I am now aware that at heart, I was and am a natural-born, hard-wired introvert!

My mind sort of warped. It was like finding a map to myself that had been long lost. On that map was a very populated place called Introversion. And at that place was a red arrow that pointed and read: “You Are Here!” That literal; that profound. And introversion was okay! I was okay. I had always been okay. And I was far from alone! The more I read Quiet, the deeper I felt the sense of self-acceptance and empowering vindication. My country upbringing had simply been a sweet perk for a young introvert.

Over the last weeks, memories of those chastising judgments and treatments rapidly flashed—as if in a moving picture flip-book—in an entirely new and positive light before my eyes. “They” had been wrong! I was not defective for having a natural tendency to drift away from a crowd or a group or for behaviors such as the sheer joy of having someone cancel plans last minute, which resulted in, wait for it, alone time! Yes! Or for loving the rush of learning, of creating, of flowing uninterrupted! Or for enjoying the magic of one-on-one conversation, connection, shared creativity, or events with someone in my small circle.

I am still wrapping my mind around this newfound vindication and empowerment. There does exist that very stark reality for me that we as introverts still remain in a culture in the U.S. that is currently geared for the extrovert in nearly every facet. It’s entrenched deeply, which means we must dig in all the deeper for change. We introverts, children to adults, are not second-class citizens. We are not misfits. And we deserve to live fully and completely from who we are, what we are, and as we are in our truest heart of hearts.