Kids Believe is added to our roster each summer because it's our belief that kids value their writing life when they are taken seriously. We publish the best of what we find from students ages 12-18 and hope to encourage students to develop their craft and continue expressing themselves through writing. Well crafted essays on the topic of student writing are always welcome. We'd love to hear from students as well as our readers. Happy summer, email@example.com
Light of Solitude by Amelia Nierenberg
There is a photograph of me from my twelfth birthday party, and I am blowing out candles at dusk in the park. My friends and their parents clustered around the plaid blanket used to cover me many times when I fell asleep in the back of the car. It is the ideal birthday photo, one parents anticipate with fingers poised over the camera. Captured at the perfect moment, the orange flame caresses my young face. The candles attract the party’s attention, illuminating their faces as they clap energetically. The serenity of the dusk allows the candles to burn as brightly as they do.
I always imagined that this photo told a story of my happy childhood: surrounded by friends, with parents ready to record every smile with a clunky old Pentax. But this photo is about the light. The ebbing cycles of light define this image. The lights in this picture chafe against each other. They both accent and irritate the other; the candles are struggling to illuminate themselves, while dusk tries to nudge the scene into the darkness of night. Isolated, these two sources of light, the shadowy dusk and the bright flame, contradict each other. Together, the combination creates a seemingly impossibly perfect picture. But why am I talking about a half-forgotten moment, frozen in limbo between light and dark? What does the fraught chiaroscuro, the contrast of light and shadow, between dusk and candles, reveal about my personality? The light is the visible, attention-catching aspects of my
personality, the extroverted side. The shadows, often dominated by the light, represent the introvert.
The Myers Briggs personality test highlights these opposing facets excellently. It weighs measures an individual based on a scale of important personality factors. It provides two opposites, and, through a series of veiled questions, determines where the individual stands. “Extrovert” and “Introvert” are the two benchmark opposites under ‘attitude towards the world.’ As an extrovert, I have an outer-world focus, and project a bubbly, social image. But as an introvert, I also have a personal, thoughtful, internal focus. I have participated in a few Myers Briggs tests, and always score highly towards Extrovert. Even in self-reflection, my outward light overpowered my quiet shadows. The pensive side of my personality allowed the extrovert to shine, unchecked.
I once blindly accepted the Myers Briggs ‘E’ of extrovert, and wore it with pride. After being bullied throughout elementary school for being a studious introvert, I forced myself into extreme extroversion in middle school to protect myself from bullies. Reflecting on those three transitional years, I cringe at the image I have of myself. I see a girl, laughing loudly and almost manically as she tries to distract from her painful awareness of her prematurely extroverted body. To divert from my newly sprouted curves, I emulated the extroverted behavior of my bullies. Being only an Extrovert allowed me to fancy myself ‘cured’ of a withdrawn nature. I temporarily banished that quiet girl, the dusk in the picture, because I was ashamed of her. I allowed Amelia the Extrovert, the candles, to eclipse her opposite, the Introverted Amelia, the dusk.
Who is that Amelia, the Introvert? She is a pensive, quiet girl, who likes to take baths while listening to classical music. She keeps a diary in green pen, because green was Pablo Neruda’s color of hope. I have only recently freed her from adolescent repression. I know now that she is almost a different social entity. There are times for each Amelia, the extrovert and the introvert, to shine individually. The only interactions I used to define myself were between another person and I, rather than between I and myself. I never realized how profoundly important the Introvert was to the other, shinier Amelia. The Extrovert needs her.
I began to love my quieter side as I sat in an overgrown corner of my backyard, journaling towards this essay. This journaling and acceptance of the Introvert finally allowed me to reconcile the two parts of myself. I wrote about the Introvert in exalted tones, calling her a “docking station.” Just as the sun needs to set to bring about the dawn, the extrovert needs to cede her brightness to the dusky, quieter light to return and shine. During the waking hours, light exposes itself to the world. It socializes with bugs and smiles on leaves. But every night, light must leave to return the next day. The radiant Extrovert needs to escape behind the veil of a diary or the colors of paint. She needs to withdraw and relax to emerge, shining. As this Introvert Amelia, I sat in nature and “felt a profound calm.” I need the privacy of seclusion to continue as an Extrovert.
However, rarely does the private introvert understand the extrovert. The Extrovert chatters loudly while the Introvert rolls her eyes. The Introvert writes as the Extrovert bounces on her toes, impatient to go. The sociable extrovert’s activities are alien to the reclusive introvert, and visa versa. Both exist within me, but I cannot be both simultaneously. They are too contradictory. In middle school, I denied the Introvert’s existence completely. How could I be reserved and at the same time, social? How could I be bubbly while I am pensive? Now, after my experience with unchecked Extroversion, I am able to restrain the uncontrollable social Amelia. And, in a setting more private than the halls of a high school, I can sink comfortably back into the Introvert. By separating the two, I allot time to each, allowing each to shine at the appropriate time.
The introvert is the only Amelia capable of meditation in nature, one of her places to thrive. I was alone, but I was not lonely. In nature, I was able to finally decipher Thoreau’s quotation, “there is more to day than dawn.” Previously, I only saw my daylight as important. When I looked at the photo, I only saw the lit candles. Now, I see harmonious rivalry of both dimensions of light. In journaling under the veil of leaves shading me from the outgoing sun, I could respect the beautiful divide between shadow and light, and allow it to live within me. 4Without shadow, light cannot exist. I need the extrovert and introvert as the light and shadow need each other. As I wrote in my journal, “I want to illuminate, but sometimes I need to shine only for myself.”
Amelia is a Junior at the Ethical Culture Fieldston School in New York. She is a Fiction Reader for the Adroit Journal, the Fiction Editor and co-founder of the Fieldston Literary magazine, The Icebox, and spends much of her free time painting and writing. Her work either appears, or is forthcoming in Amazing Kids! Magazine, Tap Magazine Issue 25: Bare, Prick of the Spindle, Blue Pencil Online, Doctor T. J. Eckelburg Review, Emerge Literary Journal, Eunoia Review, Postscript Journal, Poydras Review, Rusty Nail, Black Fox Literary Magazine, Torrid Literature Polyphony HS, Ithaca Lit and the Blue Lake Review. She received an Honorable Mention for creative nonfiction in the Young Authors Competition in addition to five regional Honorable Mentions, eight Regional Silver Keys and three Regional Gold Keys from the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards and a National Gold Key for Flash Fiction.