Inverse /ˈɪnvəːs,ɪnˈvəːs/ noun
A phase, feeling or position opposite in its shape, order, direction, or effect; most often encountered in a season that calls for change.
I entered the new year through a semi-stupored haze of top-shelf liquor, white cotton shirts, the building thrum of trance music, and the stolen glimpses of a man who had enthralled me. It was the glitzy modern epitome of new money that manifested into a gathering of the bored and ostentatious rich – where no one knew anyone but everyone seemed to know someone. I was at once out of place; yet, immensely enchanted by this otherwordly space set out for the vapid display of glamour, ego and bad choices. By night’s end, as the bell tolled to announce the dawn of a new decade – and as copious amounts of drink started to make bed with repeating electronic melodies on the dancefloor – I was right in the middle of it all. It was an unlikely spot for any wallflower. Then again, there weren’t many walls to flower on. My tipsy self said it was a bad idea standing close to balcony railings…
I would have never imagined myself there: amid the consequence of stupid amounts of money being thrown into this one fleeting glimmer of dopamine arousal. But you can always trust an introvert to seek deeper meaning in shallow waters – sometimes you just add more water. Or whisky. Regardless, you get yourself into depths very different to what you may have anticipated otherwise.
I am starting to sound like a raging alcoholic. [scoffs] Real alcoholics might probably think I am overestimating myself with that statement.
However, the truth of the matter was that I was in a flux state of loosened inhibitions and fierce gyrations that made the party a tad more fun. And ever, I was under the watchful sober eye of a pretty neat guy who was steadily weaving his magic over me. In that uncertain limbo of boozy introvert sociability, I was very aware of how safe I felt in his presence; and how drawn to him I was wherever I stood.
He stood out from the crowd with this tall, muscular frame and a stance firmy rooted in any space he claimed for himself – with almost territorial finesse. Some might have described him as intimidating and imposing, especially as dark eyes glinted lively from a face that moulded effortlessly with his emotion. His presence was powerful… undeniable… alive… He was a magnetic force that drew me back to him time and again, no matter how often I seemed to lose the plot as the liquor was whispering its seductive promises. If I was a lone wolf, then he was the full moon.
It becomes significant to mention him in reflection. But to describe him… It is hard to reduce such a man to a few words alone. But perhaps the feeling he evoked in me was telling enough.
The way he made me feel was something I have had difficulty expressing to him since I became aware of that blossoming sensation; a feeling so telling that you really do like someone. I knew that I adored him by the very fact that my guard had dropped so effortlessly whenever he was around. For once, there was not this incessant demand to keep the barriers erect for protection. There was just this space: open, honest, secure and untethered to all the hesitations that would normally have kept me back.
A subliminal part of me, however, was already housing a feeling that seemed preposterous on the surface. A fear – one that I thought absurd in light of the lack of time to possibly justify it. I was already afraid of losing him.
Naturally, I needed to understand this fear…
If 2019 was a celebration of all that it meant to be a sideline bloomer, then 2020 was shaping up to be everything that was meant to challenge it.
For the most part, I had spent the last couple of years to really marinate into the beautiful introvert energy that shaped a large part of my personality. As I progressed in that journey – becoming ever more at home in the pasttimes of introspection and mind-wanderinng – a whole inner world revealed itself to me, ready to be reaped of its bountiful internal knowledge and avenues of thought. Naturally, I sunk ever deeper into that personal fantasy – revelling in my own innermost thought processes and the untapped potential that it possessed.
Quite simply, I had become comfortable with who I was.
For all the years prior, where I had placated the needs of my quiet side for the sake of surviving the demands of society’s extrovert ideal, I now felt unbound by any conventions. I no longer heeded the internalised expectations that had been set to me. Instead, I banished it from my inner world – my realm far removed from the mundane and unnecessary concerns woven into the fabric of my external reality.
This all changed as I boarded a plane that took me away from a place where I had never felt more at home – Cape Town. Many elements contributed to this: the boundless opportunities, the prevailing open-mindedness of its people, the infinite creativity, the raw beauty of the place, and a man who was offering me another chance to feel things I had not felt in a long time. Somehow, without me being fully aware, I had climbed out of myself and into this open space where joy seemed as potent (if not more) than what my own inner world could ever conjure. Consequently, I realised how much the inverse of this joy I would find in my departure, when I stepped back into a town that now felt nothing but invalidating…
I had dropped my defences in the presence of a new promise, trustingly, leaving the safety and familiarity of my inner world. This was significant. I had once described my inner world as being the product of my spirit being in resonance with my drive, desires, and intuitive idiosyncrasies; the result of being mindful and fully in touch with the most subtle of qualities. Regardless of the esoteric nature that description now exemplifies, it did mean this: that my own mind had become my safe space. And now, I had left it..
It meant that my external sphere of existence had somehow affirmed me enough to bloom and reveal all the inner work that I had secreted in the deepest recesses of my mind. I was allowed to present myself from a position of confidence, drawing from the strength of my reflections and the prevalent rythm and vibe of this place and this person that was offering this wallflower a secure space in the sun. But it meant that I was vulnerable, and I did not realise just how exposed I was until I set foot back in the town that had perhaps trapped me for too long.
Wallflowers sometimes compromise the extent of their true happiness in light of their own personal convictions. I learned this the hard way. My inner world could provide anything to satiate my mental desires if I gave it enough room to expand. But in that act, I had become hopelessly lost in fancifull ideals and personal creeds that at once shattered when reality offered me something exponentially more meaningful. It could perhaps be seen as true that these internal defences were necessary in order to make the best of the circumstances that was presented to me at the time. But times do change and they demand that you adapt.
I was under the assault of an unprecedented wake-up call that perhaps came in a timely way, despite the discomfort. What I was facing, was a simple situation of inverse. It took true discontentment, to realise that I must have experienced true happiness. It took irrefutable frustration to realise that I had perhaps stopped chasing dreams. It took a validating place, to realise I came back to an invalidating one. It took the right realm of the external, to realise that my internal world could not provide me comfort forever. And I was terrified that I had stepped out of that world so unwittingly – more so, that a single man and a single city could awaken me from the introvert stupor.
Memory places me back in that car, being driven back home from that party. Slow awareness made city lights blend in golden streaks across the windows as I turned my head for a small eternity to look upon the face of the man who I had fallen for without warning. It dawned slowly, but I knew that things were changing. I steadily came to realise that I, perhaps, was changing most of all. Among the changes, the veils had been pulled open. I was as naked to this man and that moment as I ever could be – my true self bare and brazen in the passenger seat. So, by a cosmic jest, that moment of very human vulnerability would be captured perfectly as the spasmodic hitches of inebriation set in.
I had begun to hiccup like a true drunkard…
It figured that I would choose that exact moment to start pouring out my heart, trying to sound as serious as possibly while retaining the last shreds of my charming disposition through broken syntax. Though I am sure he was listening, even he could not help but meet my boozy confessions with a deep and amused chuckle. It was that reaction that told me, that he cared for every word – regardless of its level of sobriety.
The appeals of the sideline are intoxicating to any wallflower. It is secure and removed from the excessive dramas that unfold in the coveted space of being the centre of attention. But the sideline was never meant to be more than a brief pause from the madness of a world that will never cease with its relentless expectations. The sideline was never meant to more than a position of patient wait and observation; to analyse the nuances of the circumstances that present itsef to us. As we thus gain the insight that we need, we are pushed back to the middle. For it is there, amid the myriad bloomers vying for their own light, space and attenion – that we plant our roots more firmly, grow ourselves higher, and take back the power of the inverse to flip to the side we most prefer.
If 2019 taught me everything what it meant to be a wallflower, than 2020 was testing me on exactly what I have come to learn in being one…
…and in doing so, rise to the challenge.
Have patience and be kind, fellow bloomers.