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COLUMN: Classifying The World

Heights Columnist

Published: Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Updated: Wednesday, February 26, 2014 23:02

“There are two types of people in this world—people who classify others into groups, and those who don’t.”

We’ve all heard this phrase, or something similar, and it begs the question of whether the world is so simply categorized into two groups. Classifying people involves labeling, which is often frowned upon because it involves generalizations and stereotypes. Often, labeling a person as a part of some group leads to changing attitudes toward and treatment of that person. But classification can also enlighten us about others and about ourselves, and I firmly believe that there are two types of people in this world—people who wait for things to happen, and people who go out and make things happen.

Many times, this distinction goes further—extrovert vs. introvert, optimist vs. pessimist, or thinker vs. doer. Extroverts are usually doers. They are bubbly, loud, and outgoing, and they aren’t afraid to try new things. They embrace the possibility of failure and, if they want something, they go and get it. Introverts, like me, tend to be the thinkers, and this is an advantage in many ways—it leads to more thoughtful decision-making, increased introspection and sense of self, and greater understanding of the consequences of certain actions. Sometimes this pensiveness becomes a drawback, however. Thinking too much often results in worrying and focusing on the negative or unpleasant possibilities and, in effect, pessimism. I think in many regards, introverts could reap the benefits of so many more opportunities if they would only take a few risks and cross over into the realm of possible failure, but instead we often worry, think, and wait until the time has passed and we regret the missed chance.

This distinction is constantly on my mind, especially now that I am at Boston College. In college, I think everyone wants to be the extrovert on some level, the person who is the life of the party and who isn’t afraid to let his or her voice be heard. In the social sense, it’s a lot more fun to be that person, and the college life is in many respects built for that person. Everyone has heard the saying that, “these are the best four years of your life”—but for whom? The quiet boy who has a hard time making friends and spends most of his time in his room? The girl who has a crush but is too afraid to say anything? The boy who meant to join a bunch of clubs but became intimidated and instead joined none? No, that statement is directed toward the people who can strike up conversations to make friends with anyone and everyone, who always have something to do or somewhere to go on the weekends, and who take advantage of the opportunities presented to them because they can’t imagine not doing so. (Granted, this invites the criticism that the idealized and media-portrayed college experience in which such extroverts thrive is not the experience everyone wants to have, but that’s an entirely different story.)
I find myself floating between these two types of people, but I relate more with those who wait for things to happen. I am, by nature, someone who wishes and dreams but has a hard time putting my thoughts into action. It’s not a coincidence that I have a board on Pinterest dedicated to cheesy quotes like, “stop thinking, just live” and “worrying does not empty tomorrow of its troubles, it empties today of its strength.” There are so many opportunities to make the most of BC, but a lot of them require a sort of personal risk, like trying something you’ve never done before, risking being “cut” or not called back, or doing things without the comfort zone of friends. These risks can (and often do) have great paybacks, but only for those who have the courage to take them.

The opportunities for happiness and success are everywhere, but you have to go and seek them out—they won’t come to you. If you want to sing but don’t audition for any of the a cappella groups or choirs, the closest you’re going to get to performing is in the shower. If you want to play soccer but don’t think you’re good enough and skip the tryouts, the best you’re going to do is kick a ball around with a few friends while the team has a real practice. Waiting for things to happen practically guarantees regret, and sitting around thinking about what you wish you were doing is fruitless. I’m not saying that all introverts are pessimistic and unhappy or that it’s better to be an extrovert, but there’s something to be said for the assertive actions they display and the fulfillment that results. Renaissance man Leonardo da Vinci once said it best: “It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.”

Editor’s Note: The views presented in this column are those of the author alone and do not represent the views of The Heights

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