Well, no-one has it easy.
But as a young INFP, it’s particularly hard. In the past, I’ve been called out for whining and being overly melodramatic, for focusing on my poor little issues when other types struggle just as hard, but this is what I truly believe in: young INFPs have it hard. Of course, not all young INFPs have it hard, because not all INFPs are the same. Like all things, we come in all sizes and shapes and forms and, yes, even personalities. So I can merely speak from my own experience, take what you will of it.
Ah. To be seventeen and confused. Yet, to be a seventeen and confused INFP is an entirely different matter.
Other personalities wade through the social and business life of our world with ease; it is their natural habitat, and they swim free and gay as dolphins in pools of watery cash, flicking up coins with their tails in snickers of high laughter. INFPs, on the other hand, are more like butterflies, whose wings grow limp and whose flight is impaired by contact with such water. Yes, we can swim, but we soon need the shore, and are left bedraggled and miserable.
Within me lies such a conflict. Occasionally, I feel as if the friction is so great it could tear me in two, rip down the middle of me in a blinding hash of red glare and leave me two broken burnt human halves, quivering in hot indignation. On one hand, I want to do nothing more than throw all caution to the wind and throw every fibre of my soul and being into my one and only love: writing.
On the other hand, I am deathly afraid of the consequences of such a step. Every way I turn, there is a wise figure who says, with so sagacious a nod of their head, that to do so would be folly. That one needs a degree if one wants to eat. That the starving artist is not a romantic ideal but a cruel reality. That if I do choose this path, of working a dead-end part-time job and leaving on rice and beans in some cramped room, I will come crawling back to the institutions and beg them to accept me back into their cold bureaucratic arms. To chase magic and pumpkins, only to return penniless and ragged back to the home of my stepmother.
My heart whispers its quiet truth, but my mind is afraid to listen. For, like many INFPs, I cannot stand the structure of educational institutions, the regimen and the monotony of having information and learning fed and dictated like so many cubes of tasteless food. My idea of learning is to be set loose in a library, and allowed to read and explore on any topic I please, drink my fill from the wells of knowledge until I am bloated and sated, spurred on by natural curiosity and delight. The university campus grounds is a large, hollow, impersonal complex, of students scurrying about like so many blind tortoises, blinking blearily from their books and laptops. I have been there, and I have felt their cruel, cold smiles. It is no place for a butterfly. It is like setting me loose in an empty cavern of quietly silent, quietly bloodthirsty bats. There is nothing there for me, and yet I am told to enter this dreaded cavern, I am told to enter into the lair of the dragon and shed invisible blood.
Many things are difficult. Finding people I can connect with, converse with, is difficult. They all seem so caught up in the web of unrealities, of stocks and profits and economies, all of which are more evanescent and airy-fairy than my fantasies and stories. Do they realise that? Do they realise how much of what we worry about is but imaginary, like a town of people who fret over the arrival of dragons that do not exist?
Also, I am young, and I am lonely. These two things, when found hand in hand, is a most miserable thing. I am lonely because there is no-one I know who understands the slightest cell of my being. For the most part, I am happy to be alone: I am, after all, an introvert. But even the souls that seek solitude desire company at some point, and I am lonely, so lonely, so starved for another soul to pour myself into, for the liquids of our being to mix into a sweet brew.
Everyone has a demon, and mine is money. It rests at the bottom of my soul, staring up at me like a particularly smug and fleshy golden frog. Its bulging, batrachian eyes glitter and glimmer with harsh greed, while every now and then a yellow tongue flits out to capture and crunch into scintillating smithereens another fluttery-fly dream. Late at night, when I am dark and alone, it begins to hop, up and down, up and down, every flesh golden fold of fat jiggling and shaking in horrid mocking.
If you’re an INFP, you are also your own worst enemy. After recently devouring one of Sylvia Plath’s journals, and pressing my fragile heart against another kindred spirit through the medium of words and pages, the both of us calling out to each through the dried wrinkles of time like two people pressing their hands on either side of mirror (such is the magic of books!), I am in awe of her talent, and in despair over my own. Daily regime for me consists not of exercise, or eating well, but self-flagellation. This demon is smaller, but sharper: it sits perched on my shoulder, a tiny, nasty, gibbering creature, spitting hate and self-loathing into my ear.
To be burning on the inside, and to be baked on the outside. That is what it is like, being a young INFP, poised on the precipice between childhood and adulthood, afraid of falling into the ravine between. Cooked and skewered and branded by everyday life: every glance, every word, every person, every sound, every noise, every hateful, hateful noise. But under the layers of flame, there smolders something quieter and stronger. An unbreakable spirit.
And this glow, which is not flame and not light but simply a strength, extinguishes all the pain, blinding white engulfing the golden and orange, and propels my limbs into motion. I will jump out of the kiln, out of the pits of hell. I will stare down the frog at the well of my soul until its bulging eyes close in fear, and flick that detested bird off my shoulder. There are demons, yes, but they can be defeated through confrontation. That is all they are afraid of.
And then I will dance, with the soft, heart-shaped glowing pulsing in my chest, out in the open, away from the fire, until all the butterflies and flies and birds of the world descend upon my body in a shower of glinting, translucent rainbows.