I'm not sure at what point I started using "intense" as a catch-all descriptor for my personality, but I've been doing so for a while and it fits. It's basically a euphemism for being "serious," but with a sprinkle of ambiguity in there so I don't sound like a complete wet rag with zero sense of humor. I'm funny, it just takes three months of optimistic, no-expectation hangouts to get that because I'm simultaneously too eager and too serious.
To put it bluntly: I have no chill.
At first glance, being described as "intense" could be a negative thing. Adjacent words like "obsessive" and "clingy" come to mind. But, I'd like to think of it as passion with a low tolerance for bullshit. If I'm gung-ho about balling out on a group project or getting too competitive over something no one else is taking seriously, it just means I care. The only part that stinks is when people equate intensity with coldness and don't bother getting to know me.
I can't even count the number of times people have told me they thought I hated them because I'm not a smiley, bright person by default. I've gone on blind dates that I thought went really well until I heard back from the friend who set it up that my poor date thought I hated him the whole time. Some people just aren't peppy and smiley by default, and that's okay. (Shoutout to the bloggers before me for teaching everyone about Resting Bitch Face and why the world needs to cool off of judging women for not smiling.)
So it's been established that women should be allowed to be neutral; great. But what about serious women? Those who don't smile, but also (god forbid) get annoyed when people waste their time? Women like me.
It's not "cool" to care about stuff, and I'm busy caring the HELL out of everything.
In fact, I'm probably caring so much that I can't be a light, fun, ray of sunshine the first time I meet someone. But that doesn't mean I hate them. Obviously, considering how many navel-gazing hours I've spent trying to find the perfect word to encapsulate my needs-an-explanation personality, I care a lot about what people think about me. So much so that I'm probably driving myself crazy not trying to seem like a bitch. In fact, what's probably really going on the first time I meet someone and I'm busy not-smiling is that I'm running through a mental checklist to make sure I'm being a good conversationalist and not rude AF. Ironic, isn't it?
You can be intense in all aspects of your personality, from dating and relationships to work or creative pursuits and beyond. I've never been one to accidentally date someone lukewarm for two months and realize we're still together—as an intense person, I know right away if I'm into someone or if I never want to see them again. My intensity also manifests itself in other ways: I'm the definition of extra when it comes to projects, whether it be school, work, or stuff I'm making with friends in my spare time. If you can't match my enthusiasm for something, I don't want to waste my time. If I care enough to do something with you, it'd be nice if I didn't have to light a fire under your ass to get you to feel the same way.
There's power in embracing your intensity. Why bother with polite first date questions and hem and haw around where you grew up when all I really wanna know is when and why your last relationship ended and if she was prettier than me? It's mentally exhausting to pretend you don't care about something that actually bothers you, so if I'm blunt with my words, please know it's an efficiency thing.
On the surface, I get it. My social anxiety and need to go 120 at everything I do can distract me from """""enjoying myself"""" even though that's how I show I care about things. I took an improv class once and my teacher gave me notes that I didn't seem like I was ever having any fun in class. This after eight weeks of being told "smile" after every cringeworthy scene where I actually (not too cool to admit it) tried really hard, didn't make me feel great. I wanted to write back, But of course, I wasn't smiling, I WAS BUSY THINKING!!
But intensity can be good too! When you meet someone else who shares that lite-obsessive nature and you can bond over throwing yourselves 5000 percent into what you love, that makes all the lukewarm carelessness of the world fade away.
In my perfect world, I would be bubbly and full of outward charisma and my personality wouldn't feel like an obstacle I have to convince people to get over. But for better or worse, this is the way it is. I'm just never going to be a super high-energy, outgoing person, and that's okay! I just wish other people were more on board with that too. I'm actually a ton of fun, I swear! I'm probably just in my own head, busy, thinking about how to prove it to you.
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This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.