Never did I discover such a wonderful, mysterious, intriguing, and awesome specimen of human being until I personally encountered and got close to one.
I once had a fellow Vietnamese-American friend of the opposite sex. We were sort of platonic but never moved past that stage, though looking back only now do I realize that I could have developed feelings for him and how much he meant to me. I would say INFPs, NFs, perhaps Ns in general are not that common in our culture. At least I don’t think I have known any personally until I met him. Due to Confucianism and the fact that our culture’sn generally very collectivist, I would say we’re dominated by ESFJs / ISFJs and ISTJs.
He really felt out of place in that he never really fit into our ethnic culture due to him being very freethinking and skeptical of tradition, but he never really integrated well into America despite having come here when he was 7. He told me it took a long time to accept and embrace that he didn’t need an external identity all the time, that he should live and focus on the content of his soul as an individual. He was never really a star student and became extremely disillusioned with the education system once he reached high school, but even today he’s perhaps the most intelligent and perceptive person I have ever known. He could speak English, Vietnamese, Cantonese and Mandarin fluently (his great-grandparents on both sides emigrated to Viet Nam from the area around Hong Kong, so technically he’s Hoa / ethnic Chinese) and wield all four languages like a weapon of mass humor and mass destruction whenever he pleased.
We met at a party through a mutual acquaintance, and at first I really found him a bit strange because he was acting a bit fidgety and he didn’t seem to really be able to converse with the rest of the people there. To be honest, I thought he was a bit dumb due to him being uncomfortable with social gatherings. God, how wrong I was. I was into good-looking guys at the time because I was younger and he was certainly not the best looking, but in terms of looks he was definitely somewhat above average. He looked like a very typical nerd, five ten, a bit overweight, skin was really pale. If I were to describe him now I’d describe him as the kind that may not immediately strike a typical (whatever that means) girl / young woman in her late teens / early adulthood as Prince Charming, but the kind that looks better the more you see him. There was something in his eyes that stood out, I can’t describe it but his gaze gave off a kind of intensity, so fixed yet a bit sad. He was a bit reclusive and never really seemed to engage with anyone at the party, preferring to sit to the side.
After the party I told our mutual acquaintance how I thought he was so strange, yet I was also curious about him. Through the other girl I was able to get his contact information. We started chatting and naturally began hanging out with each other after a while. I learned that he comes from a broken family and there were definitely hints in his behavior that he wasn’t “normal” in the way me and most of my other friends are accustomed to being. He’s been through a lot just to preserve himself, and he was never really understood or accepted. I honestly found it a bit hard to relate to at first because I’ve had such a “normal” upbringing in comparison, so perhaps that’s why I had never really felt the need to find so many answers and question things on my own. For the most part I think I’ve never really been the “odd one out”, yet there I was, listening to the words of someone who seemed to come from such a vastly different world. It was intriguing but also hard to comprehend at first.
He had so much to say, so much to share, and his insights on many things that our type and similar types often seem to accept unquestioningly as fact or “just the way things are” was so foreign, so intriguing, refreshing, and absolutely phenomenal. Intellectually he carried himself with an intensity and strength that came as a shock to me, because being Fe dominant I believed in, and had been taught to not rock the boat. He had very little time and patience for small talk (though he certainly was capable of engaging in it for a while) and mundane matters. Even when talking about something mundane, he had the ability to delve into deeper connections with other things. All of it was such a new way of thinking to me. He was never really a “fun” friend, looking back I would say I put him in a completely separate category to my other friends. Once we became comfortable with each other, every time I was with him for any length of time, I could expect the conversation to take a dive for the depths within 20 minutes. He was intellectually curious about many things to the point of randomness, and to me he almost seemed like a walking encyclopedia. He often told me about his disdain for the “good students” because he found them so boring and “by-the-book” (but I, apparently, was an exception).
What he really excelled at was giving me advice when I was having difficult times. As much fun as I had with my other friends (the “S” group, at least most of them) and as much as I shared my problems with them, I found myself relying on him more and more when I needed guidance and encouragement. He approached my problems, whether they were social, emotional, or just about anything really and put them into fresh territory. He tended to give very rebellious, “avant garde”, non-conformist, and piercing insights. They often involved adopting a degree of “I don’t give a fuck” or “take the fight to them”, approaches he had learned to use in his own life but that were very new for me. He had a strength and resilience in him, a quiet combative spirit that I, at times, found a bit awe inspiring. He was a younger guy and the things he said still carried a bit of naďveté / hot-headedness at times, but more often than not he was almost like a sage to me. It was so inspiring to me how someone who could have been exposed to so many bad influences, someone who had endured so much emotional hardship could turn out the way he did, because I assumed that broken homes always lead to broken kids (partially because that’s what my parents and close relatives believed). He always tried to be there for me and give words of wisdom and encouragement, even when he couldn’t do anything to help.
All of this was topped by the fact that despite my first impressions of him as a social dummy, he turned out to be a very kind and caring guy. He often fussed over me and tried to help me do many things, even though he absolutely had no clue where to begin (practical things definitely aren’t the strong suite of you guys). He was physically quite clumsy and awkward and was really absent-minded, which often led to me lashing out at him. He never really took these little fits of anger personally and always tried to see the best in me. Though he rarely said it, I could tell that he really appreciated my care for him and tried to see our complementary traits. However, looking back, I now know that every time I lashed out at him for being a bit “weird”, he did in fact feel a bit upset but he tried to hide it and get over it for the sake of our friendship. He was the kind of person that wasn’t afraid of making mistakes (I, in contrast, NEED things to go the way they were planned or I’d feel frustrated) and always tried to see the best. That meant we were able to avoid many situations that could have erupted into full blown arguments, and I knew the potential for much greater conflict had I been with someone who was just as J as me.
He had like two sides to him. He wasn’t in any way double-faced or devious, but it was his super carefree side versus his very sensitive, guarded, conflict-averse side. As carefree as he looked on the outside, he was not someone you would want to make angry. No, you simply don’t push him or you’ll regret it. The few times I did because I thought he was too unusual and wanted him to change, and tried to make him feel bad about himself, he instantly put up castle walls and struck deep within me by making me feel like I had been living life the wrong way by being so “normal”. He really MADE me afraid to lose such a wonderful soul like him, and deep down I knew I would feel very sad if he decided to no longer see me. It usually didn’t take long for him to return to normal after I apologized to him and told him I really cared about him, but over time as the number of these exchanges grew (despite how much I wanted him in my life, there were times where I felt a bit embarrassed being seen with him because something about him was a bit “off”) I could feel his growing disappointment towards me.
Eventually we just clashed more and more over what I perceived to be his eccentricities and his unconventional views when it came to family, people, life, and stuff. I became increasingly frustrated by his lack of aptitude when it came to handling RL stuff, and by his general strangeness. We even went on a trip to Thailand and he really wanted to enrich my experience by telling me what he knew about the history, the culture and the people. All I wanted to do was to take photos to show my other friends, I got him to take photos of me and with photography not being his thing, I constantly berated him for his lack of ability to do something “everyone else can do well.” Again, he tried to swallow it all because he knew I was better than that. However, he eventually stopped telling me more about the places we went to because he could feel I simply wasn’t interested. I saw a deep disappointment in him.
There was an incident during the trip I haven’t forgotten. One day, I gave him a hard time because he did not smile at the waitress when we went to a restaurant. I harshly criticized him for his lack of proper etiquette and social responsiveness, and made him feel like a nobody. He turned around and began sobbing. Instead of trying to comfort him, I told him to stop because I didn’t want to be embarrassed out in public. A few minutes later he asked me: “If one day, you suddenly found yourself abnormal in the eyes of others, how would you cope?” I didn’t want to give up my berating of him and said: “It would never happen.” He said “never say never.” Leading up to that, I told him that I only wanted to be like everyone else and not be “special”, yet he had always wanted to make me feel special, to feel beautiful. He had been critical of me at times for my relatively spendthrift habits when it comes to clothes, bags, shoes and the latest fashion trends. He constantly reminded me to look at who I am on the inside, that these things will only leave me wanting more and more. He was also critical of me when he felt like I was being too much of a people pleaser or pushover, and constantly urged me to have solid values when it came to my own autonomy. He said being with someone who has so little consistency and sense of self, someone who constantly changes values and morals depending on the people and the situation made him feel unsafe.
After dinner, on our way back to the hotel, he tried to apologize towards me (although I was clearly wrong) but I did not want to let go of my pride and pushed him away. He walked up to me, stood there, and we stared at each other. Holding back tears in his eyes: “Out of my sight, NOW!” I froze there, being absolutely shocked. The one who was normally so forgiving towards me, I forgot the fact that he had feelings, and they were running deep. “NOW!” We went our separate ways for the night. The next few days were awkward.
After returning to the US, we didn’t see each other for a while. It didn’t take long until hard times hit me again. People-related issues. I wanted to cry, I texted him and was literally desperate for his forgiveness and help. His reply was: “Why do you have the audacity to come to me for help again?” I was really desperate at that point and begged him to forgive me. “With your knowledge of this odd and absolutely despicable man, what do you think he’d say? What do you think he’d tell you to do?” And then, no more. I ended up losing a couple of so-called friends.
A couple days later, I wanted to make up with him, and I sent him another series of texts asking for his forgiveness, but I ended up getting a pre-contemplated text from him that would the last I ever heard from him. He said he was completely upset and disappointed with me, how I had toyed with his expectations, how he was exhausted after having given what he could give despite being not very happy himself. This was someone who always wanted me to be myself, to stand up for myself despite his own difficulty in asserting himself. This was someone who wanted me to see my own beauty even when I didn’t want to see it myself. Yet I was never able to give him a real me.
2 years has past and I’m 2 years older but I don’t know how much wiser. The reason why we never really took off was probably because we just got so comfortable with each other, but I still had reservations about taking things further with him because despite everything he was (and hopefully still is) and everything he tried to do for me, I still didn’t think he would be someone I could “present”, someone who fit the norms I adhered to (despite finding so much wisdom and guidance in his ways). I really wish I had a lot more to offer him, I really wish I had the capacity to connect with him on a much more profound level. I still miss him, and I am afraid I might never be able to meet someone quite like him, whether a friend or a romantic partner. He was truly unique among everyone I knew. If I ever see him again, I think I’d hug him tight, maybe kiss him, and not let go, but I would be worried that he might be suspicious of me after all I’ve done to him.
When we were still hanging out and doing stuff together, I was 28 and he was 24. He was unemployed and absolutely hates the idea of having to work for money, politically he was against governments, and he never made it shy his hatred for authoritarian regimes but he didn’t see the US as good guys either. He often waited for me in the area I was working (I work in journalism and this newspaper covers domestic and global issues). Whether it was rain or sunshine he always tried to be there, and he often got me whatever I needed (or didn’t need, but later realized I had use for it after all). He couldn’t drive (he just didn’t like it and he feared driving) so it often meant taking the bus. He lived an hour away, excluding traffic. One time we drove to dinner together, I had finished work late and he was in the front seat. He was tired and fell asleep for a bit. I couldn’t help but fix my eyes on his long hair and there was just something to his eyes closed and his lips. That time I really felt he was so cute, and although we were only platonic friends, I almost had the urge to touch him gently. He had been doing everything a boyfriend, perhaps even a husband would have done for me.
To all of you INFPs (and other NFs) here, I would like you to know how great you are. You may not be the most suited to this world, but I am certain that the world would be a worse place without people like you. I’d go as far as saying that it’s you guys that are too beautiful, too complex for this simplistic world that’s often concerned with the wrong things. I hope you’ll stay true to yourselves and not change who you are. You have so much to give, even when it may not be what the world thinks it needs NOW. You have so much depth, so much intelligence, so much warmth and kindness to give. I worry that some of you may even be giving too much when it isn’t making you any happier. Never, ever believe that you’re worthy of all the pain and hardships and misunderstandings you go through.
I now know I was insecure and jealous because I was presented with a way of viewing the world, of living life that was leaps above what I could understand at the time, I was envious that Josh (his name) knew more than I did despite the fact that he was a bit younger and seemed like an outcast. I was like “how could this be?” He did have Some of my behavior, which I now realize was borderline bullying at times when I “half-jokingly” made jokes at him. I deeply regret. He got me into typology, actually. He’s INFP 4W5. I bless him with all my heart and I really hope he can find someone who can cherish him for the rest of his life. I was much more of a Taker than a Giver. I will always remember his final words to me. Despite everything: “Anh, even when you feel hopeless, I wish you can have the strength back to know you’ll find your place. Some people, if not most people will never truly be worth your time. Don’t care about what they think. You’ve got to remember that 99% of people in this life, you see them, they see you, you never see each other again. Focus on making the 1% great. I would still like to believe you are wonderful, you are beautiful, I still do and I really wish you will know that. I really wish you could have understood me and appreciated me, but it turns out you are incapable of seeing another truth after all. I miss you but I don’t know, I am afraid you’ll go back to telling me how much I suck. I don’t have time for that anymore. I guess this is it. Thanks for everything you’ve done. Tam biet. Anh yeu em.”
I am telling this very personal story to let you know that I’m really glad to have you guys sharing the human experience with more common types like mine. You really don’t have it easy and I feel your gifts bring you more profound pain than many of us because you always wish to see a world that’s a better place, yet you often feel so powerless. As misunderstood as you often feel, I hope you’ll know that if you were really gone someday, there would be people mourning the loss of your presence in their lives. I thought I had everything, until a “weirdo” taught me so much about life, much more than I ever could have imagined, even now I question whether most of us are as “sane” as we think we really are.
I would go as far as saying that every S should have at least one INFP / NF friend. Even if they can seem a bit “out of place” from out point-of-view, impressions can be extremely deceiving, and the way I learned it..... Whoa.