I’m going to make a confession here that won’t surprise anyone I’ve spent time with in the past few years. If you knew me when I was younger on the other hand, you might think I’m making things up.
Here we go:
I’m an introvert.
That doesn’t mean I hate people. It doesn’t mean that I’m shy. It doesn’t mean that I would rather read than party. Well, in my case it could very well mean that last one.
Before we go on, we should probably talk about what being an introvert means. Whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert simply refers to where you get your energy and what drains you.
If you’re an extrovert, you love being around groups of people. It energizes you. Go to one large party and interact with 30 people, and you’re ready to go to a second or third party and could keep it up all night. If you’re an extrovert, you probably feel lonely when you’re alone.
Introverts need a break. They can go to the same party, but they’re probably not going to talk to 30 people. They’re more likely to find one or two good friends and spend the evening in a corner talking to them. If they don’t have a close friend, they could decide to leave after an hour. Introverts are fine on their own. They can feel terribly lonely in groups.
My uncle is an incredible extrovert. I look a bit like him, so I was often compared to and treated like him when I was child. I learned to idolize him and tried to be like he was. I went to dances, and when I couldn’t take it any more, I’d go outside or talk a few other people into going out to eat with me.
At parties I was loud and talked to everyone. Because this wasn’t a behavior that came naturally, I was bad at it. People said I was obnoxious. I often went home regretting most of what I had said and beating myself up about it, kind of like you might after spilling secrets once you’ve had a few rounds of drinks.
Attending conferences is a pure chore for me. I enjoy the people I meet, but after 12 to 14 hours of crowds, I have to be by myself to recharge and get ready for the next day. I can do parties, but I know the cost and how much I can handle.
If I’m totally drained, there is nothing more taxing than a sociable stranger on the bus. I’ll smile and respond, but in my mind I’m like:
I often hike or bike by myself. My wife isn’t a great fan of it, but lets me because she recognizes that I come back much happier and ready to interact with the world again. I’m in good company here. I think Jesus Christ was an introvert. I don’t mean that disrespectfully, but throughout the Gospels you find places where he went to the wilderness to commune with his Father, or to seek solace after receiving bad news.
I still like parties, but often my version of a party involves up to 10 people. Beyond that it’s a crowd.
Or if it’s been a busy day, I might just sit home and play my guitar, read some books, and watch Doctor Who, and I’m perfectly happy.