I am an introvert. That doesn’t necessarily mean I’m shy, or that I hate people, or any of the other million things I know you’re thinking right now. If you don’t know the difference between introverts and extroverts, take a moment and click on over to Buzzfeed and check out their articles (full of pie charts and happy things!) about understanding your friends, whichever they may be. Click here: Introverts or here: Extroverts.
This is my story; a glimpse if you will into the life of an introvert.
I get really cranky and exhausted when I’m around people for too long without a legitimate break. In my case, I live with my family, and my mom works from home, so typically I’m never ‘alone’. Sure, she’s working in her office, but I can just sort of feel her there, ready to walk in on me any second, and more than likely ready to give me things to do if I’m not in the middle of something that’s life or death. I’m always in the middle of something, even if it’s just web surfing (it’s called RESEARCH). Nevertheless, I feel like I have to be at attention at all times so I don’t look like I’m a lazy college graduate who still needs to get a job (which is only half true. The needs a job part is true. Not the lazy part). It’s exhausting to say the least.
When you factor in that I’m running full-steam ahead often for weeks at a time, it easy to see how I could burn out. Hard. When I say I need alone time, I don’t mean I lock myself in my room and ignore everyone else in the house. I’m saying that I need to be the only human (or at least the only human I’m acquainted with) in about a 3 mile radius. I put my phone on airplane mode and just breathe. That’s the only way I can recharge. So when everyone else finishes their work for the day and wanders home (or out of her office in my mom’s case), they are totally ready to relax, while I just want to get away from everyone. “You’ve been alone all day!” they say, but really, I haven’t. I’ve been working on things all day, sitting at attention in case someone walks in to see if I am, indeed working on something. It’s agonizing.
Every once in a while, my mom actually has to go into the office building that houses the company she works for. This requires a day-long trip, which means I get the house to myself. As much as I love my family (and I really, REALLY love my family) those days when I have my space, when I’m really ACTUALLY alone (except for various pets, and the nice old neighbors who never bother me), are my favorite. I get crazy amounts of things done. I usually clean the entire house, do some yoga, think of a million recipes I want to try, and work through whatever writer’s block I’ve developed. It’s insanely cathartic. I don’t usually need more than a day of alone time every couple weeks or so, but when I need it, I need it.
I don’t think I realized quite how introverted I was until college. Before that I would just hide in my room and read a book. Once college rolled around though, it got harder. I needed my own space, which everyone knows doesn’t exist in a college dorm room. It was made worse by having a new roommate every year, so I was constantly in a shared space with someone I didn’t really know and who didn’t understand that I needed them to go away so I could recharge. I quickly learned the layout of the entire town because I wandered it so much trying to get space. I frequented the tops of parking garages, cafes, bookstores, and went to movies by myself. All of these worked to some extent, but about once a month I would take the bus (or drive once I got my car) to the nature center or the student religious center and find somewhere to sit and breathe. The nature center was always iffy because there were other people walking the paths, and everyone thinks you’re suspicious if you’re by yourself, but the religious center was actually pretty perfect because people would assume I was praying or something and not bother me. Once I moved back home, I would drive to the mall and wander, or go hiking. When you’re an introvert, you take what you can get, and in the absence of actual alone time, I’ll take ‘alone in a sea of people I don’t know’ anytime.
So, that being said, here are my tips for living as a introvert and still being social.
1 – If you don’t live alone, find other places you can go to be alone.
2 – Set aside time to go to those places. If your friends want to make plans during those times, tell them you’re busy. (But try not the schedule your alone time at the same time as your daily 2pm meeting. That’s just rude and unprofessional.)
3 – Do something that you want to do that no one else wants to do with you. This is the time to go see that movie you’re excited about that everyone else thinks is stupid. You can go to the movies in the middle of the day and laugh really loudly because there’ll be no one else there to care.
4 – Educate those around you about what it means to be an introvert. Send them the handy Buzzfeed link at the top of this article and make them read it, then answer any questions they still have nicely.
5 – Make sure they understand that you might need to put your phone on mute or do not disturb or something during your alone time, so they don’t freak out and think that you’ve fallen off the planet.
6 – Take as much time as you need. Some of us only need 20 minutes once a week, while others need an entire weekend once a month, and others still need every evening after work or they will go completely insane. There is no average amount of time that introverts need to be alone (and someone asking every five minutes if you’ve had enough alone time completely negates any alone time you may have actually just had).
Once you’ve had your alone time, you’ll be ready to face the world head on and conquer whatever challenges await you. Good luck!
Until next time,