Introversion and you (well, me)

Hello, Internet, it’s Friday, January 6th, and I’ve been hiding from people recently.

This was alarming, at first. I determined yesterday when I woke up that I would not be leaving the house, or, indeed, my pajamas. I bummed around all day, napped, read, played the guitar, napped some more, and spent altogether too much time on the internet.

Yesterday followed a day in which I dressed myself when a friend unexpectedly arrived at my door around lunchtime, and still managed not to leave the house until after 5pm.

Today I got up and changed right away, determined to be productive. I really, really have to do laundry. And I should definitely go to the gym. And the way my brain works, there is no sense doing laundry until I have been to the gym, because if I wash my only set of gym clothes (this may be the foundation of my problem) before I go to the gym, they won’t be dry until tomorrow and I will be keeping myself from exercising today.

(Please see this blog about how I don’t have a functional dryer at present.)

But the fact of the matter is, if I go to the gym, I will have to (gasp!) see other people. And then, because this town is small and I am generally quite a friendly person, I will (double gasp!) probably stop and talk to them. And normally, that’s not a problem. Not even a little one. But this week…

Ok, let me try and explain about being half introvert and half extrovert. Because that’s essentially what I am. I was raised by two introverts, so as a child I was quite obviously introverted myself. But as I grew up and moved away and started my life, I drifted farther and farther into the extroverted end of things, and here I am today.

Allow me to stop here and ask you to read this article, which my father once sent me because he thought it was brilliant and because my mother is more or less exactly the kind of person that the article is about. I saw it again a few months ago when a friend of mine posted it, simultaneously outing himself as an introvert to his social media network. It explains it well.

So, according to this article, I am not an introvert. I do not need hours alone every day. I am astoundingly good at small talk. I go to every party I can, I welcome opportunities to meet new people, and I actually enjoy first dates.

Here is my position:

Intro- or extroversion is like sexual orientation. It is not an either/or. It is a scale.

When people ask me about my sexual orientation (which happens all the time, in fact), I tend to describe myself as “mostly straight.” There is a scale for this already – the Kinsey Scale – which uses 0 to denote those who are “exclusively heterosexual” and 6 to denote those who are “exclusively homosexual”, with most people falling between 1 and 5. There is also “X”, which denotes those who are “nonsexual”.

On the Kinsey Scale, I would self-identify as a 1 or a 2.

Myers-Briggs has a scale for introverts and extroverts that basically puts “introverts” as 1 and “extroverts” as 5. And if that’s what we’re using, then I am a 3. Right in the middle.

The thing is, it is WAY MORE USEFUL to be an extrovert. For one thing, I’m in the arts, which is an industry that depends a great deal on teamwork, interconnected communities and talking shop. Secondly, somehow in the past 12 years, I’ve gone from being that kid everyone hated who’s teachers praised openly and whose classmates knocked down in the school yard, to an adult who is often the subject of sentences like “She knows everybody.” And the thing is, I like most people, so when I am in a situation where I have to see a bunch of friends and/or family members in a short period of time, I do everything I can to make that happen.

So I spend a lot of my life behaving like an extrovert. This is most obvious around the holidays.

For example, between December 15th and 31st, I traveled to Ottawa, then Toronto, then Montreal, then back to Ottawa, and then back to St. John’s, and in between the cars, buses and planes, I saw… (counting on fingers, stand by…) at least 45 friends and family members, often one immediately after the other or for days at a time. Then, I arrived home, worked, went to a party, and spent all of the 1st and 2nd with more people.

This is not a complaint. This was a very, very good time for me. But I should, perhaps, give myself a break for wanting to spend some time alone, with music, or the written word, or the internet, or television.

Because, frankly, when I’m in extrovert mode, I don’t notice how tired I am getting. But being with people – not just new people, but close friends, too, and even strangers I’m not expected to talk to – is, cumulatively, exhausting.

And sometimes, I just need to hide in my bedroom for a few days. When I emerge, blinking, into the sun (the metaphorical sun, of course, since it is wintertime in St. John’s), I will be a much better – and more pleasant – person for it.