Back in July I wrote a post about Why I work alone and pondered the value of an extrovert vs introvert debate. Quite a few of you offered up your thoughts on the matter in the comments so I thought it would be a topic worth discussing more.
Suzy has kindly offered to weigh in with a follow up on her life as an 'extrovert fraud'...
"I'm an extrovert."
I'm sure this wasn't a lie at one point; I used to make lifelong friends in hotel swimming pools in cities across the country. I struck up conversation with every person to cross my path. First to arrive, last to leave. My days and nights were filled with parties and shows and road trips and, you know, just people.
I also loved writing and reading and art and music, but those things felt very isolating to me. You couldn't get together with a big group of friends and play piano. You couldn't go to a party and plant yourself in a corner with a notebook. At least, I, the extrovert, couldn't.
I honestly don't know what happened.
It might have been that summer that I lived in the mountains and began going for long walks in the woods by myself purely because there was just no one else around. Or it could have been the result of living in dorms for two years during college and feeling like there was always someone else around. Either way, after a few years of feeling increasingly awkward and annoyed and obligated, it came down to a weekend I spent out of town with about a thousand too-many friends when, after having locked myself in the bathroom for the fifth time in two hours just to get away from all the people, I realized it and said it out loud to the mirror, which appeared to be listening very intently and seemed just as puzzled as I was:
"I'm an introvert?"
This might sound ridiculous, but everything changed after that moment. Because up until that point, I almost felt guilty about spending time by myself: as though I were wasting moments I could spend with people. As though "alone time" was something selfish, something wrong. So this was like a present to me from me: the realization and acceptance of the fact that while I do need other people, because I think we all do, I get my energy from withdrawing to a quiet place and being alone. It makes me better able to function, better able to actually care for others and be more productive. I've become less anxious, less irritated with people, less ready to rip my hair out at a simple supper invitation.
But the change hasn't been purely physical, or purely relational, or purely anything. It's all connected, and when I discover something about myself and make the right changes, it touches on everything about me. So it makes sense that out of this realization came a burst of creative energy. All of the things that I'd previously enjoyed but never had time for, I made time for. I started writing, drawing, painting, playing, exploring, studying, reading, trying, experimenting... I stretched myself, gave myself projects that were hard. I threw them out, started over. When I sat down to work on something, I gave myself time for it, without worrying that I should be calling a friend up instead. Because I worked alone, I felt no pressure to do things perfectly the first time, or even the fifth time. I could put myself out there exactly when I wanted to, and by that time if no one else seemed to appreciate what I'd done, at least it was something I liked, so I didn't really care.
I started going to shows by myself, art galleries by myself, walks around the neighbourhood to look at graffiti and take pictures by myself. I found that I observed things so much better when I didn't have things filtered through someone else's opinion. I figured out what I actually thought about things, what I liked and didn't, and was able to take that back to my own work. To you, this might sound obvious, but it wasn't to me.
I'm not a professional by any means, and maybe I never will be--I quit my job as a receptionist to teach piano lessons out of my living room and take random design jobs for fun. But I like being in this place and enjoying this process and learning to take care of my sweet little brain so it can function at its max cap. Kind of like finding a pair of shoes that fits after wearing ones three sizes too small for years and years.
Thank you so much Suzy. Please visit Suzy's blog for more of her fantastic writing, hilarious musings and Taylor Swift bangs. You can purchase products featuring her designs here.
I hope to follow this up with more posts on the topic. Please leave your thoughts in the comments below.
Photo by Helmut Newton. Found on Pinterest (where else?)