An Extrovert’s War on Introversion
It happened during a conversation about my upcoming birthday. Unsure of what to get me, I noted to my fiance that I don’t need any more ‘stuff’ and to think of experiences, the things I like to do. I ran down a list of activities and then I found my speech landing on the gift of being somewhere that equates to being absolutely alone. Choking up a bit after hearing the words fall out, a part of me felt bad for every time I’ve come home in the last month and haven’t had it in me to engage or respond. The other parts of me knew this need was the truth — I should be okay with sharing such a thing with the guy I’m going to marry.
As an extrovert, I am struggling with a need for coveted introversion, especially lately. Starting another new job, moving to another new place, and feeling the pressures of these two variables against emotional survival has been more challenging than I ever expected or have ever experienced. The signals that led me to ask for such an odd birthday gift have been very strong but something I couldn’t really articulate.
After going through massive life changes a couple years ago, I’ve found that I call my parents when I’m happy — I haven’t called them in three weeks. I come home and feel like the paparazzi is in my house when it’s actually just my fiance wanting to share how his day went. I am also acutely aware of my capacity to interact with people after entertaining friends for the weekend or just having a long day at work — the tank is running low.
We continue to talk about the necessity of down time as we walk back to our apartment. I realize that in addition to all of the ‘new’, the constant stimuli of living in a city is really difficult for me. We moved to Boston from Connecticut last summer; the suburbs have plenty of space to avoid hundreds of humans at any time.
This overwhelming sensation may also stem from my roots as an only child. (I spent the majority of my childhood playing alone and loved it.) The phrase ‘only child’ has a negative connotation to some, so please let me clarify and say that yes, I played well with others, enjoyed group activities, and no, I was not spoiled with getting whatever I wanted. I grew up in a modest house with a grassy lawn on either side and a brook running in the back. My favorite part of that brook was the large rock that jutted out from the shallowest part of its tiny shore. Low, flat sections of rock provided the stepping stones to get out there, but once you stood on top, the world was yours. It sat below the rest of the lawn, which created a bubble-like effect where the sounds and surroundings embraced you for nearly 360 degrees.
I miss that rock. I miss having a little spot just for turning everything else off. I haven’t found that up here in Cambridge. I love this new place, but clearly I’m starving for a quiet piece of ground… and I had no idea.
Back to the birthday conversation, my husband-to-be found it helpful to hear all of these signals because he finds himself worrying he’s not doing enough, which in turn may cause me to push him away. We do tons of stuff together and I truly enjoy it (far more than I actually expected to after experiencing the opposite with my ex). He has noticed my patience waring thin, my responses getting shorter, and my stress level being fairly high. And as we talked it through, the heart of the problem is the need to be ‘always on’, meaning that when I’m in my office at work and the door is closed, it’s technically open. And when I’m in the studio, with doors closed, I can still hear the tv and know that I’m not really by myself.
Yet I love being near him. I love knowing I can walk in the room and kiss the top of his head. But I can’t ignore how difficult it has been for me to wind down. I hate this hardship. It’s not who I consider myself to be. I’m not a cold, emotionless person needing to work in a dark cave. However, if you offered me a few hours in a bunker I’m sure I’d take you up on such an offer. But damn it, why do I want and need to hide, and from what?
I think when I owned the two companies, the chase of business development really burned down my social and emotional repositories. While this feels like a delayed reaction now, at the end of the day, shiny new things are ephemeral distractions. Who I really am is grasping for the off switch to regulate an infectious disease of entrepreneurship, where life is an opportunity for growth in a variety of capacities. I can’t help but see these possibilities in experiences, people, and my day job (for me, this defines the fibers that define passion).
So, in the end, we’re going to go shopping for some new winter running gear. This will support my decision to schedule runs during the warmest part of the afternoon to maintain an positive part of my life that provides some of the highest quality solitude one can find.
Per my shift in more yoga + less running, I think I need to take it a step further and remind myself why I started running and why I still do.
I run to explore, to process internally, and get fresh air.
If I run to explore, I should consider my surroundings and seek out a small plateau of stone, grass, or other material. I may have to stop and sit, I may completely ruin my pace and increase my overall time, but the benefits of less ‘paparazzi’ and more inner peace is worth every second of ‘pause.’