I walked away from my first birthday party.
I obviously don’t remember that, but to hear my mother tell it, my family was all there—parents, grandparents, maybe an aunty or two—to celebrate my very first year and I walked away. They found me playing by myself, perfectly contented.
At my graduation from high school people came from the woodworks to celebrate. Friends, family, friends of family, teachers, mentors, bosses etc showed up with cards and stories and smiles. After a couple of hours I disappeared into the field behind my house, then worked my way around and snuck into my bedroom to hide and be alone. My mother was mortified when she found me crying and refusing to leave my bed because I wanted to be by myself on such a special day. We elected not to have a party for my college graduation.
A few weeks ago I was at a party with a pretty big group of friends. I had a wonderful time, but when the sun went down and everyone was ramping up all around me, I went to the bathroom and didn’t—couldn’t—go back to the party after that. I went to my tent and read myself to sleep, listening to my friends laughing and hollering. In the morning one of my buddies said, “you disappeared last night.” All I could say was, “I do that” and smile.
I didn’t share those stories with you to make you feel sorry for me. I’m just an introvert.
I say that to people sometimes and they don’t believe me because I’m “so friendly” or because “I don’t seem like an introvert” and I tell them “that’s because you don’t know what it is to be introverted.” Yes, I’m a friendly human. I’m outgoing and I like to talk and laugh and be around other people too. I like being invited to play with friends and I like to be included in the game.
But playing takes a lot of energy and I need time to be alone and quiet.
I read about introversion and the way most people write about is like, “they need time to recharge” like introverts have a human interaction battery that wears down faster than other people’s. Not really. It has less to do with spending time with other people than it does with giving time to ourselves. While ‘recharging’ is a term that most people can understand, and it makes sense to a degree, it isn’t like plugging your phone in until it has enough charge to last through the night.
I would rather spend weeks alone than spend any time with anyone that has zero impact on my life.
I enjoy my own company and I enjoy the quiet. If I choose to go do something with another human, or a group of humans (especially a group), it means I value those people. And when I ask someone to hang out with me or to visit me, I’m not doing it just to hang out with anyone, it’s because I specifically want to see that person. Further, if the person I want to see is busy, I’ll most likely spend time with Maiven (dog sidekick). This isn’t because I don’t have more people to call, its because when I want to see A person I don’t want to see a different person.
My friend circle does stay pretty small. It’s not purposeful, it just happens. Imagine for a second being an esoteric herb healer with a tendency toward imaginative storytelling and deep thought that also happens to be introverted. We all have our own role to play in this universe and that one is mine, so along with being someone okay to do without consistent interaction, I recognize that I’m a bit strange to most of the other humans around.
I often find that while I can sort of like everyone in a group of people, I really want to be friends with only one or (if I’m lucky) two of them and because I can get overwhelmed with groups of people around me, I tend towards seeking one-on-one connections with the people I like.
I’ve given this a lot of thought recently because I noticed that when my friend people are around, it’s a lot easier for me to interact with a group. Most of the people I consider friends are people that know my overwhelm and are still attentive to our individual connection while in a group. I’m not sure whether or not this is a conscious thing that my friends do, but I so appreciate that because I’m often quiet when there are a lot people—not because I feel shy or because I have nothing to say, it’s because in that moment with the voices and the movement and the energy, I get that feeling best described as: when you have a lot to do and can’t seem to do anything.
I think it’s important to mention that the length of time I can spend with another person before I start to feel agitated (for the lack of a better word) varies.
There are people that I can’t be around for 10 minutes without walking away and there are other people that I can give a few hours to. I can count on my fingers and toes the people that I can spend days with and I can count on one hand the people that I don’t need to set a time limit for.
Because this note is about my introversion and how that effects me socially, I’ll leave out other sensitivities and drives from this musing. What I will say is, though it isn’t the only thing at play in my decisions, it is part of my deepest nature and something that I need to give space to in my life. I’m constantly learning how that works because it’s a little different in every situation. I can go from being comfortable and chatty one minute to totally silent and awkward the next—actually this happens all. the. time. and it isn’t something I’m trying to overcome.
So if you see me at a party and I’m by myself at the fire or playing with the dog or just sitting quietly in the group, it’s because I’m a little overwhelmed. Eye contact or a hug (please ask first) or a quiet conversation is great (ask me a question other than “how are you?”) because if I didn’t want to be there, I would leave.
Know that if I ask you to play with me, I’m asking because I want to see your face and hear your voice. Not that I think this should make you feel pressured or blessed or whatever, but it is entirely possible that I won’t hear another human voice that day, at least not one I’ve specifically asked after.
If you invite me somewhere and I tell you no because I’m going to read or put oil on my head or something, it’s not because I don’t like you—FYI I would tell you if I don’t like you—it’s probably because I need some space. I am working on getting better about being honest when I need space.
What I really want from this rare, clear message [inner wench, loudly: “what, they don’t understand the poetry?”] is to be understood, and to understand it a bit better. I haven’t been particularly skilled at explaining this side of me when I’m in it so I have been spending time thinking on it and this was the method that came for sharing.
If you actually read this, thanks, it means a lot that you’d read 2.5 pages of something so personal to me. As always, I welcome questions and comments but please be respectful.