On My Mind: Introversion
I am an introvert; A thinker, an in-my-head kind of gal. I prefer it there, it’s often less chaotic and noisy than the world around me. I’m also a bit of a creative workaholic. In my head, I have this ever-growing mental list of creative projects and goals I must finish in order to feel accomplished and validated. If i don’t work on these things, I get antsy and feel like I’m not making any progress in my career or in life.
Lately I’ve realized that my introversion has made me a “homebody”. In college, whenever my friends would invite me out to got bar hopping or dancing I’d pass, or maybe I’d go to the first bar then head out by 8pm. They’d call me an old lady and a party-pooper, and i’d laugh it off but always felt bad that they didn’t understand me and my need for alone time.
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about introversion and extroversion lately. I’m pretty sure that if I took a personality test, that I wouldn’t be 100% introverted, but probably closer to what Susan Cain calls an ambivert, someone who has both introverted and extroverted tendencies. I’m not at all shy or quiet, and actually come off quite blunt and outspoken. I don’t mind talking to large groups of people, but I don’t feel energized by that type of interaction. In fact it’s exhausting after a long enough period of time.
After watching this Ted talk from last March by Susan Cain. It’s absolutely brilliant.
When I watched this, a light clicked on somewhere. I felt like she totally got me. I then realized that the tiredness, and the run-down feeling I have come to call “normal” is stemming from the fact that I no longer have alone time to decompress and check things off that mental list.
Now here’s the kicker. The word decompress means something different to everyone. For a many, that probably includes coming home from work to have a glass of wine (or a beer), and watch tv for the rest of the night. Some might cook, or go to the gym, or listen to music. For me, I’ve come to find that what I crave most is just to be given uninterrupted time to work on personal projects. It’s crazy to think that more work is what I truly want and need to feel recharged, but it’s the inner focus that makes me feel at peace.
For the last 2 years, 95% of my day is spent surrounded by people and unwanted noise. I go from being crammed on a crowded train for 45 minutes, to working at my desk in a large open space with row upon row of wall-less desks where mini conversations are started on the fly. There are meetings and phone calls peppered throughout my day, breaking up my focus, forcing me to stop and start continuously. I should point out that they aren’t BAD interactions. The people I work with are friendly, and I acknowledge that communicating is just part of my job. Nonetheless being around this type of environment is exhausting. There’s no rest, no escape from these forced interactions.
I occasionally will try to block out the noise with headphones, but some days music is still a distraction in my ear. After work, I come home to my hyper active dog who barks non-stop if you don’t give him attention (but I still love him to pieces), and my boyfriend who’s usually been taking care of chores and the dog all day and wants some “us” time in the evening. And I don’t blame him for that. In fact, I often feel guilty for wanting to spend the last few hours of my day alone. This often results in me splitting the difference and sitting on the couch while I work on my laptop. I’m physically present for him, but mentally I’m trying to work.
This I’ve come to learn is not enough for him or me. Jeremy needs and deserves my full undivided attention. He deserves cuddle time, and conversation. On the other hand, I find the tv to be utterly distracting, and often can’t achieve the focus I need in my work.
I hate feeling guilty that I want me time. I hate it, but there are not enough hours in the day to accomplish what I need for mental health, and what we need as a couple.
I hold on to the notion that all will be different when we move back to San Francisco. Jeremy will work and I’ll either work out of home or find a quiet place to hole myself up in. It’s a comfort, even if it might not be true at first. I may not be able to accomplish the perfect working conditions, but I feel better just knowing what the progress will be made once we move.