On being introverted (Part 1?)

When I realized my life needed some work many months back a friend suggested I do some research into my personality. I did several tests of varying quality and came to the conclusion that I was introverted. I never really thought much about introversion vs. extroversion. I didn’t know what the difference really meant. I mean I have friends and like being around people right, Thats all extroversion really is, correct?

I’ve always had a wide circle of acquaintances in my adult life, but only a very few close friends. I usually have one or two best friends then two to three more close friends and then tons of friends who I’m only friends with on a surface level; people who I go to school or church with or share an interest with. I didn’t realize that only having a few close friends was a part of introversion, but it is. I don’t like letting people into my very innermost inner circle.

I also have learned that being introverted is why I do my best work in solitude. For example, I’m really struggling to write this while I watch two children right now, constantly losing my train of thought, but I won’t be alone until very late tonight so I have to deal with the constant noise of other people. At any moment Ace will walk in the room and just start talking to me, I’ll have to loose my entire train of thought at that point.

I’ve always been this way. I would sleep through classes in school and stay up doing my work alone in my room late into the night, until I felt it was good enough (good enough was a wide range depending on the class and my investment in the class). In college this translated to a lot of late nights alone. I actually loved my one semester in my dorm becuase my roommate was never around. I could go downstairs and get cheap easy food and then stay up late into the night working. When I was ready for a break I’d play some counter-strike on the schools high speed internet, which is something I had never had access to before. Part of me regrets not living alone longer. After one semester I was back at home because I already knew that NIU was a waste of time of money. The program I was in wasn’t what I wanted.

I didn’t live at home long though, I had experienced living away from my loud crazy home and wanted more. I started looking at apartments but my Mom thought apartments were a waste of money, “We have the money for the downpayment so you need to buy.” That sounded good at the time and ended up being a terrible decision that left me pretty broke later (but thats a story for another time). I didn’t feel right about living in a 2 bedroom condo by myself so I quickly invited one of my best friends to be my roommate. That didn’t last long, soon she was getting married and getting an apartment with her new husband. I had a very short time alone before Ace moved in. Not long after that we had our first roommate, we had roommates for the following five years, until we moved to Portland and purposefully bought a house too small to share with roommates.

In all these years I didn’t understand my introversion. I had a love/hate relationship with roommates. I hated the constant flow of people in and out of our second home. But I also loved it. We were a safe place for young people to gather and hang out, but I was so rarely alone. I kept my office a safe space. I could close myself off in there and work on long papers for school or just hide. Our large bedroom was also a sanctuary of sorts, when Mark was born I got a TV and spent many long hours holding him and watching TV from my new armchair. I went a little insane at that point from having no time alone at all. But having a baby that doesn’t sleep will drive anyone insane. We all went a little insane.

I didn’t intend this to be a history of my living situations when I sat down to write, but thats what can happen sometimes when you write. You find yourself in places you didn’t expect to go, but its good, you follow the trail where it leads.

I’m now living in Portland with only my family. I love them, I love them so much. But even this can be hard for me. I need alone time. I didn’t recognize this before, but I do now. This is what introversion is. Its a strong need for that alone time. We introverts need to be alone to recharge, to connect with our true selves, and to do our best work. I didn’t realize until recently how vital this was to my well being. I can’t be my best and be with kids 24/7. I need time alone to read, write, think, and just breath. I need it regularly and in larger doses than extroverts. I crave solitude, and have always struggled to find it, at least now I’m beginning to understand just how deep my need for it is.

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