I always used to assume that I’m an introvert. I have even blogged about it! I get tired easily, especially around people; classic flag of an introvert. On top of that, in new situations, among new people, I can be a little shy until the moment I feel like I have found my footing and understand my place in a new group. I’m not always quick on my feet either; I like to listen, but until I’m comfortable in a situation, I don’t pipe up myself. This is something that only developed in my adult years, probably a self-defense mechanism from years as a bit of a precocious child who felt a little – hmm – out of place among her peers.
So, the past few days, I’ve been confused by myself. The past few months, really. Maybe even since last winter, when I attended the Canadian Design Bloggers Meetup, my first meet-strangers-from-the-Internet experience. Each event I attend*, each time I meet new people, each time I put myself out there among strangers with whom I may or may not click, I leave on an adrenaline high, already checking my calendar for the next time I get to do it all over again.
But wait. An introvert is supposed to be left exhausted by interaction, particularly large groups. And I have experienced that exhaustion. In fact, I regularly experience that exhaustion. But, here’s the thing: over the last few years, most of my social interaction has been with very close friends and with our church community. I love spending time with our friends – there’s no expectation, no assumption of behaviour and knowledge. On the other hand, I am the youth leader for our church. Weekly, I hang out with the high school age kids, talking about world issues and faith and the church. Of course that’s exhausting: preparing, leading discussions, teaching, encouraging thought. Is it possible that the task overshadows my interactions with other groups and people within the community? Is it possible that, within that context, I can’t turn it off, can’t sit back and enjoy the company of others without placing certain expectations on myself? And, therefore, without coming away from it exhausted?
After the NaNoWriMo halfway party, followed by a write-in at the Random House offices, I think I’m finally ready to set aside the cloak of introversion. In a way, I think that is how a lot of people use the personality classifications, certainly how I used it, anyway, as a way to explain away behaviour and personality ticks. But can we actually be explained so easily? Are we not more complicated than a stereotype?
I thought a first that I would, instead, embrace being an ambivert – one who lands firmly in the middle of the spectrum, one who enjoys both time alone and time in groups. While I think it would likely be correct, I realize it’s not the point. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what we are – extrovert, introvert, ambivert. One way or another, we don’t need to let these words define us. We don’t need to stay in need little lines, in neat little boxes. So, I guess I’m an introvert who sometimes looks and feels like an extrovert, but some weeks will decide to remain perfectly balanced as an ambivert.
* Since I began this blog, I have been to three blogging events, one photography photo walk, and, as of this past weekend, three NaNoWriMo events.