For half of the week, I’m surrounded by hyper little children, emotionally unstable teenagers, and intellectual conversation with great colleagues. I help facilitate group therapy, I meet with youth one-on-one for counseling, and I process these experiences with a clinical supervisor. For the other half of the week, my nose is burrowed in graduate school textbooks (or the occasional Facebook), in class discussions and group projects.
I’m caring for other human beings all the time and when I’m not, I’m with professors and classmates discussing human behavior and society. My mind is constantly on other people and my body is constantly with other people and often times, I’m talking about other people.
So it comes to no surprise to me that I’m slowly valuing and enjoying alone time. And this doesn’t mean alone time in front of my laptop, texting everyone and chatting away with everybody else who is online. I mean, alone and not having any social interactions whatsoever.
I used to be so offended when friends of mine requested alone time or to be left alone. Or, when I’ve lived with different roommates in the past, some of who were introverts and found it ever-so-troubling that they did not want to spend all this time with me. Energy thirsty, I’d pursue them even more, draining them of what little energy they have left.
But, alas, the tables have turned. I’ve grown increasingly less tolerant of conversations with people who talk non-stop (especially only about themselves, a growing pet peeve of mine), increasingly reluctant to hang out in large groups of people for long periods of time, and increasingly excited to find quiet time to read a book or study or run errands on my own.
So whilst I undergo this strange change from extreme-extrovert-who-ate-another-extrovert-for-breakfast to moderately-mild-extrovert-with-major-introvert-tendencies, please do me the following favors if you love me:
1. Do respect my alone time. I don’t get much of it anymore, so if I turn down a hang-out or don’t want a phone date, know that I still love you and really need some time to re-energize. Because I’m still a moderately-mild-extrovert at heart, sometimes my alone time means alone time while surfing social media and leaving comments here and there — but it usually means I don’t have energy to have a full blown conversation over a hashtag. I do enjoy brief social interaction when I can in my alone time, but still need space to not socialize.
2. Don’t be offended if I don’t respond. Nowadays, text messages rule the universe and suddenly, a text message is like a chatroom … that I can never leave. Remember when texts were like pagers and we used them to get one thing across? For some reason, texts have replaced phone calls. At least, with a phone call, you don’t have to pick up. I’ve learned that if I just am not in the mood or have little energy to have a conversation over text, I just won’t look at it or respond until I am. But, again, that doesn’t mean that what you say isn’t important. I just can’t talk at the moment.
3. Trust that when I am re-energized again, I will come at you full force with my extreme-extroverted-energy. Because at the end of the day, who am I kidding? I’m still an extrovert. I will text your ass off, I will chat your face to the ground, I will want to see you in person and have a bite to eat and I do love being around you. My friends and family are still the world to me and everything you say matters. And when I initiate, that usually is the sign that I am re-energized and ready to rendezvous.
In the meantime, I think this illustration of understanding introverts is charming and helpful: