I have a friend who’s an extroverted introvert: she loves to be with people, and sometimes you have to drag her away when you see that she’s tired. She’ll be chatty and the best conversationalist, until suddenly she’s completely and thoroughly exhausted, and needs to be by herself, in quiet, for the rest of the night.
Another friend is an introverted extrovert: she recharges around people, but you wouldn’t mistake her for the life of the party. Being around people makes her happy, and so does closing her door for the night.
Yet another who is your introverted introvert: she’s the sweetest to talk to, and so kind and considerate. And yet if you’re out and about, you’ll turn around and she’s gone. When she’s reached her limit for the night, she’s in the car, waiting patiently for everyone else to be done. She needs to be with herself, to recharge and recenter and reorient, and she can’t do that with other people around.
And then there’s me, the extroverted extrovert. I’m my best self when I’m around people. I love meeting new people and reconnecting with old, and a perfect day would be one where the only time I’m not actively engaged in conversation is driving between coffee dates. The lowest point of the day is when I get back from whatever I’ve done, and quietly shut the door to an empty apartment. It brings up all sorts of uncomfortable—and, honestly, unfounded—questions: will I always be alone? Why does no one want to be with me? Clearly since I’m not talking with someone in this exact moment, that means no one will ever want to talk to me and I’ll always be alone and never make new friends and why am I such a horrendous failure of a human being??
Ask me why I moved to a city where I know no one, and decided to live by myself.
For years, I idolized Dallas. It’s easy to do, when Waco is your home for four years. Bright lights, beautiful skyline, 1.2 million people all rushing and living and striving. I would be right at home. And then I moved here…go to Starbucks, go to work, go home. I was in my beautiful new city, yet couldn’t go out–with whom would I go?
A few weeks ago, I had this epiphany that I couldn’t wait for someone else to do things with me. Y’all, that is the most terrifying! What if people saw me by myself, and thought I didn’t have friends? What if they thought I did have friends, but that they were blowing me off? People would be curious. They’d make up stories about why I was alone, they’d judge me, and worse, pity me. If people are looking at me, I want them to be thinking something along the lines of “oh I love her shoes” or even “does she know she’s humming aloud?”…definitely not “bless her heart”.
But I knew I had to go.
The. Most. Intimidating. Thing. In. Life. And I played high school water polo. And rushed a sorority. And drove a stick shift through rush hour traffic in LA.
But you know what you learn when you’re by yourself? You learn that people don’t care. You learn to hear yourself react. You learn you’re an excellent conversationalist, even if it’s just an internal monologue. You take things at your own pace, you’re never rushed and never dragged. You order exactly what you want, you go exactly where you want, and you do exactly what you want. It’s the most self-edifying practice.
That doesn’t mean it’s easy. You have to actively derail the “people are watching; people are judging; you’re so embarrassing” train of thought, every time it cruises on by. Which is frequently, if you get your validation from others as much as I do. You have to be willing to be looked at, and judged, and not care. Which is counter-intuitive to anyone who likes people, and values the opinions and impressions of strangers. You just have to decide that your impression of yourself is more important.