I’ve always been a naturally introverted person. I get the most peace and satisfaction out of doing quiet “smaller group” activities/hobbies with close friends/loved ones (or even by myself) than I do in mass crowds of people I don’t know very well in loud/chaotic environments that I’m not quite familiar with.
This is not to say that I am not an open-minded person and that I do not try new things/experiences or enjoy meeting new people, I just approach it all a little differently than I think I should. Somewhat cautiously at times.
For instance, I truly believe that I’ve learned in my 30+ years of life that there are two very prominent versions of me (with subcategories of course). I touch on those subcategories here, but in a nutshell, there is the true introverted me and then there is the “pretending to be extroverted” me. I’ve taken the “test” and while I’m fairly close to the center (having both introverted and extroverted qualities), I feel more natural as an introvert and I’m reminded of this in extended situations where I am unable to “recharge” appropriately.
For example, last week I was on a business trip for the entire week attending a conference. Typically when I travel for work I usually build in one “solo day” (usually the day before business or day after business has ended) where I explore whatever city I’m in and gather myself prior to (or after) dealing with an extremely long duration of social interaction. I love this alone time. Doing this usually helps to reprogram my mind so that I appear “put together” and “well rested”. Granted, most of the people who attend the conference I went to last week are colleagues of mine (scattered across the country) in the field that “I know”, but it’s still draining to spend all day networking, collaborating and doing dinner/drinks to chit-chat about our lives outside of the office. I can lay on the charm decently enough I believe, as I’ve spent nearly a decade working on this “skill”. I laugh and smile constantly, compliment those in my presence, act genuinely concerned or interested in news (both good and bad) they care to share and I always wish them the best with all of their endeavors (and I mostly mean it). On business trips though–unlike an actual 8 hour work day, there is very little “off time”. From sun up to sun down there is consistent interaction and it’s draining. I can usually keep the energized extroverted version of me going for a good little while until I abruptly hit a wall and run out of gas. I can recall feeling somewhat “energized” earlier in the week and even earlier parts of each day, but towards the end of the week I had very little drive or motivation to be overly friendly and talkative and really just wanted to be alone. It was like the social side of my brain had gone on a hiatus. I remember attempting to have a quiet breakfast in the hotel on my last day of the trip, only to be met one after the other with an eventual table FULL of my colleagues who didn’t want me to have breakfast alone.
But that was the point.
It took me nearly a day after returning home to gather myself enough to jump back into my routine and even in making plans with my boyfriend, I opted for the day after my return and for a quiet evening “in” (as opposed to us “going out”). Luckily my very sweet boyfriend (mostly) understands this and “gets me” as he is also an introverted-at-times-pretending-to-be-extroverted, as well. Having my solo time the day I arrived home and then our lax 1-on-1 time “in” really helped me recharge socially in order to take on my week. It’s like I gained an extra boost of energy…that will later be depleted.
Speaking of the boyfriend and being social, I’m in this continuous cycle of basically meeting everyone in his life (which is very flattering, but at times overwhelming). I’ve met his best friends, his friend-friends, his co-workers, his boss, neighbors, S.O.s of his friends, old friends, new friends, acquaintances… and so on and soon to be his family (this weekend). As I mentioned a few weeks back, we’re heading to his best friend’s wedding (that he’s in) this weekend and because the wedding is in the town he “sort of” grew up in, we’re staying with his family.
While in the back of my mind I’ve sort of seen this as kinda being a “big deal”, the idea of it all really hit home while at his best friend’s soon-to-be-bride’s impromptu bachelorette gathering (I won’t go into detail about how last-minute and highly unorganized this was and how it almost interfered with our planned night in time). I sat there nursing a beer and chatting with the ladies (you know, “making nice”) because I want to be a good girlfriend and genuinely be warm and friendly to the people in his life. They are all either married, engaged or in longish-term relationships with friends of his.
They talked about the wedding and all of the activities in between and how much fun it will be! And how as a group, we were going to do all of these *really* fun things! All I could think of how the constant “togetherness” of being around all of his friends (and then family during times where we’re NOT doing wedding activities) was going to be exhausting. Like really exhausting. Fun, but the kind of exhaustion that may require some down time when I return home. I thought about how the only “down time” I’d have to really “recharge” would be the drive there and back where we’d have a few hours of just “us” time..but NOPE! Apparently as of today an out-of-town college buddy of his (who I have not met yet) will be joining us on this journey to the wedding so now even the car ride over and back will involve, “putting on the extroverted charm so that I don’t appear cold or distant”, social interaction.
This week I can’t even mentally prepare for all of that togetherness (for this weekend) because he wants me to meet old high school buddies of his that are in town this evening and more co-workers on Wednesday (I feel like when we started dating he didn’t even regularly hangout with THIS many people–wtf) And I can’t say no…what kind of girlfriend would I be (maybe a more socially energized one)?
Through all of this potentially social, stressful and draining hoo-ha, the one silver lining here is something his best friend’s wife told me on Saturday during our “girls afternoon out” that sort of put all of this into perspective:
I’ve never seen — so happy before and I’ve known him and my husband since college. Whenever I’m around you two, you have this really strong connection and I can tell you are both genuinely crazy about each other. It’s sweet. I remember watching the two of you interact a few weeks ago at dinner and it was THE sweetest thing. You guys just “get” each other and it seems like you’ve been together years.
He’s also very protective of his family and even — has only met his dad ONCE (in passing) and they’ve been best friends for like a decade! The fact that he’s intentionally taking you to MEET his family and stay with them is a big deal (to him).
We think the absolute world of you and we’re so happy that you two are together!
No pressure, right?
I hope this weekend doesn’t turn out like Crazy Rich Asians.