“Do you consider yourself an introvert or an extrovert?” he asked me. We met just three hours earlier, and already our conversation had covered religion and poverty, our life stories, and now personal reflection. But this happens all the time when I get in a conversation with the unconventional-traveler types: in this case, a couchsurfer. This guy would sleep on my pull-out couch tonight, and continue on his way the next morning. I would probably never see him again, and that, I believe, is what drives travelers to waste no time getting into the deeper conversations.
I didn’t really know the answer to his question. So I tried to figure it out in his presence. “When I was little I was definitely an introvert — shy and quiet.” I thought back to those days of hiding out in my bedroom with a book or a craft project, convinced I was adopted. How else could I explain how I ended up with four siblings who were like pinballs — shooting around all over the house? Those pictures of my mother in a hospital bed holding a newborn that was supposedly me? Staged.
I moved forward to my early twenties. “I took the Myers-Briggs in college. That said I was an introvert. But I think I was on the border. Now that I think about it, what’s the real definition of the difference between the two?”
He smiled. I had apparently asked the right question to the right person. “Introverts have gotten a bad rap,” he explained. “People think introverts don’t want to talk to anybody. But that’s not it. It’s where you get your energy from. If you get your energy from being alone, doing solitary things, you’re an introvert. If you get your energy from being with groups of people, you’re an extrovert. I asked because you seem to float pretty easily between the two.”
I took this as a compliment and thought back to a boyfriend’s father telling me I was great “conversationalist.” Then, I remembered a party my company held for our clients back when I lived in Boston. I had been with the company just a few weeks and knew hardly anyone, so I grabbed a glass of wine and started chatting with people. Then I excused myself to get some food, and sat down next time at a completely different table, easily making conversation with whomever I met. I continued on that way for hours. The next day my boss said she thought I talked to more people that night than any of the other employees.
But where is it that I get my energy? I thought of the mornings I used to wake up and write for hours without realizing where the time went. The days I spent in bed reading a book I couldn’t put down. How much I loved cooking, my music blaring as I danced from fridge to stove to countertop. An introvert. Definitely. It all made sense.
Yes, I love to teach. And help people declutter. And I can hold my own at a party where I know no one. But then there are the days I spend roaming art galleries alone. Or entire cities. I’m the one who took off for Europe alone after college. I wanted someone to go with me, but all my friends had taken 9-5 jobs with only two weeks off. Extroverts might then choose to go with a tour company, or not go at all. Introverts choose to go it alone.
This doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy spending time with others. Quite the contrary. But it certainly explains why I feel so run down when my week is booked with commitments. It’s much harder to hold sacred the time you book with just yourself. But this weekend I managed to do it. And that is why you, my wonderful readers, are seeing this blog post right now.