On Being an Introvert in an Out-There World
I attended our state music education conference this past week, helping to man UAB’s recruiting booth. Lots of people, lots of noise, lots of chaos, all of it making me realize yet again that I am an introvert. Big time. The exhibit hall buzzes constantly with people talking, people trying to sell you their products, people playing instruments, people glad handing, people everywhere. I smile my biggest smile and shake every hand, but inside I am scheming for my next escape to a quiet, out of the way corner to recharge my batteries. Often.
People who don’t really understand what being an introvert entails are shocked when it comes up in conversation. “But you’re on stage performing!” “But you’re a teacher!” “But you are always so friendly!” Yes, but…Being an introvert doesn’t mean that you don’t like being around people or that you are necessarily shy- it simply means that you get your batteries charged by quiet, by being on your own, by drawing inside yourself, that crowds and small talk deplete you. I love people…in small groups. I am over the moon that most of my teaching is one-on-one clarinet lessons and small classes. In that atmosphere I feel energized, excited. When I am in large groups, I feel overwhelmed, tongue-tied, looking for the closest path to the door. It feels like I might hear Scottie from Star Trek say, “Cap’n, she’s gonna blow!” By blowing, I mean become a catatonic statue in the corner…in fetal position….possibly sucking my thumb. (This may or may not have happened in real life.)
A lot of musicians are introverts- it makes sense to me. We spend many hours alone in a practice room each day, and we don’t typically interact with our audience while performing. I love the thrill of performing and feel at home on stage or speaking to the audience, but greeting the crowds afterwards makes me feel like I’ve run the New York Marathon by the end of the line. It takes everything I have to engage with everyone. Writing is something that speaks to my introvert soul like music does…something that comes from solitary work and deep reflection. I always feel fulfilled after I practice or write or read.
I am thankful that I am married to an introvert, and we get each other’s need for quiet, for space every day. Once we are home from work, it’s into jammies for a quiet evening by the fire, a few chores, and talking or working on our computers. This is treasured peaceful time, and we need it to be ready for the next day of hectic interactions at work and the people we meet. We are not your big ‘head to the rowdy pub’ folks…more the candlelight dinner or grill out at home type. We enjoy entertaining a lot….just in small groups….but please don’t try to reciprocate- we both have a hard time making ourselves go to other peoples’ gatherings. We always appreciate the invitation and never mean to be rude, but going to a new place with a bunch of people we don’t know is a real challenge for us- it’s our Kryptonite. We do it occasionally, but only out of great love for the person who invited us…and we pay the price afterwards.
The world is so full of out-there people, people who get emotionally buzzed by big crowds and excitement, and I applaud them. We need those people in the world. I look at stadiums packed with thousands of people and I feel faint…I’ve done it before, but don’t think I ever would again. I’ll sit quietly on my couch at home to watch instead, thank you, the dogs at my side. The same goes for the gym- other than yoga class, I prefer to work out on my own, or walk with the company of my dogs. I like to text or email instead of calling (unless I mentally plan ahead). I don’t like ‘the pop in’- ever. Please don’t just show up at my door…I need time to mentally prepare for you to enter my space. And if you give me that time, I will welcome you warmly. If not, you may be greeted by the dogs instead while I hide upstairs, gathering my strength.
I have learned how to survive as an introvert in an out-there world; lots of time at home with Dan and the animals, time during the day to be quiet in my office or practice, time to write. I guard my time and my personal space. I truly love people and am known as a friendly, gregarious person, a good friend….but just know that each interaction takes something from me. I am always willing to gladly give you that part of me…but when you can’t find me later, I’ll be off hiding with a good book or listening to some music with headphones on, retreating back into myself, recharging for our next visit. I am happy drawing into myself- it’s a whacky but peaceful place to be. Give me some time, and I’d love for you to join me.