If you had asked me ten years ago whether I thought I was an introvert or an extrovert, I would have probably yelled, “Extrovert!” at the top of my lungs. If there was anything I was sure of then, it was that. What I’ve learned with age, though, is that I’m no longer sure of anything – and I very rarely yell things at the top of my lungs anymore.
According to my mother, I have always been a “people person.” My brother and sister are significantly older than I am, so I had to find playmates outside the family. I was always wanting to do things that required more than one person: playing Monopoly, attempting Double Dutch jump roping, putting on more-than-one-woman shows. You get the idea. In order to actually do the things I wanted to, I had to round up friends. Fortunately, I lived in a neighborhood with lots of kids who also liked to play, so I took full advantage of it.
During middle school, there was a whole gang of boys and girls who roamed the neighborhood, doing all sorts of crazy stuff. We’d climb trees, mess around at the gator-infested lake, ride bikes barefoot, and play hours of Galaga at the 7Eleven. I loved being around all those kids from after school until the sun went down and all day during the summers.
My love of socializing carried into my adulthood as well. When I was a drinker, I used to love to go sit at a bar somewhere with friends and have some (ok, many) beers and laugh and talk. As I got older, I loved to host family holiday gatherings and barbecues and parties for my kids. I filled my weekends with all sorts of social engagements with all sorts of people, and I loved every minute of it. It fueled me.
What has surprised me lately is that I have found I’m becoming much more INTROVERTED as I age. Don’t get me wrong, I still love to go out to lunch with friends and celebrate birthdays, and I’ll even hang at a bar with my club soda. I just don’t find myself filling up calendar with as many social engagements as I used to. Maybe it has to do with the fact that I removed that good ol’ social lubricant, booze, from my life. Maybe I’ve had the kinds of life experiences that have shone a light on what’s really important in life. Maybe I partied too loud and too hard in my youth. I don’t know.
Introversion sort of sneaked up on me gradually, I think. One weekend I noticed I had absolutely nothing going on. My son was with his dad, and my daughter was busy doing her thing. I had nothing on the calendar – and I didn’t care. I didn’t worry that I might be missing out on anything. I was glad to be able to sit or sleep or read or do absolutely nothing at all. It wasn’t an epiphany per se, but it was definitely a “huh” moment. I kind of liked it.
I find now that while I still love to get out and meet people and socialize, I really need a little decompression time afterward. When I was younger, all that contact with others was energizing. Now, it’s a bit more draining. It feels weird to have been one way half my life and realize that I’ve changed in a small, but fundamental way.
So I suppose if I were to answer that question now – introvert or extrovert – I’d have to say I’m now an Extroverted Introvert. Or is it an Introverted Extrovert? Whatever it is, it’s working for me.