The Internet has been inundated this year with the same link-baiting articles about how to tell if you’re an introvert, how to handle your introvert loved one, what introverts are really thinking, which of your favorite dead celebrities were introverts, if introversion was a One Direction song which would it be and so on and so on. This strange trend of talking about introversion like it’s some sort of rare condition that must be studied just makes me feel like I’m watching a perpetual National Geographic program, with silent little lone wolves being tracked with telephoto lenses.
“The solitary creature known as the introvert likes hugs…but not too tightly now!”
The stupid word has probably been hashtagged as much as twerking this year.
Meanwhile, I recently talked to someone with a bit of knowledge in the area. Yes, they don’t work for Buzzfeed and they’ve “never gone viral”, but I guess having an advanced psychology degree will just have to be enough for me this time. Anyway, this person matter-of-factly stated that I am an introvert, which threw me at first. How the hell could I be an introvert of all people? I’ve worked in event management, broadcasting, and the ultimate “look and pay complete attention to me” job—working in education. I’ve been told I’m fun at the bar and naturally funny. I’m actually pretty good at navigating in a variety of social circles, despite being a bit loud, off-putting at times and frankly, being a bit of an asshole. For some reason I sort of believed for all these years that if you are a brash asshole, as opposed to an icy and distant asshole, you automatically couldn’t be an introvert. But, due to the common confusion of “shyness” versus introversion, we all kind of have been perpetuating the wrong definition of it amongst ourselves for years.
In order to function in social settings, introverts have this hidden meter that they must keep at a certain level in order to deal with people. They regenerate and become socially acceptable again, by engaging in solitary activities, or isolating themselves for periods of time. The psychology student I know also pointed out that introverts love jobs where they work alone all day.
So I am a writer. Strike one.
I was well known in college as the girl who was the life of the party, throwing back drinks, seemingly talking with everyone, having an amazing time. I was also notorious for being the first one to be half way across campus, heading for bed at literally the flip of a switch. Strike two.
At my job I spend a lot of time interacting with students on a constant level, assisting, talking with, tutoring, playing social worker to approximately 200 or more students a day. I really enjoy it, but when I get home, my ass is in jammies, in my room, doing online crosswords, or reading a book, while I listen to music that is only sold at yoga studios. The phrase, “oh, I didn’t know you were home” has been uttered by many of my confounded roommates when bodily functions that require a bathroom or a kitchen have forced me to crawl out of my lair.
Alright, I concede.
This realization explains why so many of the last eight years of Christmases have made me feel like I am suffocating under an avalanche of exhaustion. Eight years ago we started traveling to my mother’s husband’s family home for Christmas. There’s nothing intrinsically wrong on that front. I’m not bitter that my mom remarried at all, but keep in mind that for the first twenty years of my life the day never involved more than three people total at a time—either Dad or later on Grandpa, always Mom and then me. So when the “core” family, the smallest amount that will be around at anytime is now six, coupled with the constant revolving door of other family members, plus extended family, plus friends, plus all there little children, and I’m not in my house with a bedroom with a door that I can lock myself away in for at least two hours a day—the fatigue becomes unbearable.
Last year I put my foot down for myself for a number of reasons; I refused to travel out of town for the holidays. Firstly, I needed to finish my thesis or be prepared to extend my degree, and my checkbook, for another term. Unwillingly to do that, having seven days to literally hide in a suburban home, far from distractions while my family went to California is the sort of thing a writer must seize when given the chance. Honestly though, I think I had reached my limit. Christmas now means it’s a month until the anniversary of a death of a loved one, and last Christmas was my first one without him. I had spent every ounce of energy over the previous eleven months keeping my shit together, trying my hardest to be normal, to do things like take showers, go to school, go to work, seem engaged during conversations, not cry every time the wind blew a different direction and not do something like smack my head until I was concussed so I would feel something different. Sorry, I didn’t want to fake another smile in 2012.
I don’t remember a lot about last Christmas other than a page count and the pain I got in my back from typing all week, but I don’t remember being overwhelmingly lonely either. There were cuddle sessions with the family dogs, Christmas movies in the background while I typed, comfortable clothes worn all week and tasty adult beverages consumed. I had to restock at the grocery store, so I did see humans once. But I don’t remember feeling intensely exhausted at the end of the week either. If normalcy is a thing that one can actually reach, I feel like my hermit week helped me climb as close to the summit as I will ever get.
This year the new family decided to try something different this year—the big wings of the family stayed in their respective states while the lone matriarch traveled between them all. Jury is out but from my perspective it’s been as close to comfortable as I’ve been in years. It’s small, I can wander off to read or write, and if all else fails I’m at least in the same town and can bail to the place I have the privilege of paying rent for.
So during this time of joyous hell, anxious merriment, and “I love them” but “blanket cave…now” remember to be honest with yourself and others. Tell these people whom you do love, and who actually love you, the truth. I need to regenerate so I don’t strangle a small child who is somehow related to me. I need to watch an adorable cat video alone in the dark of the guest bedroom so I can forget about my great-uncle’s casual racism.
I swear, I’m not mad, I don’t hate you and nothing is wrong, but if I can’t be alone for a few minutes I will be mad, I will hate everyone and everything will be horribly wrong.
And if all else fails tell them you’re a writer, because that alone tends to excuse all sorts of inappropriate, antisocial and deviant behavior—believe me.