Please forgive me, upon occasion I dip into highly personal topics that do not focus on digital libraries. Since this is one of those times, you may wish to avert your eyes.
Yesterday at ALA Midwinter I ran into someone I knew who was active in LITA and she asked me why I didn’t show up at the LITA Happy Hour, an event that I have frequently attended in the past and have enjoyed.
I was forced to confess that I am an introvert – a highly functioning introvert, but an introvert nonetheless. In the previous days and nights leading up to the event I had been out with people every night. I badly needed some down time.
Left to my own devices, I might not have been out at night at all. But I was either wise enough or lucky enough to marry an extrovert who has had a very positive effect on my natural tendencies to shutdown socially. Between her extrovert nature and my desire to make a public impact on my profession, I find myself in more social situations than I would naturally participate in. And that is a good thing.
But it also means that sometimes I must simply withdraw. I can’t always be “on”. I can’t always be in a crowd. In fact, I find being in a crowd to be extremely off-putting. During this same trip I had other opportunities to socialize with large groups of people. You can call it whatever you want, but I call it a challenge.
Thus is the life of a high-functioning introvert.
I speak to large audiences. I do things that any self-respecting introvert would shrink from doing. And yet I do it nonetheless. Many of these activities I enjoy, but I can only take them in small doses.
So if I spurn your event or politely decline your invitation out, please don’t take it personally. It is likely that I really do enjoy spending time with you and your friends. It’s just that I sometimes need to not be with anyone. An introvert gathers strength by being alone, an extrovert gathers strength by being with others.
I might be inclined to think that this trait is a serious deficiency have I not seen the other side. I know that the opposite of my situation is no better. When you need to be in the company of others to be happy it leaves you unable to be content alone. I doubt that is better, in the end. It is simply different.
I acknowledge the benefit of not being a hermit. Those who are very extrovert might also want to acknowledge the benefit of being sufficient within yourself. Perhaps then we can all exist with more mutual knowledge and respect of some very different ways of being ourselves in a society that recognizes a variety of ways of being.
There are times where I will push myself to be among a large group of people. I am often happy that I did. Every now and then, if you are a serious extrovert, you may want to push yourself to take a long walk alone. You may be surprised that you are happy that you did. Maybe even one day you could aspire to be a high-functioning extrovert.