I is for . . .

IInternship. Intention. Intelligence. Introvert.

I can’t decide. My year-long internship should start this Fall, but I first have to complete a six month practicum. My intention is to graduate by the end of next summer, but perhaps I should have used more of my innate intelligence to better organize myself toward this end.

On a completely different note, I have recently been thinking about whether or not I am an introvert. Whenever I take a personality test along the lines of the Myers-Briggs, I generally score right in the middle, usually with a tiny preference toward introversion.

The definitions of introversion and extraversion (yes, that’s the correct spelling) have less to do with how much one enjoys meeting new people and more to do with how one gets one’s energy. Does being with people leave you energized or drained? If the former, you’re probably an extravert. If the latter, if you get energy from being alone and recharging, you are more likely to be an introvert.

People often confuse shyness with introversion, but shyness isn’t about where one gets energy, it’s about social anxiety. At a recent AWP panel, Networking for Introverts, the moderator introduced the intersections of shyness and intro/extraversion in which we find shy extroverts and calm introverts, i.e. extraverts with social anxiety and introverts who have no problem interacting at, say, a cocktail party.ExtrovertVSIntrovert

I’m pretty sure that I’m a shy extravert, even though I’ve almost always test as an introvert. I realize I do get my energy from being around other people. I love interacting with groups of people that I know. Not so much with people that I don’t know. If I have to meet a new group of people, I have terrible anxiety. But, I know that being alone is not how I get my energy nor how I renew. I love a peaceful bubble bath as much as the next person, but I’d much rather go hang out and drink beer with a bunch of writers and talk about our blogs. That’s what gives me juice, and I do just that at least twice a week. If you’re interested in reading more about Carl Jung and his thoughts on introversion/extraversion, check out this article from Psychology Today.

As I contemplate my counseling career, I am looking forward to spending my days listening to and talking with people day in and day out. I know I might be a bit naive at this point, and maybe I’m just anxious to be done with school and in the field already, but I am not good at small talk and enjoy diving into the deep stuff. Seems like it’ll be a good fit.

The Road to AROHO Day 8: Feel the Fear and . . . Well, Just Feel It

I am an introvert. Being around lots of people exhausts me. And it terrifies me. I am not one for idle chit chat, not very good at the “getting to know you” niceties that appear to be second nature to most other people. I knew this about myself before I set out on this adventure, yet I was unprepared for the ferocity with which my inner introvert roared into action these past two days.

Even though I am 50 years old, whenever I am in an unfamiliar place with a lot of unfamiliar people, I am transported back to my childhood, back to the days of trying to fit in at yet another new school, trying to look just right, say just the right thing, have just the right clothes, hair, shoes. I look longingly at the table where the cool kids sit and with dread at the empty table where my seat awaits. I keep my head down in the hallways and my hand down in the classroom.
My instinct is to run away and hide, to pull my head back into my protective shell and wait.  I figure if I’m going to feel invisible, I may as well just be invisible. At least if I’m hiding, I can understand why no one approaches me, why no one sits at my table, why no one reaches out. If I am truly invisible, then I am in control. If you can’t find me, you can’t ignore me.
These are my primal instincts. My educated, intellectual self knows better, knows that if I put myself out there, if I reach out, I will be met half way. Knowing this does not make it any easier. It does not matter that I am 50—I still feel five, ten, 15, 20, 25. I still feel too young to understand, like life is still a mystery that will resolve and clarify as I get older. When I do not have my friends, my family, my community to reflect back to me who I am, I am nothing. I am empty. I am older, but I do not understand.
Virginia Woolf
What frightens me most about this experience is that even when I do reach out (and I have), even when I have intelligent and reciprocal conversations with others here, I feel like my words are as silent as I am invisible, that my mouth opens up and the language evaporates, unintelligible and indecipherable. Even as others respond, at that moment I do not feel seen or heard, just empty and alone. 

Evidently, this is my work, to welcome the fear, the loneliness, to invite them in and set them a table, and wonder what they have to teach me. Before great light, darkness. Before great relief, great pain.