I think a lot of people who read blogs probably come to the conclusion that bloggers are, for the most part, a bunch of extroverted attention-seekers. Who else, after all, would go out of their way to plaster their lives all over the internet, taking photos and telling stories, as if the whole world is holding its breath, waiting for the next selfie or outfit photo?
Actually, though, I’ve always believed the opposite to be true. It’s not true for ALL bloggers, of course, and I think it’s probably far LESS true than it used to be (The blogging world has changed so much in recent years that I think many people now get into blogging for financial/career reasons rather than for personal ones), but speaking purely for myself, I know I came to blogging mostly as a way to connect with people, without having to go through the whole pesky actually connecting with people bit.
I, you see, am an introvert.
It’s not the same as being shy, although in my case, I’m shy too, which makes for a particularly anxiety-inducing combination. The best explanation I’ve heard for the difference between introversion and extroversion is that extroverts get their energy from other people, while introverts get their energy from being alone. For me, this is definitely true. I’m an only child, but growing up, I never felt lonely: I had my friends, of course (and also 2,472 imaginary horses), but I was always content to spend time on my own, and I’m the same to this day. Actually, just a few weeks ago, I came to the realisation that I only ever feel lonely in a crowd, never when I’m on my own. Is that strange? I have no idea.
What I do know is that I need a lot of downtime in order to stay sane. I like to socialize (under the right circumstances, and assuming I have plenty of notice, that is: I’ve never been one to go along with someone’s plans, just for the sake of “joining in”, and last minute plans bring on The Panic. Because how will I find time to read all those books if you spring a surprise visit on me?), and I love being with the people I’m closest to, but I also need time to recharge. If you invite me to a party, say, I’ll happily attend – I’ll even look forward to it, and while I’m there, you’ll never guess that I’m anything other than in my element. (I might even BE in my element: with people I know well, I do enjoy a good party…) If you suggest we all meet up again for brunch the next day, though, I’ll be all, “SERIOUSLY? I JUST SAW YOU. And I love you, but dude, I need to go and read some books now…”
The fact of the matter is, you see, that most of the time? I’d rather be reading.
Or, at least, I THINK I’d rather be reading. If I actually make the effort to get out of the house and into society, I’ll almost always enjoy it. But when a good book and a cosy blanket is your idea of a good time, the so-called “festive” season can start to feel anything BUT a “holiday”. In fact, I’m sure most introverts would agree that by the end of it, we need a holiday to recover, amiright?
December is what I think of as “cluttered” month. That’s not the same thing as a stressful month (although it can be stressful, too: I’m sure other self-employed people will be all-too familiar with the stomach-churning panic that precedes any holiday, as you frantically try to squeeze four weeks’ worth of work into one…), and it’s not the same thing as an unpleasant month, either. It’s just… cluttered. And claustrophobic. And, OK, maybe a tiny bit stressful. (This is why I don’t ever attend all of those blogger events I get invited to: that combination of introverted + shy… well, it doesn’t exactly make for stress-free socialising, let’s put it that way.)
For us, the holiday seasons starts around about now, and continues well into the first week of January, by which point I’ll be seriously craving that night in with a good book. I’ll also be wanting to eat salad, go for brisk, early-morning runs, and never see another sequin in my life. My batteries will be completely flat, in other words, and there won’t be enough books in the world to kick-start them again. Er, I actually feel like that already, and it’s still only November: whoops!
Don’t get me wrong: there are plenty of things I’m looking forward to about the upcoming month, and I know I’ll enjoy all of the various events when I get to them. It’s more the thought of them than the reality of them that gets me down, and lately I’ve started to notice that the older I get, the more introverted I become, and the more downtime I seem to need. You’d think working from home would have the opposite effect, and that I’d be so sick of my own company I’d be willing to go to the opening of an envelope, but, well, I guess you know you’re in the right job when you’d rather be blogging than partying, huh? Or, you know, reading.
I should say here that I don’t think there’s anything WRONG with being introverted, and I certainly don’t see it as the character flaw some people seem to view it as. It’s just the way some people are wired, and, in my case, it’s how I’ve always been. Even back in my university days, when I used to go clubbing every Friday and Saturday night (and spend the whole week looking forward to it), my friends would call me Cinderella, because by the the time the clock struck midnight, I’d be ready to go home, thanks very much.
And as I said, it’s not that I don’t LIKE socialising – it’s just that I find it much more exhausting than other people do, and seem to need a lot of downtime to recover from it. I think of it as having to be “on” all the time: never getting to just relax and be myself, but having to constantly focus on the smalltalk, and the socialising, and the being normal that some people can do without thinking, but which comes that bit harder to others.
About that word: “normal”. I know there’s really no such thing as “normal”. We all just are what we are, and that’s all there is to it. Although there’s been a lot written lately about introverts, and it’s become almost hipster-trendy to say you are one (a bit like when it became cool to be a “geek”, and everyone started posting Facebook statuses about how they were, like, totally “geeking out” over things that aren’t even remotely geek-like…), I do think society in general tends to view extroversion as “the norm”, and everything else as, well, a bit weird lately.
People think it’s strange to be a homebody, especially if you’re at an age when you’re “supposed” to be out partying/clubbing all the the time. They think “fun” has the same definition for everyone, and that wanting to stay in and read a book, or turning down an invitation to an event, is just boring and sad. I think of some people as The Others, because their behaviour is just unfathomable to me, but there’s another group I think of as The Normals (and I mean that in the nicest possible way: some of my closest friends are Normals), because they just seem to have everything figured out: they like the things you’re “supposed” to like (Fall! Christmas! Snow! Party time!) and they never end up making other people feel awkward because they’re desperately uncomfortable and just want to go home. (I think, deep down, a lot of those Normals are probably introverts, too: they’re just better at hiding it, or have figured out some coping-mechanisms to get them through…)
So there may not be anything wrong with being an introvert, but oh, sometimes it really feels like there IS. Like when December looms, and you find yourself staring down the barrel of non-stop social engagements, with very little time out to “recharge”. Or when you’re at that party, and you’ve enjoyed it, but all of a sudden your brain goes, “That’s it, I’m out!” and shuts down because it just can’t handle any more stimulation. You know you’re starting to act “weird”, and that people will probably notice (and, you know, hate you, and talk about you. “Did you see how WEIRD Amber was being at the end of that party? God, that girl, is a FREAK!”), but you just can’t seem to do anything about it, because your brain needs to be on its own now, thanks very much. Or when you deliberately put off buying a bed for your guest room, because you know that having people to stay would mean being “on” all the time, and never getting to relax, even in your own home.
At Christmastime, there isn’t a huge amount of that “downtime” around here – in fact, for the next couple of weeks I’ll be working extra hard to queue up posts (for my other blogs, I mean: on this one you’ll probably just get stuck with more photos of coffee mugs and my dog: sorry about that…), because I know there won’t be a lot of time to sit down and write them. As I said, there are lots of things I’m looking forward to, and lots of things I’ll really enjoy, but even so, I know that left to my own devices, there’s a good chance I’d just hibernate from now until April. Luckily for me, however, I married an extrovert, so becoming a recluse just isn’t an option, and this December is basically going to be an exercise in overcoming introversion (Now say that ten times, quickly…), and getting through the festive season without complaining about it. Except this one time, obviously. How will I do it? Dammed if I know, to be honest. But I’m going to give it my best shot.