My mom likes to tell this story about me as a child.
I don’t much remember the day in question, but I have no doubt that it happened, as it is a perfect representation of an aspect of my character that I know well.
I was five years old. My mother and I were at my best friend, Alison’s house for her birthday party. There were half-a-dozen little kids there. The moms were drinking coffee in the kitchen.
Alison, my best friend since the age of 3-months, was and still is, extremely extroverted. According to legend, on this particular day she was running up and down the hallway with a little boy, and they were squealing loudly.
I approached my mom and tugged lightly on her sleeve.
“What is it, Emilie?”
“I want to run and scream, too,” I whispered.
“Go ahead,” she urged.
But I couldn’t. I watched the kids fly past me, again and again, longing so much to join them, but I was too afraid.
Ten minutes later, I was found at the arts-and-crafts table, sitting with another little girl. We were cutting shapes out of colored paper, gluing together Popsicle sticks and twisting pipe cleaners.
I sat there, contently working on my art, quiet, doing my own thing (with company).
I was reminded of this story recently. I was un-conferencing at WDS this year. I didn’t have a ticket, but was dead-set on attending as many unofficial meetups as possible. However, I realized very quickly, that I could not evade my introverted nature. All weekend long, I felt the pull between “running down the hall, screaming” (attending big meetups, pushing myself to socialize) and “making art in the corner with a friend.” (small groups, alone time).
Unlike my five-year-old self, as an adult, I sometimes push myself to run down that corridor. It takes some guts, but I occasionally do it. And then, when I’ve had my fill, I retreat, guilt-free, and do my own thing.
The guilt-free bit is hard. And it took some time to get this balance right. I still mess it up from time to time, as I saw at the beginning of the weekend. But I always try to remind myself that it’s okay to do my own thing. Let the extroverts party until 2am. I’ll hang for a bit and then duck out for sushi dinner with a friend and maybe take myself to a movie. Sounds delightful.
Are you an introvert? Have you worked out the balance between pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and enjoying your cocoon?
Emilie Wapnick is the Founder and Creative Director at Puttylike, where she helps multipotentialites integrate ALL of their interests into their lives. Unable to settle on one path herself, Emilie studied music, art, film production and law, graduating from the Law Faculty at McGill University. She is an occasional rock star, a paleo-friendly eater and a wannabe scientist. Learn more about Emilie here.