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.
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?