Categories
self discovery

Being An Introvert Isn’t Isolating

Today I decided to debunk one of the biggest introvert misconceptions of all:

That introversion and isolation are the same thing.

I shared a status on Facebook from four years ago, when I lived in a doorman building on the Upper West Side.  Every time I walked in, and every time I went on the elevator to my 6th floor apartment, I had to make small talk.

Every.  Time.

Sure, it’s nice to be greeted or to have someone acknowledge you, but sometimes, believe it or not, you just want to walk in, go upstairs, and be left alone.  So, I would keep my sunglasses on, pretend I was talking on the phone, or keep walking straight to avoid the small talk.

After sharing my status from 2015, my best friend from my hometown commented:

“Thank you for this.  I cannot stand small talk, I would rather not say anything at all!”

She gets me.

Even though we live over 1,000 miles apart, those are the connections that mean so much to me- I would rather have quality friends who understand me than a large number of people who don’t.

Some people gain energy from other people, and others gain energy from being alone.  That’s the difference between an extrovert and an introvert.  In a city like New York or Boston you’re constantly surrounded by so many people, being stimulated left and right, that it’s easy for an introvert to get drained.

This is why I spend so much time in the park, outside, and journaling by myself.  Whether I’m reading by the river or hanging out at home with the cat, my recharge time is extremely sacred, and necessary, to maintain my sanity.

It’s completely different than isolating.

I’m positive that the world around me would rather have a recharged, calm Kristin than a snappy, reactive one- and that latter is what you’ll get if I don’t have ample alone time.

Dedicated to my fellow introverts and Rachel, who *always* gets me, no matter where in the world we are.

Categories
self discovery

A Cat Girl in a Dog World

Sometimes it’s hard being a cat person in a world of dogs.

Oh, the energy and the constant need for attention!  I don’t know about you, but I get overwhelmed when anything runs up to me, kisses me without permission, or needs me to take it for walks.

Maybe that’s why I’ve been single for almost five years, too.

I grew up with cats and was an only child to a single parent- the perfect recipe for introversion.  I read books, I drew pictures, and I hung outside with the ducks.  Independent and mild mannered, I was a child who felt like an old lady compared to my peers.  Kids my age, puppies, and dogs in general overwhelmed me.  I wasn’t equipped to handle their energy.

As an adult, not much has changed.

This is what “dog people” don’t seem to understand.  I’m not lonely- I am just preserving my energy.

There’s a time and a place for social interaction, and it’s important to know the difference between being alone and being lonely.

I’m proud of my independence- and I’m grateful I am able to sit with self.  Not everyone understands the demeanor or the needs of a cat, and that’s okay- I’m on my own journey.

Categories
self discovery

Faux Extrovert

The other day I picked up the book “Quiet” at the library. It was a timely find, as I’ve been reflecting on my own self care needs, causes of anxiety, and everyday interactions with those around me.

As I read the first few pages of Susan Cain’s book, one paragraph struck me:

“Now that you’re an adult, you might still feel a pang if guilt when you decline a dinner invitation in favor of a good book. Or maybe you like to eat alone in restaurants and could do without the pitying looks from fellow diners. Or you’re told that you’re “in your head too much,” a phrase that’s often deployed against the quiet and cerebral.

Of course, there’s another word for such people: thinkers.”

Oh, how I relate.

Lately I’ve been exhausted; not due to a lack of rest, but with the amount of social interaction I have had. This has been a month of healing, but it has also been a month full of groups, social activities, and sharing my story, thoughts, and innermost challenges. In a community setting it can be difficult to find the space and time to sit and reflect; there’s always someone talking, somewhere to go, or someone critiquing what I say. Sure, I have no problem speaking up, but I am easily drained when I don’t have time to just be.

Over the past decade I’ve been extremely outgoing, which served its purpose when moving to new cities, recreating myself, making friends, and succeeding in the workplace. Alcohol helped with that, too. However, alcohol no longer serves, either.

It’s time to embrace who I truly am- on my own.

As I’ve written numerous times before, I grew up as a shy only child, spending my days drawing, reading, and writing. “Boredom” is not in my vocabulary- I’ve always known how to entertain myself through creating. However, somewhere along my path I became a social butterfly, only to find myself lashing out when my batteries weren’t charged. I never considered that my mood swings were partially due to a lack of energy.

Someone explained the definition of “introvert” to me years ago: someone who gains energy from alone time. An introvert is a very misunderstand type of person; they’re not necessarily timid or weak- an introvert holds a modest strength that doesn’t need to be proven through loud words, social interactions, or attention-seeking.

As I dig deeper into the person I once was, who I’m becoming, and the person I want to be, I have realized the power in quiet. Truth be told, extroverts tend to annoy me. How can these people be so loud? How can they be so needy? Can’t they just learn to sit still and create something instead of constantly consuming?

Of course, it’s not my place to judge people who gain energy from activities and social interactions; diverse personalities make the world go ’round. However, I have always gotten along best with fellow introverts- those who are introspective, creative, independent, and calm. I prefer one-on-one interactions to groups, deep conversations to small talk.

I’ve also learned that I don’t have to pick up a drink and be the life of the party; I can find my tribe by being myself. I can develop meaningful relationships, a purposeful career, and live a happy life by embracing my introvert characteristics.

Susan Cain describes people who pretend to be extroverts just like I have; it’s a breath of fresh air to leave that facade aside and own my introversion. I may not be loud and aggressive today, but when I do speak up, I do have something meaningful to say.

I’ve found solace and strength in my writing, and for that, I am grateful. I’m no longer afraid to speak my truth- my whole truth- and admit my struggles. More on that later. As for now, I’m enjoying my Saturday afternoon curled up with my book, writing in my journal, and soaking in the sunshine from my window.

Quiet is a beautiful thing.

Categories
empowerment

Being Your Own Partner

The other week at work I told a friend of mine that this would be the summer I would meet a guy with a sailboat.  She looked at me and replied, “you need to find a guy with a dog.”  I looked at her, gave a puzzled look, and said, “I’m more of a cat person.  I’ll go with the sailboat.”

Truth be told, I don’t want the guy.  I want to go sailing.

Society makes us think we need the guy- but guess what? We don’t.

This morning I was messaging with a friend who lives in NYC who mentioned there’s a sailing school on the Charles River, which I had looked into when I learned about the community sailing program.  Sounds like a happy medium to me- the perks of sailing without the baggage of the guy.

Funny enough, over two years ago I went on a date with this friend; yes, he has a sailboat, and no, I am not interested in him.  However, two years ago I would have hung out with him purely for the boat.

This Kristin would rather hang out alone.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about partnership.  How many people do you know who are in unsatisfying relationships?  I don’t know about you, but I know a lot of these people.  Sure, some people are scared of being alone.  Some people are extroverts.  Some people want to settle down.  Some people like the security of having a “plus one.”  However, I see absolutely no reason anyone should feel obligated to settle down with another person.

To me, a man would only hold me back- unless he was extremely strong.

The one and only time I am certain I was in love ended after this person told me he didn’t want a partner- ever.  This shook me to the core.  He was one of the only people in my life I could just sit in a room with, fall asleep next to, and sing old Chicago songs with.  He was only time I ever got “the fuzzies;”  I didn’t even know what “the fuzzies” were until I met him the very last night in June of 2014.

Nevertheless, it ended, and it has taken me four years to finally realize he wasn’t perfect, either.  He would sit on his phone all morning, go to Brooklyn and hang out with his old Harvard friends without me, and was the most self-deprecating person I had ever met.  Still, I loved him.  A lot.

But since he left me, I learned to love myself.  In fact, now I love myself enough to not let another person bring me down.  If a guy were to tell me my sunglasses were too big, my lips were too red, or my hair was too short, I would laugh at him.  If a guy suggested I wear shorter skirts, tighter tops, or send suggestive photos, I would run.  Fast. 

Sexism, misogyny, and objectification have no home here.

The old Kristin didn’t stand up for herself, so she fell for everything.  Yes, that is cliche.  However, what I didn’t realize was that I was attracting the wrong people because I was insecure.   I know this is partially because I grew up without a male role model; and the things I did hear about women were negative, judgmental, and, well, mean.  

They say women get their loving side from their mothers, and confidence from their fathers.  Not all of us have those blessings.  In a society where women are mean to each other, men treat women like playthings, and the media forces mixed messages down our throats, what are those girls supposed to do who have no role models at all?

This is why I write.  This is why I let my vulnerability out after years of holding back.  Maybe, just maybe, I can help one other woman realize she is worth so much more than her label, her view of herself, or what the world says about her.

So, I’ll leave you with this: my friend at work also told me there is a “lid to every kettle.”  She is probably right.  Whether or not I do meet my match one day, I will be fine- because I have the best partner of all- myself.

Categories
self discovery

Beating to your own drum

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I can’t remember ever being “normal.”

While there technically is no such thing as this, I can at least say that I never fit in with the crowd. Historically it has always been much easier to identify with people on a one-on-one basis; groups weren’t the best setting for me.

I’ve always spent a lot of time reading, writing, and normally do everything solo. I graduated high school a semester early and skipped all of our senior activities. I went to a college where I didn’t know anyone. I quit secure jobs to follow my dreams and freelance independently. From growing up as a only child loner to city hopping while my peers are getting married and buying homes, my actions seem to always go against the grain.

I get a lot of questions about this all. It used to give me great anxiety- having to explain my introversion on top of my off the cuff decision-making. Sometimes it was on a whim, influenced by a relationship, or to seek a fantasy; yet lately I realized that my experiences, cities, jobs and relationships have made me more prepared for what I do want.

In the past, yes, I made several major choices based on intuition, spiritual experiences and pure emotion. I am starting to feel more comfortable with my colorful story of the past decade, recognizing themes and realizing which cycles I need to break.

Although I never think I’ll stop doing things alone, following seemingly crazy dreams, being creative or constantly curious, I’m open to whatever tomorrow brings as long as there’s a notebook and coffee.

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Categories
self discovery

It’s okay to be alone

“If misery loves company, misery has company enough.” -Henry David Thoreau

I grew up an only child, spending my days reading, writing, and using my own imagination to entertain myself. As I grew up, I quickly began to understand that what seemed so normal to me was quite unordinary.

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One of my favorite pastimes- swinging in my grandparent’s backyard.

I never surrounded myself with groups of people, joined teams or relied on siblings or neighbor friends- I relied on myself. I was happy in my own company, my own solitude. As a shy little girl I was quickly misunderstood, which only got worse as I became a teenager. Kids are mean… especially girls.

Sadly, this doesn’t change as an adult. I spent the better part of this fall taking a break from reality, working on myself and learning new skills, all while being surrounded by dozens of different people and personalities. This was one of the most rewarding yet challenging experiences of my life. I was in an environment where feelings were prevalent and people verbally worked through their problems, yet also tried to fix mine. I’ve never been a “touchy-feely” type of person, nor have I been codependent on others- this includes helping and being helped. I take the bull by the horns and try to do things alone.

I finally learned that it’s okay to ask for help- the right help.

Once again, I found myself being misunderstood. After a rollercoaster of a year, I began journaling daily, speaking to therapists and even asked a select few for advice. My month of introspection lead me to question myself, whether I was a good person or if I was doomed to be selfish my entire life. Only child syndrome, anxiety, and a touch of OCD didn’t help matters, but upon researching personality types and environmental factors, I gained a piece of mind (and even a little bit of sanity).

I’m still misunderstood and have been called every name in the book- but these days I don’t listen to the noise. Those who critique others are simply deflecting and avoiding their own shortcomings- and today I can accept that.

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Instead of trying to surround myself with groups of people and masking my anxiety with alcohol and a seemingly “together” facade, I’m growing comfortable with being brutally honest, putting my thoughts on paper and spending time with the person I am most at home with- me.

Whether I’m by the water, nestled in my room or enjoying a coffee with friends, I choose to live my life in the moment, love who I am and enjoy the simple things, one day at a time.