Several years ago, while sitting in a small park in Manhattan, I remembered something fundamental about my life. The little spot of green I found myself in was an oasis of silence in the middle of a steaming, bustling, hot August day. The city crowded around me, jostling me this way and that, the noise of cars and strangers’ conversations pinballing me around until I craved a moment of quiet like it was a need, not simply a desire.
Ah yes, I remembered once I’d ducked behind the iron gates of the park, thick with green vines that dulled the sounds outside. I’m an introvert.
Of course, there are millions of happy introverts in New York, and I’m guessing that if I wanted to try living there, I’d discover an abundance of my own daily quiet. I’m sure, really, that I’d love to tuck into my tiny hideaway apartment after a day exploring or working, and that I’d understand how easy it is to be whatever I wanted among those many people, buildings, parks, and shops. From my tourist’s perspective, however, Manhattan has always seemed more of an extrovert’s city to me than, say, DC, San Francisco, London, Dublin, Paris, or even Brooklyn.
When I write about being an introvert, I always feel a need to post disclaimers all around my words, so I’ll just go ahead and get those out of the way. Despite knowing that I might not live in New York anytime soon, that’s not actually about my introverted tendencies at all; the city is wonderful. I love people. I’m happy to launch into conversations with strangers. I understand, most of the time, the social graces required in various situations, and when I don’t understand them, it has nothing to do with being introverted. I also adore extroverts, delight in that quality among my closest friends, and know that they – too – crave time to themselves and moments of utter silence.
But I know that being an introvert means that in order to feel rejuvenated, I need to build a life that includes alone time every day. Despite all my social instincts, and my love of being deeply involved in friends’ lives, I have always been this way, where I need some space to myself. It can look like I’m not doing much of anything – staring off into space, deep in thought – but it can also be walking, running, reading, writing, baking, listening to music. It doesn’t have to be much, but it can be; as an adult, I’ve sometimes been shocked to realize how much time I can spend by myself before I feel like I’m missing out on the world around me.
I really like being introverted. Lately, in the midst of many life-busy moments and hectic days at work, I’ve noticed how much I’m leaning on that quality. In the small town where I now live, it’s easy to find space to be by myself, both because the streets are sparsely populated and because the ocean and the redwoods surround me at any given moment. I’m grateful for all of it, and just thought I’d take a moment to acknowledge that part of myself this morning.
I smile to myself as I do so. Even as I write these words, I’m also imagining – happily – my next trip to New York, this summer, so that I can delight in the colorful energy that makes that city throb with possibility. What can I say? Even as an introvert, there are times when being in the middle of everything is exactly what I want.