Don't laugh. It's not at all funny. (OK, maybe it's a little bit funny..) I literally had a quota that I forced myself to fill, a quota of time spent having "fun" with other people, usually in the form of eating or movie watching or get togethers or hikes or what have you. (Parties, the extrovert's code for being crammed into a room full of people who yell at one another over music, were simply beyond my realm of understanding, and totally out of the question.)
Being *social* and a relational being at my core, I had enough of a spark of wisdom to recognize that in order to maintain a certain degree of emotional health away from family, I had to make connections and talk and BE with people. Generally speaking, I enjoyed the interaction once I was there, especially after meaningful, warm relationships were formed. But that first year of test driving friends and forced interaction on principle? Pure HELL for this introvert. I'd often find myself in a house or room or outing looking at the people I had absolutely no common threads with, and think to myself, "How in the name of all that's good and sensible did I land here listening to this girl jabber on and on about how much she loves Breakfast Club at 1am?"
To be sure, out of these forced outings (6 hours a week outside of classes and rehearsals and study groups) sprung many a fond friendship that I carry with me this day, once they started to sport the comfortable sheen of familiarity and the joy of being known well. Remarkably, during this time, within my own little circle, I could have even been called popular, or at least well-known, although certainly not the hostess or social coordinator extraordinaire like some of my more extroverted friends. I could be silly, amusing, gregarious, funny and social in turns, and, for the most part, my "quietness",a trait I value as an asset, wasn't the defining feature of my personality.
But, oh, how I flopped on my bed in sheer bliss once I felt I'd been sufficiently "socialized" for the week! How I'd grin and whoop and waltz around in my pajamas to jazz once my roommates all left simultaneously for a long weekend! The *only* other person I felt equally fantastic around in those happy moments was my then-boyfriend, Nathan, and he was only allowed to be around because he happened to be more introverted than I was. (In fact, we never actually socially dated as much as we sized one another up, informed each other that we made a smashing
pair, and became a "couple") All my best thoughts and feelings and dreams happened (and still happen) when I'm not being yanked to and fro by the intrusive conversations, emotions, opinions and interactions of a group of people. I'm brilliant, creative and at peace. The world slows to a reasonable pace and makes much more sense.
Forcing interaction is no longer a problem for me. Because people are my passion, my own nature tends to demand exchange of thought and energy. I exhaust myself at the alter of human relationship. :P It tends to seek me out with a relentless insistence, and, for the most part, I welcome the interactions of a more thoughtfully constructed social life of my adulthood. Turns out, there are other people out there who share my sensibilities, who wear me out a tidge less than the general populous! My "family" base is bigger, and I have to expend less energy putting myself out there in order to maintain connection. (I have the deepest empathy for displaced introverts searching out new friendships and family, I assure you!)
Even so, I'm a little more prone to indulge my inner flights of fancy and appreciate my need for "alone" processing time much more than I did in my earliest adulthood. After all, it is where all my best thoughts occur. Thus far, investing in alone time (or as alone as a mother of 3 snuggly children can ever be) is never a decision I regret, and increasingly, one I don't feel the need to
apologize for. My deepest sense of whimsy, my inner philosopher and poet, my happy flower-picking inner child, is much, MUCH more at peace after several days to myself.
I am, and ever shall be, an incurable and unapologetic introvert. It's a lovely way to be, isn't it?