Pretending to be an extrovert

There are occasions throughout life when being an introvert is not ideal. A semester abroad is one of those times.

Since the Boston airport I’ve been chatting with people, joining groups on a whim, striking up conversations, and sustaining small talk. It’s been exhausting, but also really nice. I went from having no friends and being really nervous to having plenty of friends and lots of travel plans.

Throughout the week I kept bonding with whomever I could. It’s been difficult but lovely, and it became easier the more I did it. I think it’s good to be able to pretend to be an extrovert.

However, it is not a mask I can wear for too long. Thank goodness for no-class Mondays! I spent today, everyone’s first day of class, on a solo bike ride down a lovely Dutch bike trail. I saw some cute animals along the way, like two horses, some cows, some sheep, and even a small herd of deer that someone had kept as farm animals (or pets? I’m not sure). Then I got back to my room I share with two other girls, and it was empty. What a rarity! I caught up on my YouTube shows and ate a few Stroopwafels, allowing myself to unwind.

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I was impressed with my ability to make friends in such a hectic, crazy, beautiful, wonderful place. I feel like I’ve already grown as a person while in the Netherlands, and it’s only been four days!

More importantly, I can see now where I may have gone wrong before, like with high school and the beginning of college. There are some introverts here, I can tell. They sit alone at meals, they don’t talk before class. I realize now that seeming shut off to the world like that can make one seem unappealing to befriend. A bit of reservedness is fine, but appearing too introverted can, I would say, be a bad thing.

Perhaps when one can’t be alone, one should embrace company. Nothing is wrong with reading at night, or a solo-stroll around the grounds, or any other time alone, but when I must be with people I will BE with people. Openly, honestly, 100%.

Basically, I don’t feel the need to hide myself anymore. And I feel good about that.

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Grin and bear it

Whether due to my introversion, my stage in life, or my Americanness, I’m a generally independent person. I don’t like when I have to depend on other people for something, especially when they don’t do it right.

Unfortunately, a lot of journalism is depending on other people, specifically when you need interviewees to call you back. They hardly ever do, and never when you need them to, but I hate bugging people by calling back multiple times.

How are we supposed to deal with situations that go against our very nature? My job depends on me being a dependent extrovert who doesn’t mind annoying people. How am I supposed to do that?!

I don’t know. I’ve been doing this for a long time but I don’t have any tips for it beyond “grin and bear it.”

I had to get used to calling people until they answer, to making small talk with them, to depending on interviewees and editors and photographers. It’s strange to work on such a big team, where you’re responsible for a small part and other people take care of the rest. It’s strange to have to pretend to be extroverted.

Grin and bear it. I’ve heard that phrase two ways, “Grit and bear it,” and “Grin and bear it.” I prefer grin, because it fits more situations. Everyone knows how to grit and bear a sore back or traffic or an annoying boss. You’re allowed to be externally frustrated with these things. But some things you have to bear without letting it show. People in retail or the service industry have to do this all the time. Grin and bear it. Don’t let out your frustration yet, don’t let it show.

So, I do that too. I take a deep breath, set my jaw, and dial the phone for the thousandth time, knowing I’ll get sent to voicemail and knowing that I’m probably being annoying and looking forward to the part of the process where I get to sit down and write the article without any more phone calls.

Luckily, it gets easier over time. I no longer pick up the phone, dial a few numbers and hang up out of nervousness. I’m getting better at depending on and trusting others. It may always be hard to act like someone you’re not, but it does help you grow in the long run.

Keep on grinning, my friends, and we’ll get through it together. After all, it’s possible that someday that grin won’t have to be faked.

5 best quotes for introverts who feel bad that they just had to escape

Hey, every introvert has been there. An overwhelming party, parents asking too many questions, stressful assignments piling up…sometimes, an introvert just needs to escape and be alone. I tend to find a locked room and just sit in silence awhile, enjoying the quiet darkness. Others like plugging into music or getting sucked into a book or movie. Some knit, or play an instrument, or ride a bike for awhile. Whatever your escape, here are five quotes to assure you that escaping now and then is totally okay.

  1. Sometimes when you’re overwhelmed by a situation-when you’re in the darkest of darkness- that’s when your priorities are reordered. ~Phoebe Snow

There are some positives to stress. Many people work better with a looming deadline. However, when it becomes overwhelming, we reorder our priorities by escaping; by taking a few minutes to recharge, we are putting ourselves and our sanity at the top of our priorities list. Sometimes remembering to put ourselves first helps us handle everything else on our plate.

  1. I don’t think we realize just how fast we go until you stop for a minute and realize just how loud and how hectic your life is, and how easily distracted you can get. ~Meg Ryan

Extroverts and introverts alike can benefit from taking a few minutes to breathe. It’s helpful to remember that everyone, not just you, has a limit.

  1. The more powerful and original a mind, the more it will incline towards the religion of solitude. ~Aldous Huxley

There are lots of very smart, very successful introverts. Our love of solitude helps us stay focused on personal projects and achieve more when alone than extroverts, who work best in groups. While I would hesitate to say that either introverts or extroverts are better than the other, it is nice to remember than introversion is not a fault, and can be a trait of a powerful and original mind.

  1. I can only really and truly fully relax on my own. Give me a sun lounger, a pool and a sea view, and I’m happy. ~Miranda Hart

Again, you’re not alone. It’s hard to keep up appearances, to be “on” for long periods of time. And that’s okay. It’s okay to be happiest and most relaxed when alone.

  1. Acceptance doesn’t mean resignation; it means understanding that something is what it is and that there’s got to be a way through it ~Michael J. Fox

Most of all, fellow introverts, I want you to accept yourself for who you are. Needing to leave a party for a few minutes (or not going at all) is nothing to be ashamed of. You’re not antisocial: you’re an introvert, and you’re not alone for wanting to be alone.

Practice, practice…

Writing songs happens either immediately or over several centuries, for me. The problem is that I’ve only had a ukulele for about two years, and I’m not very good at it. The other problem is that I’ve never taken singing lessons, or a real poetry class. I’m relying on prose and high school theatre here, people.

That’s partially why I turned to comedy songs. Comedy songs are usually fast, so there’s no long notes for your voice to get caught on. Also, people don’t mind a semi-bad voice if the lyrics are funny. Bo Burnham won’t be in the opera any time soon. Another reason is because they’re more fun to write.

Also, I guess, my talent isn’t in music, it’s in writing. I wouldn’t want to perform a straight up song, because I’m only an average player. Below average, actually. That’s not worth applause.

I’ve always lived my life in terms of what could be worth applause, so to speak. If I don’t think I’m good at something, I wouldn’t do it. I’d practice until I was confident in it. Heavy research, hours of time, tons of bookwork…isn’t always the answer. Especially in things that require practice.

Practice-based learning is something that I do—alone. Which is why I’ve not mastered a second language. I’m afraid I’ll mess up embarrassingly, so I study the flashcards and all, and end up not speaking that much, which is vital to learning a language. Writing was a similar thing. Now I know you need peer reviewers to write well. I was stagnant through most of high school because I was too afraid to let others read my drafts.

Being an introvert is part of this. I intuitively feel that I do better on my own, that collaboration isn’t a helpful thing to my process, whatever that ‘process’ is. The thing is, that’s not true. Collaboration is what makes the world go round, and gets people jobs and food and love and art…and I just need to break out of my bubble and engage with the humming utopia of collaboration the world has become while I was looking inside myself. I know, I know…what kind of introvert am I? Voluntarily interacting with people more than necessary? It sounds daunting to me too, I know. But I gotta be brave.

After all, there’s a big world out there, and I’m only a tiny part of it.