Quiet: Fighting the Intro-Extro Battle

If I’ve talked to you about books or personality in the last two weeks or so, I’ve probably talked about Quiet: The Power of Introverts. I’ve read exactly 4 chapters and I keep telling people about it because I’ve learned so much. Essentially, our culture currently prizes extroversion above introversion and because of that, creativity and inspiration is lacking in day to day life.  Because the most innovative ideas come from introverts, we are doing ourselves a disservice with the constant fixation on group activities and teamwork. 

Quiet

I used to think of myself as an introvert, but I began surprising myself a few years ago when I started enjoying being in groups. Being center of attention intimidates me, but I like the idea of giving a worthwhile comment or having a lengthy and intense discussion about books or the possibility of music-making with an old friend over a microbrew. Bouncing ideas off friends, successfully creating something with a team, and acting as an authority (in a professional setting as well as social settings) are all things that appeal to me.

I don’t mind being alone, but if I go to bed without having talked to anyone other than coworkers (no offense to my cube-dwelling friends), I feel restless and disappointed with myself. I should have reached out to Nicole today. I wonder how Kaleigh is doing in her new home. I should have asked Jason to meet up for a drink. I haven’t talked to my aunt in a long time, I wonder how her kitchen remodel went. It’s been a while since I’ve seen Sam. I should have hung out with Nic. I should have taken Christina up on that idea about coffee. I pull my sheets in closer and turn on my Kindle and start reading, and quickly forget about all of that. 

My introverted nature is fighting with my freshly-cultivated extroversion.  I want the people around me to know that they matter to me,but it’s so much easier to just putz around my apartment, pretending to be productive. That sounds selfish because it is. What stops me from reaching out to friends? They’ve reached out to me multiple times and I rarely return the gesture. Am I afraid of the rejection? In a few cases, maybe. But I know that I have common interests with these people. I’m confident I would enjoy that show Nic has been telling me about. I know I would get a month’s worth of laughter if I talked to Nicole for twenty minutes. And I might find a new friend if I reached out to Christina. But there’s a part of me that is reluctant to face the potential awkwardness of hanging out with a friend who doesn’t know me as deeply as someone like my best friend, Andrea. And that fear is what stops me from reaching out to those people. 

But getting back to the issue here: my actual placement on the introversion/extroversion spectrum.  When asked to list my hobbies, they’re all of the introverted variety: reading, writing, knitting & crochet, running, baking, cooking, sewing…good god, I sound like a grandma who should be in fantastic shape. Though I truly enjoy doing those things, I feel a pressure to be surrounded. Where that pressure hails is a mystery, but I feel it stronger than I’d like. The times I’ve showed my extroverted side, I’ve been rewarded instantly – by the approval of an idea, laughter at a joke, or the gratitude of being understood. 

But it’s a quick sense of satisfaction. It takes very little effort for me to feel fulfilled in social situations. My default setting for social interaction is self-deprecation, and since people seem to enjoy that, I go with it. But the things that make me feel really good are things that require patience and focus on quieting my inner monologue to let the creativity flourish.

When I spent hours reading or writing, it was in high school – when I didn’t have much of a social life. I journaled constantly because I didn’t have a best friend to listen to my sometimes never-ending wordbarf. Reading allowed me to get swept away by a story. I wrote short stories and the beginnings of a few terrible novels, because when I was alone, I was able to cultivate and tweak those ideas. Without anyone else’s input clouding the development of my ideas, I was free to work as I saw fit, yielding some of my favorite pieces.

Having only read the first four chapters, I’m not sure what else I’ll find from the rest of Susan Cain’s book. So far, I’ve taken away that I’ve begun to prize the gratification of my extroverted efforts above my introverted ones, despite the fact that the latter gives deeper and longer-lasting satisfaction. After spending an hour writing this, I’m not sure if I want to go read more of the book or if I want to spend the rest of the night feeling guilty about not calling people. 

If you haven’t heard of Susan Cain or her awesome book, I’d recommend listening to her fantastic TED Talk. 

Throwback Thursday: hey grrrl. wats ur screename?

Every Thursday, I dig out an old diary and share an entry sans editing (in hopes we’ll all see my grammar and apostrophe use improve) with a short commentary. If you like laughing with/at Young Ashley, feel free to use the handy search bar to the left and simply type “Throwback Thursday” and you’ll find the whole archive. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday Jun 5, 2000

Dear Libby, 

I just got off aol. I was talking to, like, 4 people! I talked to my friend, Keri, Benjamin, Tom, and my cousin, Becky. Right when I got on, Benjamin goes “Wassup?!” Then Tom, “Hey Ashley.” and then Keri “Hey!” Then I say hi to Becky. She asked me what I was up to and I said talking to my friend Benjamin. Of course she being my older and annoying, yet cool cuz, she says “Benjamin! Oh you go Ashley!” And I just tell her to shut up. So then there’s 3 other peeps sending me im’s so every other second and a half I hear electronic chimes. And right when I go to type an answer to someone, I’m interupted by another peep. 

Then Becky asked what Benjamin’s screename was. (Boy am I lucky I didn’t mention Tom was on!) I told her that I refused to tell her. She asked me if I wanted to her to ask him out for me! I was like, “NO!!!”

Luckily she signed off after that. Then Benjamin sent me an e-mail, he just said that he wasn’t mad, and that he was practically over Jocelyn dumping him. Then that he’s had a really bad attitude towards his parents, especially when he wakes up in the morning, hello Benjamin! Typical teenager!

Then I had to sign off after chatting with Benjamin and Tom. But Keri, I told her I was talking to three other people – she would not shut up! 

Then my aunt Laurie called and asked if I wanted to stay at her house for a while, so her I am! 10:30 @ night, laying on a yellow flowered quilt in her guest bedroom, writing in you. 

I’m tired, igg.

-Ashley

Yikes. Remember those days? Excitedly flipping between AIM boxes, choosing just the right lyrics for an away message and customizing your profile? I probably used blue comic sans against a yellow background, just to make things bright enough. Or may it was blue with fuschia. Who knows? Whatever it was, I’m sure it was really beautiful.

It’s embarrassing that I used the same program to chat with Brandon as I did with virtually all of my college boyfriends at at least one point in time. It’s probably for the best that I changed my screename constantly – I think it started out as Ashapapple229 (a supposedly clever combination of Ashley and apple, I guess), then to FiddleFreak06 (Yeah, we get it, you play violin and you graduate high school in 2006), SuperConnected 29 (GUESS WHEN MY BIRTHDAY IS!!), and eventually landed on YAYitisAshley (that’s what I assumed people exclaimed when they saw me sign in). My brothers both copied me. And some of their friends. One night as a prank or something, I was bombarded by messages from YAYitisCorey, YAYitisRyan, YAYitisNick, and YAYitisTATE.

The good news is that I didn’t end my conversations with any of my conversations with college boyfriends “igg” (“I gotta go” for those of you who weren’t cool enough for that one. I think around my senior year of high school, I started using correct punctuation and spelling in my instant messages, so that by the time I stopped using AIM, I was speaking like someone who shouldn’t be using AIM.

Good thing we’ve moved on from something as foolish as AIM and we’ve moved onto much more sophisticated technology like SnapChat and that one iphone app where you rate your Facebook connections on appearance to increase your likelihood of casual hookups.

Humans are great, aren’t we?

Nope.

Nope.

To My Devoted Readers…

I’m sorry I haven’t been posting much lately. Instead of just articulating the facade, I’ve been out living (going to foggy basement parties, having spontaneous drinks with friends, dancing with new friends, running color runs, playing impromptu bluegrass concerts with my uncle, hosting parties, and occasionally giving out my number to boys I probably shouldn’t). It’s been fantastic. I highly recommend you stop looking at a screen as soon as you’re done reading this. Have you seen real life lately? It can be really beautiful. Everything is Blooming, folks. 

collage

I know that I told you my vacation from Throwback Thursday was only going to be for the month of May. It’s been over two months since I shared a diary entry. Young Ashley might be thrilled, but I’m not too proud of it. I started something and I didn’t follow through. I am supremely irritated when people do that, so I’m sorry that I’ve failed you. I know a lot of people really enjoyed those. This is going to change. Throwback Thursday is coming back this week. 

I had a housewarming party last weekend to break in my new place. Two of my closest friends made me a fantastic gift that inspired a new weekly post called Brunch with B-Crox. You can expect a recipe and short anecdote with my usual self-deprecating banter and weird pictures. My definition of Brunch is a pretty vague one, so it might not always be a breakfast recipe. And don’t worry, I’ll explain the B-Crox thing.

Since many people find my blog by some combination of the terms “seeing my ex” and “what to do,” I’m considering doing some sort of dating advice. I’m sort of hoping I’ll start following my own advice too. That would be neat. This is still in the brainstorming stages, but I figure that since I’ve dated people before and have an opinion, I’m qualified to tell people what to do. It’s real scientific.

I’m going on vacation next week. I’m not counting or anything, but I have exactly eleven days until I’m in the middle of the woods without 3g access. I have plans to read about three pages of Infinite Jest before falling asleep on the beach and/or day-drinking. Don’t worry though, you’ll still get your posts. If I don’t you can send me messages on Facebook about how you’re really disappointed in me – not mad, just really disappointed.

Happy Pills

I’ve spent the last year or so reflecting on life. In the spring, my two-year relationship came to an end. I spent the summer crying, drinking, and eating too much alone in my apartment. In the fall, I went off the antidepressant I had been on for almost six years. In the winter, I dated casually. In the spring, I started training and ran my first 5k Race. This summer I’m moving into my own apartment. 

The statement you probably want to know the most about is the one regarding my antidepressant. That’s not really what I want to focus on with this post, so I’ll just give you a brief overview: It was easier than I thought. I had withdrawals. Here and there I would have headaches, lethargy, a deep reluctance to get out of bed on grey mornings, and unexplained crying spells cured only by a long hug. Some days could only be explained by calling them Numb Days – days when it was like I forgot how to be alive and all I wanted to do was lie in bed – not cry or sleep, but just lie there. I usually ended up calling Andrea and after twenty minutes of trying to explain myself and crying, she helped me feel like a human again. I don’t know what I would have done without her.

Eventually things got better. My body re-acclimated to its normal bupropion-free state. I started to feel like myself again. It was like the drug had been muting my life. It’s so cliche, but it was like my life had color again. Like I started seeing through the Hefe filter after using only Willow for six years.

All is grey.

Willow: All is grey.

I don’t think I did much self-examination while I was on antidepressants. I was afraid of negative feelings. If I never felt sad, I never had to acknowledge the bad parts of my life. I existed in a bubble of false contentedness. By never truly going through lows, I saved myself from feeling guilt, sorrow, and anger. But I also didn’t experience the bliss of good days. Everything was dulled. 

WUT. Calla Lilies are the color of humid summer sunsets?

Hefe: You mean calla lilies are the color of humid summer sunsets?!

After getting through my first winter without an antidepressant, I’m confident I can get through whatever life throws at me. I’m not advocating that anyone who is on antidepressants (or any other medication) should just stop taking them. I did it with my doctor’s help. I told my family and close friends so I had a support system in place. Though it was sometimes hard, I became more self-aware. I saw how my actions affected my mood, my health, and my relationships.

I guess you could say I commemorated by rediscovery of a vibrant life by tattooing “Everything is blooming” on my wrist. It’s not, as one friend teases, shameless advertising for my blog. It’s a mantra. Sometimes I forget about it. Some days I’m crabby without good reason. Other days I think the world is terrible and humans are jerks. But most days I’m pleased with my life – the shadows as much as the highlights.

…now that I’ve completely focused on what I didn’t want to focus on, I’ll just leave this post. Expect my original idea on Five Ways to Effectively Disappoint People tomorrow.