note: I had written this originally for Introvert, Dear, but I don’t believe they plan to publish it. In any case, I felt it was still worthy of being out in the world.
When I declare myself an introvert, people are shocked. “You?!” In their interrobang, I hear but you’re so opinionated/loud/funny/good with customers. What they don’t know is that once I go home from work, I can barely speak, or move, or even think, from all of the overstimulation of the day. I have anxiety. I have depression. I have introversion.
And while I don’t think so much of those things as diseases or “bad,” I do spend many days wishing I was “normal”, or an extrovert. How great would it be if that coworker I’ve been talking to for weeks about books asked me to hang out, and I could say “Yes! I’d love to!” instead of “Yes, I’d love to, but I’m so ‘busy’ this week!” If I didn’t have to cancel established plans with established friends who I love, or didn’t have to be afraid of seeing people I know at the grocery store or the library. Thank god I moved across the country!I think often. Now there are much fewer people to run into!
Introversion is being on low battery no matter how much I charge up. It’s being happy during experiences, but being nervous and having self-esteem attacks before and after. It’s clinging on to my boyfriend so tight, that even I wonder how he can breathe. It’s being afraid to explore the endless possibilities in life that would be open to me if I could only unfurl and uncurl myself a little looser. It’s pushing my own boundaries so hard, I don’t have time or patience for those who ask me to push harder. It’s not speaking up for myself at work or school or in life. It’s taking a toll on my relationships with family. Taking a toll on my health. Taking a toll on me.
Recently i started journaling more heavily. I have been writing or journaling in some form or another since childhood – for twenty years I have been an examiner of the universe through writing. And recently, I have turned the examination lens inward.Who am I? Why am I? How can I change, how can I grow, and how can I stay true to my introverted needs while simultaneously letting the sun shine on my face?
For starters, I must continue to look inward every day. It might seem counterproductive for an introvert to look further inward, but here me out here. One of the questions I asked above was, Why am i? In order to figure out the answer to this question, I went back. Way back to 27 years ago, to be exact. I began journaling not just about the present, but about the past. I have been journaling my autobiography, and I really must insist that you do this too, if you have any inkling that it might work for you.
- Write down your date of birth, and then number the page with the ages you have lived through. 1, 2, 3, 4, and so on. Make sure to leave enough space to write a paragraph for each age.
- Obviously, the first few years of your life (and maybe others) won’t be available for recollection. That’s okay. Just write down “the facts.” For example, I know I was born blue, with a heart condition, and had to be moved to another hospital for life-saving surgery. My parents were very young. I was their first child. And so on. As you get into ages 5, 6, and beyond, you will find that the very act of writing jogs your memory. This space is just for bullet points, or the bare bones. You will remember even more eventually.
- Once you have your outline, go back to age one (though I guess you could start from anywhere, I personally think it best to go in chronological order). Now write your life not in bullet points or half sentences, but in full sentences, maybe paragraphs and paragraphs. Let it all out on the page.
- Repeat this for every age. Take breaks. Split up the ages between days and weeks. Don’t burn yourself out. Also you will probably find yourself remembering new piece to the puzzle at random. This is great. Your brain is unblocking itself and allowing itself to open up, even if it is only to you.
- Eventually you will start to see a pattern about what excites you, what scares you, what has happened to you, and what has happened that was in your control. You must examine your own mistakes as well as the mistakes of others. It may not be pretty, but it will change the way you see certain things.
- Write about other things too. Just journal every day, no matter what about. It is really, really healthy and good.
- Once you are caught up to the age you are now (I still have not caught up and I’ve been doing this for months), make it your mission to keep your journal up to date with new happenings and examinations. You don’t want to have to play catch-up again when you are 100 (if you are blessed or cursed to live that long).
Through journaling this way I have learned so much about myself, my friends, and especially my family. It has encouraged me to think more deeply about people’s actions and words, as well as choose my own more carefully. And I have begun to form a plan to follow after I graduate with my Masters degree in May. A plan to live my best life, introversion be damned. I intend to achieve my dreams, or die trying. But don’t take this the wrong way – I don’t desire or expect to give up the introversion that has made me, me (nor do I think there is or should be a “cure”). I only desire to continue to use introversion to see inside myself and learn what I must do in order to thrive.