Forget men being from Mars and women from Venus, the real divide in the world is the one between introverts and extroverts.
I have several dear extroverted friends, and they and I view each other with utter bafflement. I find it hard to explain to them how powerful my introversion is. I have completed a marathon, worked 16 hour days in my job as an event manager and birthed and raised four offspring, but there is nothing on earth like the bone-deep weariness, the utter depletion I experience when I have to spend much time with groups of people.
Apart from interacting (preferably over food and drink) with my family and very small groups of friends, all the things that recharge my batteries are solitary pursuits: reading, walking (alone), writing, playing the piano and meditating. I would honestly rather lie on my bed and stare at the ceiling than go to a party. And my room (with the door firmly shut) is where I retreat to on the occasions where I find myself turning, as though a switch were flicked, from a gracious hostess to the bitch from hell, just wanting to yell at everybody to get the hell out of my house. When this point is reached (and it happens in an instant) if I am out, I either go home or, if that’s not possible, I spend a great deal more time than is necessary in the bathroom.
We live in a society that rewards and celebrates extroverts – the big personalities, the sociable ones, those with the gift of the gab and an endless appetite for company. But after a lifetime of feeling guilty and apologetic for my anti-social nature that felt like a disability, I am starting to claim some introvert pride.
I am profoundly grateful for a life-time spent with a big-hearted, hospitable extrovert who has taught me the rich joys of spending time with other human beings. But still, I wouldn’t swap who I am, including a social orientation that seems to grow more pronounced the older I get. I consider myself lucky. Because the world is filled with people who can’t stand their own company. We introverts love it. We are seldom bored or lonely. Our inner life is so rich, our inner resources so plentiful that we can survive almost anything. Finally, in my sixth decade, I am very happy to be an introvert. In life, it pays to get along with the only person you can count on not losing – yourself.
Published in The Melbourne Age 14 March 2017