In the past few months, I think I’ve counted maybe thirteen different articles floating around the internet about how to treat introverts. Lists of reasons why introverts don’t want to hang out with me, and what it is that introverts need in their lives, and how staying in on a Friday night is actually an introvert’s paradise, have all made their way to my computer screen. Every time I open up Buzzfeed to kill some time and watch single people live like a married couple for a week, or whatever, I find a piece of journalism dedicated to catering to the needs of introverts, and honestly, I’m over it. I get it, you like to retreat to a hole in the ground every day and sit by yourself, I know, I know, I know. But where does that leave me? Am I supposed to go sit by myself too?
Maybe I’m being insensitive, but I really think that the half of the population who got an ‘I’ on the Meyer’s Briggs test has it a little easier. I mean, come on, I would love to crawl under the covers all day and actually enjoy it. But as someone who is extroverted to a fault, I can’t. Being by myself for hours at a time leaves me lonely, drained, and hungry for a face-to-face connection. Just like you introverts need a few hours a day to recharge alone, my batteries die if I don’t get my daily dose of human interaction.
This year I signed myself up to do something totally unnatural for an extrovert. For the next two semesters, I am living alone. This may sound like heaven to some: a life with nothing but peace and quiet when you come home from the school day, but for me, who has had roommates since age sixteen, from boarding school to freshman dorms to the sorority house, it’s intimidating to think that I will be the only resident in my living space (other than the dog, of course). As much as I would like to think of my apartment as a sanctuary, coming home to an empty one-bedroom is forcing me far outside of my comfort zone. It has been an adjustment, to say the least.
But, I’m getting better.
I recently read a book that lived up to its name: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo. I was apprehensive to read a book all about about cleaning, since I like to live by the mantra of ‘creative minds are never tidy’. I didn’t know if this book could offer much to me, but I was interested to see what all the hype was around this book was about, since it’s been a best-seller for months. Kondo gives some good tips, and, yes, my apartment is now immaculate, but she extends a philosophy about tidying up that I think can be applied to my extrovert-living-as-an-introvert situation.
Kondo tells her readers to reprogram the way they think about tidying. She wants you to retrain your brain and look at the time spent tidying up your things as a practice of meditation. It isn’t a chore, or a hassle, or one more thing to check off the to-do list. It is good for the soul. It is something to look forward to. It is something that will leave you feeling whole. Now, trust me, I hate cleaning about as much as I hate hanging out with myself, but if I’m going to make it through this year in my apartment alone, I’m going to have to shift my perspective.
Thinking this way is a challenge. Honestly, it feels more natural to slip back into the mindset I’ve always had about living alone. It’s easy to be bitter, it’s easy to assume that I know what I need to be mentally recharged, it’s easy to avoid coming home. But at the end of the day, when there’s no one there to feed my extroversion, and it’s just me in my apartment, I have to make a choice. I can see the solitude as a burden, or I can see it as a gift. When it comes down to it, I would rather this experience grow me than defeat me, so I’m stretching myself to look at it differently. And it’s a little painful, but that’s why they call it ‘growing pains’.
They say that when a couple moves in together, the relationship changes drastically. You’re closer, you discover every little thing about each other, and you learn to accept those things, flaws and all. You are forced to reconcile your differences under one roof so that you can create a healthy environment. That’s how I’m looking at this stage of my life. I’ve moved in with me, and we’re about to get to know each other a whole lot better. I’m excited to see how my relationship with myself will evolve in the next year. And while I don’t think I’ll ever change at the core and I’m always going to choose a crowded room over an empty one, I think it’s time I learn how to be content in the empty room, and maybe even appreciate the lessons to be found in there.