I turned 20 in June, and most days I feel as if I am only just beginning to know myself. The other day I ate a pepper and thought, “I liked that,” and then realized that that might be the first pepper I have eaten in my entire life.
In equally as earth-shattering news, I am an introvert who has believed she was an extrovert for about 9 years. The term I coined with my roommates this summer for my personality is “recovering extrovert,” because as a person-who-thought-she-was-an-extrovert it is not exciting or celebratory or full of pizzazz to realize you are relegated to (what I thought was) the inferior personality type.
There is no inferior personality type! That is my spoiler because I couldn’t handle more than one space bar perpetuating that sad myth. Extroverts are spectacular and introverts are splendid. And if you fall somewhere in the middle, I think you’re in good company with the rest of the world!
I’m really glad I learned about Piaget’s theory of cognitive development in probably every single one of my child development classes, because in realizing I am an introvert, and knowing parts of my personality didn’t mesh with my definition of introvertedness, I had to accommodate.
Accommodation is a Piagetian concept that allows children (and adults too!) to redefine certain concepts based on new or contradictory information. I thought introverts were antisocial, and I know I’m not antisocial. I thought introverts were mousy and quiet, and I am quiet about as often as I am loud. As for the mousy part, I think that might be a rude value judgment on anyone so I’ll toss it altogether. I thought introverts didn’t like talking or listening, and let me tell you: I love to talk and I love to listen. I thought introverts were negative and cynical, and I am generally excitable and optimistic and peppy. Needless to say, introverts come in all varieties and accommodation was in order!
In realizing my introvertedness, I inadvertently opened myself up to caring about a whole group of other people. Sometimes at Vanderbilt I feel out of place because I am not the one starting chants at football games or winning VSG elections or getting 300 likes on Instagrams. At least to me, Vanderbilt seems more extroverted than introverted. But that’s not a bad thing, just another way to learn how to understand people. I am glad I finally “admitted defeat” in the extrovert arena, because it allowed me to develop a less biased view of people, with their funny catchphrases and the way their eyes widen when they tell stories and how they care for strangers on the street. There’s incredible variation in personality, and it is all important.
When we got here, Adeline said someone described Copenhagen to her as “the city of introverts.” I’m not sure I’ve really seen that, but then again, when you’re dealing with introverts, you might not see them a whole lot. So.
Whether or not this city is actually made up of a disproportionate number of introverts, being here has given me the freedom to recharge without the Vanderbilt go-go-go mantra marching through my head at all times. I get to sit in coffee shops and donut shops and libraries and on my couch and reflect, recharge, process–lots of internal introspective words going on here. I get to think about the kind of friend I want to be to my friends and the kind of friend I want to be to strangers and what kind of job I want to have when I graduate and also some less admirable things like am I not immersing myself fully abroad if I keep eating peanut butter?
That is to be determined, but I did just buy some more peanut butter and they package it in unfortunately small jars here (no JIF to be found!).
One of my friends (hi Sarah!!!) got me reading a book called A Million Little Ways by Emily P. Freeman. She says a lot of good things, but the words I think are most relevant to my introverted crisis-turned-celebration is this one:
We are walking poetry, the kind that moves, the kind who has hands and feet, the kind with mind and will and emotion. We are what happens when God expresses himself.
Amen to that!! We are what happens when God expresses himself, and he doesn’t express himself incorrectly. He breathed us into life, with nuances to get excited over instead of uptight about. His scribbling of walking poetry into the way we give out love and the causes that make our hearts swell and whether you would die on a mountain for Whataburger or In N Out: these differences are Divine.
One of the tooth-and-nail battles I’ve had with myself since I started writing all these little words on this little blog is that it’s weird to write things and it’s weird to need a space to process. The answer to both of those non-questions is no!! Simply no. I can, however, get into a habit of living internally. But I know that all of these words are ones I would say to my friends and family in a conversation over FaceTime or in Edgehill or on the floor of a dorm. So I’m thankful, incredibly thankful for y’all and the ways you support me and listen even when listening means reading because there’s an ocean between our next face-to-face conversation. I love y’all!!
Here is my note in case my parents read this: both of my parents are introverts, and life becomes easier when you want to become them instead of fighting to become not-them. They are great people.