That alarm went off once, and I hit snooze at 7 am, fully counting on the fact that it would, in 5 minutes, and every five minutes after I hit snooze consecutively, go off again. With that knowledge I soaked in those last few glory moments curled up in my bed. Then, a few moments later, or what I thought was a few moments, I picked up my phone to glance at the time. What I thought I was going to see and what I actually saw were two entirely different things. It’s probably about ten-after, I thought. The clock read 8:38. I was supposed to be at work in 7 minutes. How did this happen?! This never happens to me. I never sleep through my alarm!
I scrambled out of bed, still feeling like I somehow hadn’t quite gotten enough sleep, headed to the bathroom and began my morning routine of face washing, teeth brushing and makeup applying, at a speed 10x faster than normal. It’s a strange thing to be moving so much faster than usual, while feeling in your body like you are about 20x slower than usual from lack of sleep.
With absolutely no time to do anything to my wavy, messy bed-hair, I threw some edible items into my bag and ran out the door. I was already late, but speeding meant I would be less late, right?
Trying to get out of my car when I finally arrived at work was another story. I quickly opened my door and proceeded to grab my purse and bag from the passenger seat while stepping out of my door. At that moment, my shoe decided to come off and flip over on the ground beside me. Someone then called to me from the sidewalk “Are you going to open soon?” I simply nodded my head, for it had only been about 15 minutes since I had been out of bed, and I don’t (can’t, won’t, whatever you want to call it) talk for at least 30 minutes after I wake up.
The title of this post may be a bit misleading. As mentioned above, what I described is not my typical morning. I can’t even remember the last time I didn’t get up to my alarm. So, this isn’t really ‘a day in the life’, but rather an exception that happened to bring out both of these two qualities at once: my not being a morning person, and also being an introvert. Read along and you’ll see how the latter comes in to play.
With my hair a wild mess, my shoes falling off, and scrambling to find my keys that I had dropped into the deep recesses of my purse so that I could open the door, it is safe to say that I was a mess. Nothing was going as planned. All of my noble aspirations to have a calm, slow, easy-going morning of taking my time to get ready and then leisurely eating breakfast while reading my Bible had been thrown out the window.
I am officially a failure at this morning. I thought over and over.
Then the fact that I never do this made me feel even more like something was wrong. What is happening to me? I’m failing at life....
On top of that, and despite the whole I-don’t-talk-for-30-minutes-after-waking-up thing, I was forced to talk to people the moment I opened the door, who had a million questions I did not currently know the answers to because I was still mentally asleep and not willing to engage my brain to conjure the answers they needed. It’s not just that I don’t talk upon those first few moments of waking, it’s also that I don’t want to be around people - particularly, strangers - for a good hour or so until I feel that I have mentally, emotionally and physically prepared myself for engaging with humans. I need time to bridge that gap between the blissful state of resting and being alon, and the slightly-less-blissful state of being with people fully engaged and ready for all the demands made on my introverted nature.
If I have to be around people, that means they are going to talk to me, and ask me questions about myself, and maybe...even...touch me. And all of the above means that I will have to talk back, and use my not-fully-awake-yet-brain to find the answers to their questions that I don’t want to think about, or worse: talk about myself, because if I don’t do those things, that is rude and unkind, and I will be perceived as unfriendly, not fun, that-person-that-you-don’t-want-to-invite-anywhere-because-they-dont-add-any-life-to-your-party.
The reason it is so daunting to have to talk about myself and about other peoples’ lives in the morning, and sometimes even other times too, is because all the things I say and ask will likely be only two or three syllables, when people expect a long chattery answer. Even if I want to tell you more things about myself, or ask you more detailed questions about yourself, it simply will not happen. The only things I will be able to say are the following: Yeah, that’s cool. Really? Yeah, I did. No, not really. Yeah, I do. And maybe a few others along the lines of yes, no, and maybe. I’ll probably add some courtesy laughs to make it a bit less painful. I will not go into details about anything. I will not become excited. I will try, and on the inside I might actually be excited, but it will only come out as a halfhearted grin.
Don’t get me wrong, I love people and am actually a very friendly person. In fact, I’ve often been pegged as an extrovert by those who don’t know me well.
But mornings? No.
Places where I don’t know anyone? Also no. Settings where I am surrounded by bunches of strangers who all know each other and are talking and laughing about things only known by those in their circle? No, thank you.
The best moment of my day is definitely when I get to go in my room, lay on my bed and be still for at least 15 minutes. Or play my piano, read a book, write in my journal, or be outside for a few hours. With no interruptions.
I love doing all of the above with friends; I love high-energy games of dutch blitz with a room full of people and fun parties where great friends are everywhere you turn, but I will always love solitude more than all of those things.
It’s because if I don’t get a chance to be still, to rest, and to recuperate from all of that high-energy fun, soon that high-energy fun will simply turn, for me, into straight up stress. Maybe that’s because I’m too sensitive, or maybe it’s because I need to liven up a little. But whatever the reason is, I am fully aware of the fact that I favor introversion over extroversion, though I have a good balance of both most afternoons and evenings.
One of my favorite things in life is quality time that is full of meaningful words and purposeful conversation. I absolutely love when I get to share solitude with one or a small handful of other people who are close to me. Sitting in a coffee shop or on the beach talking for hours about things that matter, going for a run or walk with someone who is dear to me, having tea with a friend I haven’t seen in a while, taking time to just breathe while catching up on others’ lives, baking cookies together with friends, playing music together - all of these things are like sweet healing balm to my otherwise hurried and aching-for-fellowship heart.
It’s a paradox - this loving solitude yet craving fellowship and heart-connection at a deep level. I long to have a family of brothers and sisters around me, yet I love to be alone. I long for closeness at a level beyond the surface, with people whose hearts are beating to the same rhythm as mine. I desire deep friendships that go far beyond simply sharing life’s pleasures to something much more significant and meaningful: a shared vision, a shared purpose, a shared love for the same things. The kind of friendship and camaraderie I am searching for is friendship that is going somewhere. I desire the knowledge that we are running the same race, and were put in each other’s lives to help the other along - to grow and change and watch each other be transformed into the image of Christ. And to play a part in that transformation, whether big or small.
Yet maybe this paradox isn’t really a paradox at all. Maybe loving solitude and also loving rich heart-friendships are simply two sides of the same coin.
Over the years I have grown out of my shyness. I do believe that my shyness as a child was simply the immature version of introversion. It’s not even that I was actually shy, there were just many more people who talked a lot more than I did, because they liked to talk. When I had something to say, I said it. Otherwise, why talk? That was my reasoning as a child, and I believe it is sound reasoning. Most of the times I did not speak were simply because I had nothing to say.
I have always been a listener, and I gained much knowledge about people through listening and observing conversations and situations. However, when as a child I was asked Why are you so quiet? Why aren’t you talking? and other things along those same lines, I began to wonder what was wrong with me. I began to believe that I was supposed to talk a lot, and because I did not, I had some sort of social disorder. This false truth plagued me throughout my teen years, though I did become a lot more open and friendly during those years.
Today as an independent and semi-confident 24 year old, I have arrived at a place of rest and peace with who I am, and am now able see the wisdom of keeping quiet until one is ready to speak. When this wisdom is acted upon, the word that is spoken is the result of much thought and careful contemplation, and therefore full of substance.
Most of the time, people who keep to themselves and are quieter than others do not have a social disorder. There is nothing wrong with them. Their quietness is not because they are afraid to speak, it is because they weigh their words carefully. It is because they are lovers of meaning and substance, and aren’t so partial to frivolous chatter.
Now, there are definitely exceptions to this rule. Some quiet people may very well have a disorder called social anxiety. It may be taking all the strength they have to not run away from the setting they are currently in, and we should all be mindful of and warm to such people. Usually, however, this is not the case. The person talking less than everyone else in the room is probably just an introvert and will speak when given the opportunity, when they feel comfortable enough to do so, or when they just feel like it in general.
In addition, loud extroverts quite often have very meaningful things to say. Not all chatter is meaningless, and not every word that comes out of a quiet person’s mouth is full of deep and profound truth and meaning, but Proverbs says that whoever restrains his words has knowledge (17:27-28), and James tells us to be quick to listen and slow to speak (1:19).
When a quiet person does open their mouth, pay attention, because what they are saying typically has much meaning to it, and often quality humor.
It is always going to be part of life to have days like mine was this morning, and I am slowly coming to accept that fact.
It is good for all people, whether introverted or extroverted, to be mindful of those who are not like you, and to strive to live in such a way as to accommodate each personality trait.
Meanwhile, I will be over here trying to balance talking more when I don’t feel like it, and hoping nobody actually talks to me. (In the morning).