Monday, August 29, 2011

An Introvert Breaking the Habit

A few weeks ago I went to a fast breaking with a couple of close friends from when I was still in college. Some of them are friends that I still maintain contact with and we meet at least once a month just for coffee and small talks (that could last for five to six hours, cafe hopping). The others are friends that I haven't been in contact with since college, except for a text message on Idul Fitri, or occasional comments on Facebook.

Gathering and even reunion with old friends are commonly found during Ramadhan. I got many invitations, started from college friends to friends from junior high school, but I never attend it. I never really turn them down right there and then, simply because I didn't want to offend them. But I think, over time they finally learned that I just don't go to such gatherings. They keep sending me invitations, but I think they knew that I wouldn't show up.

Some of my friends start questioning my behavior, thinking that there is something wrong with me. Some speculated that it must be the painful break up that I had just undergone a few years ago. And they said, I really need to pull myself together and move on. Meet new people, have fun. Forget about the past.

That's what I thought I felt too.

About two months ago I accidentally found the MBTI personality test. I actually had taken the test a few years ago and I've already learned that I am an INFJ. But it wasn't until two months ago that I started digging on more materials on the subject. From what I found on the subject, I learned that there is nothing wrong with me. I finally could see that it's not about the break up and how I failed to overcome the trauma, or me being socially incapable. I have always been that kind of person since a long time ago. I just had the chance to realize it now. It was a relieve because I have always thought that I'm different from normal people and it needs to be fixed.. 

As an introvert, I constantly need a certain period of time alone. While others recharged through parties and gatherings, I recharged by having quiet time alone with myself. Sometimes I'd do some activities like writing or painting, sometimes I'd just do nothing, just sitting by the window and sip my coffee or tea. I just realized I did that a lot, even when I'm home during the weekend. I would sit in front of my computer in my room for hours, writing or doing some photo editing or digital painting. I'd let my daughter coming in and going out of the room to check on me once in a while, or when she feels like it, she'd sit next to me, occupying herself by drawing or creating stories. (Now that I think of it, I realized that I should be really grateful for having her as a daughter. She's seven years old, yet she seems to understand that there are times that I just don't want to be disturbed. She'd smile and shake her head while looking at me, saying, 'Bun, you forget everything once you start sitting there and painting').

I also learned from the materials I found that it is important for the introverts to have their daily dose of quiet alone time to keep their sanity intact. Some people may find this strange, but actually it's only a matter of different ways of operating in social interaction. 

I usually don't feel hesitant to go out if it is to meet people I'm most comfortable with, and that consists of a limited number of close friends. But there are times, when I feel quite drained and need my solitude, that I decide not to meet even my closest friends. I never really try to explain this to my friends, because, honestly, I don't know how.

But I also realized that I don't have to always indulge my habit.  While I think it might be good to let my friends know that I'm okay and I don't need social interaction booster, I also think that there are times when I need to break the routine once in a while; to go and meet them even when I don't feel like to.

One of the recent examples was the fast breaking gathering I mentioned earlier. I went there despite feeling that I'd rather go home and sit myself on the bed and read some books. I made the right decision because it was really nice, and I really had a good time meeting them. We still contact each other until now, and even sending broadcast message within our whatsapp group a few times a day. Broadcast message has always been considered to be the most annoying thing in mobile phone interaction, yet nobody in the group seems to complain. I can even say I enjoy it. It's less disturbing compared to text messages (where you usually required to reply immediately), and it keeps you updated of what your friends are doing without having the obligation to reply immediately, because there will always be someone else replying first. 

A few days after that, I was faced with another situation where I had to go to a family gathering. It was the third times that month, all of them were held during the weekend, where I was supposed to have a quiet time alone. I went to the first and the second because I felt like to at the time. By the time they told me that there's going to be another family gathering, I started to form an escape plan. It was a moment when I was very snappish, due to the lack of alone time, and I knew that at times like that the best thing to do for me was to stay in my room for hours until I feel calmed and gain my energy back.

But I came to the gathering anyway. 

We were asked to gather at my aunt's house because she was severely ill and her condition is worsening. I love my aunt. She's one of the person from my childhood that I'd remember the most. So I went there to see her. She looked so happy seeing her nieces and nephews and grandchildren, and she told my Mom that she hadn't been this happy since months ago.

So I guess, I did the right thing.

It might be a torture at the beginning, but I think doing extra effort to go and meet the people you love and care about, would worth it. To find that you are actually happy being around them, and that they actually love to have you around, would worth it.

I learned that it is important to know yourself and what works best for you, but it is also important to be flexible and tolerate, when needed. Love, and caring, are the operative words, I suppose :)

Bintaro, 6.30 am

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