Today, I worked a full day, interacting with students and co-workers. When school ended, I chatted, answered emails, and made future plans with my teaching partner for an hour and a half. On my way home, I made two calls, left a voice message, received two calls, and answered BOTH of them, chatting comfortably with those on the other end. I also chatted with my roommate while making dinner, and replied to multiple text messages while I ate. Today was a social day.
Other days, I don’t want to get out of bed. I absentmindedly check messages on my phone, then close the app to avoid answering. I make myself a cup of coffee and sit on the couch, too drained to even make breakfast for myself. I’ll watch tv for hours and miss the plot of the show because I scrolled on my phone. I feel restless and lonely, and I have a surge of fear if someone calls. I’ll stay in my pajamas but feel uncomfortable; I’ll make plans to get things done around the house or do some drawing, but never get to it. If I am pushed into interaction on a day like these, I often feel unable to communicate clearly and make simple mistakes when talking. Those days are my “introvert” days.
There are times when I feel charged up, when I crave interpersonal relationships. Other times, I am completely drained, fearing social interaction. I often wonder about this and think that part of the reason I have such strong contrast is that I am an introvert working in a very extroverted job. Teaching requires me to be “on” at all times, from before school starts until long after it ends. I am constantly talking and questioning and thinking, which can be draining after a full week. I rarely feel that I’ve had enough time to fully “introvert” at the end of a week of teaching.
Another reason I think I struggle is that I am still learning how to balance life well. I desire to be social, but my energy level is usually low at the end of a work day, and especially at the end of a work week. Although I am not struggling with it every single day, I know how my social anxiety tends to ebb and flow. Because of this, I don’t always like to make plans in advance, as I am often unsure how I will feel later in the week and I don’t like to cancel plans. It bothers me to be perceived as flaky, so I often wait to respond to invitations until the event becomes closer and I can gauge my energy level. When I do agree to social outings farther in advance, I sometimes regret it when the time comes.
I think it’s important to be honest about how these things affect us to better understand one another. When I am having a hard time, I often need to be reminded to slow down and spend time in prayer. Rather than being pushed into social interaction, my heart is telling me to quiet myself and the world around me. Generally, I think we tend to be too busy and rushed in this modern society of ours. When we are feeling all of the noise of the world, the Lord is calling us to draw near and be still; to quiet our minds and spend time with the One who makes us whole. May we listen and respond.