I am an ambivert. This means that I both enjoy socialising and having my alone time. When I was a kid my alone time was something I preferred over all social gatherings, be they small or large. I was the youngest of 5 kids, the oldest being 18 years older than myself. That is a large family by today’s standards, I know. And some may be wondering how it is that in a family that size ANYONE can get some alone time. Well, the answer is both simple and a bit complicated.
I wanted alone time. So I would go off to another room and play or entertain myself, and when we moved onto our farm when I was in grade 3 I was ecstatic about the amount of forest we had around us. This gave me endless possibilities for alone time. I could, after chores were done or after school was out and I was safely (theoretically) delivered back home by the school bus, go out and hike or ride horseback through endless trails. I could also break trail to new places that I would want to explore. I knew it was time to head home when it started to become dusk outside.
Nonetheless, the more complicated part of the answer to this is that one sometimes finds oneself in social situations, even with a large family, where one would much rather be alone but the expectation is that you must be in attendance and somehow “perform” to the expected level of “decency”. So I had to learn social ques and mannerisms and such, all of which have helped me to find my way through social life and make myself who I am today. But it was extremely uncomfortable at the best of times because I was both extremely shy and extremely sensitive. I would sometimes answer questions that I thought I heard someone ask me, only to find that, yet again, it was a telepathic moment and they had not spoken the words. This makes people uncomfortable and then the entire social thing becomes awkward and difficult. Being a natural telepath it is not like I could turn it off. I had to develop those skills over time in order to allow others their privacy. I worked hard at that and became very good at it, but still, to this day, every now and then I will pick up on something that just slipped through the cracks and then I have to work with whatever that something is, while at the same time acknowledging that it is none of my business and therefore I am not expected to do anything about whatever slipped through the cracks. I like to allow others the opportunity to be responsible for their own stuff.
Sometimes, even with the social expectations in play, one has to learn when it is completely alright to insulate and say, “No, I won’t be attending”. This act actually allows space for life! Alone time lets us recharge and re-calibrate our brains so that when it is time for us to have to function in social settings we can actually do it. Many are not used to and actually completely uncomfortable with the idea of saying “no” to an invitation. So they twist themselves into knots trying to please others’ expectations. I have learned over many years that this only leads to burnout and resentment. So I would rather say “no” and still like the other people than resent them for my feeling forced into a situation (even though that was never their intent). And I would rather filter out the people who take exception to my saying “no” right off the bat instead of trying to navigate my way through their expectations. Life becomes so much easier that way.
When we realise that there is purpose to our alone time, it becomes so much easier for us to take it. It is like a lovely gift of a spa day from someone with whom you have been sleeping all of your life…yourself! And there is no expectation that you need to spend the spa day with anyone else! Yay! This then revitalises us and then, when it is time to spend some time with family and friends, we can do so without the negative charge that sometimes is carried with such experiences. We know ourselves better and then have much more to offer to the social setting. And we are able to see others more for who they are instead of just who they present themselves to be. This can be highly enriching indeed!
Now, having said all of this, I have to also admit that when it comes time to socialise, this dude knows how to PARTAY! Just ask anyone who knew me in my university years. I spent more time socialising than I did with my nose in a book. I still aced the courses, because I was good at learning and knowing sometimes what the professors wanted to hear when it came to exams and essays and such. I also have an exceptional memory. So attending classes was all I needed to do in many cases. But my main purpose in life by that time (I entered university at the age of 22 because I worked between high school graduation and university) was to get a social life. I did just that.
Interestingly, I have a friend who works on campus at the university that I attended. Now and then we do coffee on campus. Each time we do, as I make my way through campus to meet him, I experience memories from 30 years ago. The people who were so important to me back then and who now are ghosts from the past, the parties that were attended, the weird interactions I had with classmates and such just flood back. I have to smile though because there is only one friend with whom I still have a connection from back then. He is cherished. But all the others…do you hear the crickets chirping? I wish them all well and hope that they have happy lives, but I have absolutely NOTHING in common with any of them now. That is part of growing and experiencing life. And I don’t hold onto the old. I let it go and move on to the present and the future. I would find it weird to run into any of them because people have a habit of assuming that you have never changed, when in actuality if you don’t change it is an indication of mental illness. It means that you got stuck somewhere and are not letting go and moving on. So yes, I have changed tremendously, and so much so that they would likely never recognise me anyway. One of the ways I have changed is that I value my alone time now even more than I did when I was a kid. I can socialise, but I don’t like large crowds and I hate pub crawling. So I usually spend time with people in very small clustered groups or just one-on-one. I find that more comfortable and more fulfilling. Truthfully, I think they do as well. It is much better to spend time with me when I am not distracted by all the goings on around us in a restaurant or a bar. Having my focused attention is my gift to my friends and family. So we meet in smaller settings and smaller groups. And it all works out well.
Sometimes people over socialise in an attempt to escape something, whether that be loneliness or fear of rejection or whatever. I tend to socialise in a way that allows me to gift others my time and attention, but also a way that acknowledges the gits that they are giving me with their time and attention. And no, we don’t socialise by getting together and then having our noses in our cell phones. That is totally ridiculous behaviour. We look at each other. We talk about ourselves and our families and friends. We share our life experiences. We share our hopes and dreams. We support each other in our ventures. That is what socialising is all about, folks! When it is done well, it is the most elegant thing one can ever experience. Yet, there is always something to be said for the insulating factor of alone time. That, too, carries with it a certain grace that can never be reached when having even one other person in the room. I like both. But I cherish my alone time. It brings me closer to ME.