It's funny how we can go so long without really knowing ourselves.
Anyone who knew me (including myself) until about the age of 28 would have guessed that I was an extrovert. I was incredibly social and always buzzing around and keeping myself busy with social engagements. I tended to bring people together and loved hosting all different kinds of get-togethers at my place.
On the weekends, however, I stayed pretty solo. I'd clean, reorganize things, run errands, maybe go for a hike or drag myself out for a social meetup of some kind, but I loved coming home to my empty condo, watching TV, and just enjoying that space all to myself.
I never thought much about what I was - introvert or extrovert - or why it even mattered. I didn't really think I needed that alone time on the weekends, I thought it was simply a default of my single lifestyle. If you had asked me then, I would have said I thrived in a group, being around people. And that, to some extent, would have been true.
When I was 29 I was traveling - like really traveling - for the first time ever. I had just wrapped up a week at a wellness retreat in Spain (the one I consistently refer to as the place that "cracked me open and all this shit came pouring out"). I had a lot to process after that week, but didn't think much of it. I met up with my Dad and my sister in Italy for a week of touring; Venice, then Rome. After Dad flew back to the states, Sis and I went on to Sicily, or, "Seesily," as we called it.
Sis and I traveled well together. We met up with some Italian friends, one of whom was kind enough to let us stay in his house in Catania (the city) for a few nights. I felt that this was a generous offer (and it was), but as we arrived I realized the situation I'd put myself in. We were not in Catania, but outside it (read: nothing nearby). His house was lovely (his mother's) but was on a gated street (need a code to get in/out) on a gated lot (same deal) and the house itself was alarmed. We stayed in the attic and came and went by his schedule. We ate by his schedule and dietary preferences. Now, mind you, he was an incredibly gracious host who tried at all times to make us comfortable and happy. But this lack of autonomy and alone time started to really get to me.
We were on the beach one day when I felt like I was going to explode. I excused myself to take a walk, and I did, in fact, explode; I sat on the edge of the Mediterranean crying my eyes out, the waves crashing at my feet, the cool October wind blowing through.
Going simply on gut instinct, I told my sis I'd be checking back in to our hostel that night. She didn't have to join me, but she chose to. I had drinks with the gang early on, but left them to retire early. Really, I just craved some alone time, so I wandered to the lovely restaurant down the road from the hostel, where I sat outside, in the movie-set-streets of Catania, enjoying a delicious glass of red and the best tabouleh I've ever had. I'll never forget that night, or that feeling. A gorgeous moment, all to myself; feeling like I could breathe again.
Lesson learned: all that alone time I was getting in my Colorado life was not a default, but actually time I required for myself. And I, in fact, am an introvert: a people-loving introvert. I spend a lot of my time these days surrounded by people, sharing energy in yoga classes and in social settings, and I LOVE it; I think, to some extent, I need that to thrive as well. But, the rest of my time is spent mostly alone, and I can feel it when that me-time is lacking. It means saying no sometimes, and being comfortable being alone. It means not soaking up every moment with a friend or partner, but knowing myself well enough to know I'll be a better friend/partner if I don't. It means finding ways to recharge, to do "nothing," and to enjoy my own company.
And so, this Memorial Day weekend after several days of hanging with my boyfriend and friends at the beach, I was having that pent-up feeling again. I escaped and found myself in a familiar setting - sitting on an empty beach with the waves crashing at my feet, and the cool wind on my skin. It was such a lovely reminder of this great memory and the lesson that I learned; a reminder of what I need to thrive, and that it's okay to take this time-out for myself when I need it.
How do you recharge? Do you feel best after being around a ton of people? Or do you need some time to yourself every day?