Am I an Extroverted Introvert, or an Introverted Extrovert?

In the lead up to the quarantine and the first few days of it, I saw a lot of jokes going around about what a relief it would be for introverts to not have to worry about going outside and interacting with people for the next while. I laughed when I saw them, and I thought I’d probably be able to relate. In my head, I still tend to think of myself as an introvert, but I do wonder how much of that is due to my brain just translating “introvert” as code for “not popular in high school.” After all, if you’re not popular in high school because you’re an introvert, then there’s nothing wrong with that. You just don’t want to be popular. And in high school, being popular matters, or at least it did to me, even on a subconscious level.

But when I think back to my days in high school (and all the days since then), then I don’t think that “introvert” label really works for me. Even in high school, I was often the one calling people up, arranging group activities to go see a movie or get together someplace to hang out. And I’m still a person who likes to get together at parties. Not with too many people, mind you. A party can reach a critical mass for me where it gets to the point that I feel overwhelmed and would rather go read a book, but most of the times, I really look forward to get togethers.

Does that make me an extrovert? I don’t think I can really claim that title as well. Meeting new people and talking to strangers is something I pretty much loathe. I don’t mind it once the first bit of the conversation is over, but that lead up to initiating a conversation? Yuck. I’d rather just stay to the side and be quiet. Going to parties at conferences? I’ll be the guy standing there with a water in his hand and a brownie in the other, debating how long I need to stay until I can leave and go do something more entertaining. And after big get togethers, I need some time by myself to recharge.

But I’m discovering I also feel a real need to be around other people, especially when it comes to doing my work. So much of where I feel I’m most effective is when I’m dealing with other people. Learning about what they do and how I can help them do it better. Being connected. You’d think much of what a librarian does can be done in isolation, and that’s true for a lot of it (cataloging, remote reference help, class support, etc.) but when it comes to actually managing a library and helping students, sticking me in a room cut off from the rest of my staff and the students I help is frustrating to say the least.

Part of this is due to an unfamiliarity with how to use the distance education tools. Not by me (I’m quite good with most technology), but for the students. Internet speeds aren’t the greatest in Maine. and a lot of our students are first generation or unfamiliar with how to get the most out of tech. That would be in the best sort of scenarios, which this COVID-19 time is most definitely not. Let’s be honest: people are worried about much more than just “how do I get the most out of my college classes” right now. And even then, their concern for “how do I get the most out of my college library” is even further away from that.

Like them, I’m worried about the future. The economy. The health of my family and friends. How long this will last? What next week will look like, let alone next month.

And in the middle of all of this, I don’t have the usual connections I can draw on to get ideas and generate energy to deal with problems. Ironically, at the same time I’ve been cut off from most of my library interactions, my author interactions have been great. The remote writing group has been a fantastic success thus far, and I’ve been grateful to have those additional connections.

I’m very grateful I can be in this with my family. Yes, it’s sometimes stressful to be trying to get work done when there are so many other things happening around me, but it’s wonderful to have them here with me and be able to do things together and have support throughout it.

Anyway, this has been just a rambling way of saying “I think I’m much less of an introvert than I liked to claim before.” And why does it have to be an either/or situation? It makes more sense that people are somewhere on that spectrum, instead of one or the other. Myself, I think I’m probably . . . 65% extrovert, 35% introvert.

What about you? How are you holding up?


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