Both my television and my computer screen are filled with Friday Night Lights tonight – a college game is on ESPN and a Twitter feed exclusively of high school football scores. I truly love football, and nights like this (when it’s cold and rainy and too far of a drive to Kelly’s game) make me happy. But, if you would have told me three years ago that nights like this would be good for me – I would have laughed.
You see, I’m quite the extrovert – surprising, I know! For as long as I can remember, I’ve gotten my energy and my happiness from the people around me. I have tried to fill every spare moment that I have with people, cramming in coffee dates and movie nights and sleepovers into my schedule whenever possible. My favorite places were always those that were full of people – Camp Geneva, college dorms, basketball arenas and downtown Holland. I talk loud and fast and laugh too much and sing everything I can – these are activities all done best in the company of others. I always centered my life around people.
If you take a look at that last paragraph, you’ll notice it is largely in the past tense. While my favorite activities and the speed of my speech have not changed, some of the rest has. In the past, I was scared of doing things alone, without the people I had come to rely on. I didn’t know how to do things on my own – I mean, I was totally capable of doing them, but if forced to do it alone, I was miserable! If there were nights when I was at home or hanging out by myself, I would feel horrible – completely inadequate, like something was wrong with me. There was nothing wrong – and there is nothing wrong with spending time alone – but my life was so full of things and people, and my identity was so caught up in doing things and being with people, that it felt wrong to me.
I like to (jokingly) blame my introverted husband, but over the past three years or so, I’ve noticed a shift in my personality, especially in regards to alone time. I think that I’ve spent more time alone in the past 6 months than I have in years, and most of it has been by choice and really good for me. When I realized that I was choosing to spend time alone, and was actually enjoying that time, I was a little bit frightened and a little bit scared. So much of my identity was wrapped up in people – so what did it mean if it wasn’t that way anymore? Was I changing who I fundamentally was? Was I not Kara anymore?
The conclusion that I came to was this: no, I wasn’t changing who I was, I was simply changing how I recharged my batteries. My anxiety disorder has become worse in the past three years, and crowds and driving (especially at night) are some of my biggest triggers for panic attacks. My schedule gets busy and crazy and it can be difficult to find time to relax and re-energize. Sometimes, I am so tired from fighting through the day that all I can do is flop on the couch and turn on the TV. Sometimes, I need to leave my office and sit at JPs with my headphones in and a cup of coffee and not talk for an hour or so. If I need time to think, walking around downtown or through a store, where there are lots of people but none that I have to interact with, is really good for my brain. Sometimes, on Friday nights, I need to stream my favorite sport all over my house so that I can clean and write and take a break after a busy and long day (in the middle of a busy weekend).
Sometimes, I just need to breathe and be by myself in order to feel like myself.
AND ALL OF THESE THINGS ARE TOTALLY OKAY!
It’s okay to recharge by yourself. It’s okay to recharge with other people. It’s okay to do both things – as long as you are staying true to yourself while you do it. Just because you are an introvert or an extrovert doesn’t mean there is one certain way to do it. It’s more about knowing yourself and what you need and how you work best than about what you think you have to do or need to do. Yes, I still pull energy from people and I love being around my friends and family – but I can also love being by myself and that is okay. It’s still a little weird for me, and I’ll be honest, my anxiety can still get really bad when I’m alone, especially at nighttime – the dark and I have never been friends. But, I’m learning, and I’m so thankful that I’ve found a new way to recharge and feel like myself that I didn’t know was a thing outside of these past years.
So, on nights like today when the only Friday Nights Lights I’ll have are my computer screen and my television (and maybe a vanilla candle, because hello fall!), I’m reminding myself that it’s okay to be an extrovert that likes to be alone sometimes. Maybe, if you are surround by actual Friday Night Lights at a football game or a restaurant or a bar, you’ll read this later and be reminded that (extrovert or introvert), we all need the balance of being with people and being with ourselves. Maybe you’ll be reminded that changing how you recharge your batteries has nothing to do with changing yourself, even if something new feels a little weird at first. Because, whatever your Friday Night Lights are tonight, I just hope that they make you feel a little more like yourself.