The Lonely Introvert

This one got out of hand. I would apologize, but writing it was cathartic. Most of the really interesting stuff is near the top. The rest is more like an internal monologue, if you’re into that sort of thing. Also, pictures.


Ladies and gentleman, I have the emotional capacity of a five-year-old.

It started when I was packing to house-sit. Suddenly it hit me that I would be alone outside of work and church unless I convinced someone to spend the night.

Empty houses scare me. They force me to spend time with myself, which I for some reason have an aversion to. Sure, I like periods of deep thought, but once I come out of those periods, I need someone to vent to. I’m stuck in my own head for the majority of the time anyway, and I’ve come to rely on my family to bring me to the surface often enough to remember what year it is.

So my dormant five-year-old came out in the form of severe separation anxiety shortly before my departure, and I moped. I would regularly drop what I was doing to seek out my mother or one of my sisters for emotional comfort. I was on the verge of tears for days, and running over a chipmunk the day I started house-sitting did not help this.

Right about this time, Calli helped me solve a personal crisis I’d been struggling with for months: she pegged me as an INTP, which threw my world into further upheaval, some of it good.

For those of you not versed in the MBTI personality typing phenomenon: 1) Go you, because ignorance is bliss, and 2) this means that I am an introvert whose main function is deep thinking and problem solving, with weak emotional capacity.

The MBTI test had typed me as an INFP when I took it several months ago. INFP is undoubtedly what Nina is. However, I am a very poor test-taker, especially when it’s personality-related, because I over-analyze every question, so I had a feeling INFP wasn’t the answer to me. I’m not squishy and poetic enough.

Calli, like a supportive friend, sent me this a few weeks after our conversation on personalities: 
After three or four evenings of house-sitting with no one but myself for company, I was starting to descend into one of my dangerous pensive self-reflective moods. I was mopey and melancholy and just wanted to sleep instead of tackling the pile of books I had brought with me. I was regularly spam-texting family about anything that came to mind (which lately is cars, because I want a Forester), just for some semblance of human contact.

It doesn’t help that work has been slow and dull lately. That’s the trouble with striving for efficiency – I go through my workload very quickly and am stuck with nothing but odd projects to occupy me.

And there were the episodes with the dogs and the skunk, the dogs and the woodpile, me accidentally turning off the cows’ water (because the system is illogical), breaking a bowl that didn’t belong to me, and burning bread, which led to my clothes smelling like I smoke. I’m back to over-analyzing to see what’s wrong with me, how I will explain these things, and how I can possibly avoid any more mishaps. (So far my only solution is to not touch anything and obsessively monitor the dogs and limit the length of their excursions out-of-doors.)

I’ve caught myself talking in a sing-song voice to the cows and chickens, staring up at the stars until my neck hurts, getting lost in a random writing spree past my bedtime, leaving my tea on the back of the toilet all day long, spending the better part of an hour crooning to the barn cat and trying to take pictures of her, and spending too much money.

Less than a week in, I was convinced about Calli’s notion: INTP it is. And an INTP, by all appearances through my extensive research on Tumblr, waffles between brilliant (Albert Einstein) and a five-year-old.

Observe:

I am very opinionated. I may not always know beyond some vague concept why my opinions are what they are, but I hold to them. Like a five-year-old, I am constantly collecting data from my world to help me better navigate it and to refine my opinions. Unlike a five-year-old, I try to keep an open mind to see the flaws in my own belief systems and theories and to adjust accordingly. I am not prone to screaming at people or ignoring them if they don’t agree with me.

Related to that, I ask too many questions. I realize, somewhere in the back of my head, that this can come off as impolite, but I honestly want to understand things. I want to know how they (from plot devices to human beings to videotapes) work. All the things. I adore patterns and puzzles. I’ve learned in the past that it’s better to be thorough and ask too many questions rather than too few.

As you know by now, I like to share the information I collect. I found it interesting, so I find people I think may feel the same and, like a well-mannered five-year-old, I share it. If I can’t find anyone who cares that a group of flamingos is called a “flamboyant”, or that some group of scientists found way to detect waves in space, I’ll throw it out at random.

When no one is about, I end up talking to myself. I need people off of which to bounce ideas so they can help me refine them. Dogs are no good for this. If I was forced to live alone, I’d develop a very flawed bunch of ideas.

I also have a short attention span. Something that fascinated and consumed me one minute will be discarded once my first bout of curiosity is spent, and I’ll move on to something else. This has led the accumulation of many hobbies, from bracelet braiding to painting to gardening. For years I struggled to complete anything, particularly books and housework. Without what I feel is adequate preparation, I hesitate to undertake anything challenging, because I hate failing. (Yes, yes, I’m something of a perfectionist.) Sure, I’m learning how to adapt and wing it, but I prefer reliability. INTP’s are apparently notorious for making plans but not having the motivation to see them through, which explains my high school career.

Unlike the average INTP, I do not have a passion for math or most sciences outside of basic biology, and that only to help me work out the genetics in a fantasy book. I’m more into anthropology than physics. I like creating things and testing ideas and recipes and techniques.I like studying origins and the evolution of cultures and languages and art.

Essentially, I carrying around a virtual stick with which I prod ideas and smack people I
can’t be compelled to waste energy on. And repeatedly drop said stick, causing a general inexplicable panic.

I don’t really understand social norms and I struggle to navigate them. (I often check in with friends, especially Calli, to confirm that what I just did was not socially acceptable so I can adjust for next time.) I have always been one to develop scripts in my head whenever I have anything personally important to say, which is how I often speak on a subject after the general conversation has moved on. (And small talk? *mimes gagging*) I also struggle to make and then to keep friends, because I still haven’t learned how to invest in relationships. If I want to hang out, I’ll seek out people, and when I’m done I’ll leave. This isn’t acceptable, as it turns out.

I like to think I’m pretty observant, but this is mostly to help me blend in and avoid conflict. I sit quietly to one side, collecting information and trying to keep myself from embarrassing social encounters. (My name in Jo’s phone is “Da Sponge”, because I absorb my surroundings.) If left to my own devices without the pressures of behaving myself, I will blurt out random nonsense because it came into my head (which is often perceived as “rude” or “insensitive”), breach social boundaries, let lose my awkward sense of humor, and stop pretending that I like people I actually can’t tolerate.

And finally, like a five-year-old, I have a very poor grasp of emotions, particularly my own. Maybe this is why Hallmark movies make me gag. I’m not an emotionless robot – if the story is solid I’ll sob my eyes out, movie or book – but I don’t really understand emotions all the time. I have mood swings which often lead me to crying over everything: painful, happy, confusing, or rage-inducing. It’s ugly. The dogs don’t help when they jolt me out of a deep sleep at 2:00 AM barking to go out. Some days I can just barely contain the urge to throw things or slam doors if I get worked up enough.

Like yesterday, when I was hormonal and tired and just wanted chips and discovered someone had stolen my almost-full bag of On the Border tortilla chips that I had paid for with my own money. Even the best five-year-old has trouble sharing her favorite food, and that’s if the person with whom she is sharing asks nicely.

Turns out the emotional mood swings are mostly brought on by stress, because having a house to yourself and only having to wash your own dishes and clothes is stressful. How am I relieving this stress?

  • First, I am pouring a lot of my energy into developing a solid self-care routine. I’m making sure I shower enough, I started flossing regularly for probably the first time ever, and I have a four-step-face washing regimen.
  • I am only allowing myself to eat food I prepared myself, because cooking and baking is a good outlet. This includes plenty of bread, which is the reason I can’t lose weight.
  • I invited over Fay, Calli, and Jo for a girls’ night. Originally it was in honor of Fay, who will soon be embarking on her college adventure upstate. (Sob.) As the day drew nearer, however, I became practically giddy at the thought of non-work socialization. (Be honest: answering phones and asking questions of coworkers about paperwork is not socializing.) And Fay is almost my soul mate at this point. After Jo and Calli had left us alone, Fay and I cuddled and ate bread and talked about how we would dole out different countries if we ruled the world and went to bed at a decent hour. (I am sorry about your shoes, Fay.)
  • Then I bought a pothos and named it Carswell, after a favorite character in the Lunar Chronicles. He now keeps Kaylee the orchid company next to my fish. Some people hang posters or wear t-shirts in honor of their fandoms; I name inanimate objects after characters. (My current laptop is Aubergine, after the Night Dodo in the Fairyland series. The last one was Annabeth.)

I’m not like an INTP in that I generally have a good concept of time and schedules and I hate staying up late and sleeping in. It feels wasteful, and I like efficiency and practicality. (As evidenced by the stunned looks the girls gave me when I said I’d rather elope or have a small wedding without all of the frills and extra ceremony. I don’t really like weddings. I feel like they should be more intimate than most are. Even though intimacy scares me.)

I would like to blame my personality for my lack of a boyfriend, or of friends in general. However, one of my pet peeves is letting genetics, mental make-up, or situation in life be a crutch for not achieving your goals or improving yourself. Conversely, I do think it is important to understand yourself and know your strengths and weaknesses, so you know how to get past them.
I’ve learned to take pride in what makes me me. The downside to this season of self-definition is that I’ve become kind of obsessed with typing myself: Candor, INTP, Ravenclaw, Poseidon, Words of Affirmation, the Visionary (thanks, Debbie Pearl), and all the rest of the ways we’ve found to define ourselves. It is fun to compare myself to my favorite fictional characters. In case you were wondering, I am Jim Hawkins from Treasure Planet (who looks appropriately broody or sarcastic in most images I can find) and Mr. Bennet from Pride and Prejudice. And Hiccup.

Which is why, as much as it frustrates or terrifies me at times, this whole house-sitting thing was a good idea. Now if I can just stop spending so much money on skincare products and good food, I’d be golden.

I was thinking the other day that it might be a good idea to update my resume – not because I plan on getting a new job, but just so it’s accurate and I can avoid the mess this past January of trying to write up one after three years. Taking a look at what I crafted before my last round of job searching, I had to wonder: would it be easier to just send prospective employers a bunch of links to INTP descriptions with my footnotes?

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2 thoughts on “The Lonely Introvert

  1. I’m an INTJ and have always been based on the 4 times I’ve taken a Myers-Briggs test. Being an introvert isn’t easy when there are so many things in life that are anti-introvert. As I was reading your post, I was thinking of how so much of it paralleled my journey to understand myself, which is likely going to be life-long. I’ve let very few people into my “real” life and I envy the fact that you have (at least that is how it seems). So much of what I do when I’m around others feels so forced and contrived that I often think of how others perceive me. Deep thought and meditation (something new to me) is a combination that has really helped me.

    Like

    1. First of all, thank you for reading!
      I totally agree that the outside world is extrovert-oriented (I’m not crying “introvert persecution” here, it’s just the nature of things) and I definitely notice a change in my behavior when I’m around friends because who doesn’t want to be accepted?
      Here’s my secret on the whole “letting people into my real life”: I developed an alias and started a mostly-anonymous blog. It’s really helped. 🙂
      Yes, I definitely still wonder about how people perceive me, but I’ve learned to stop caring quite so much about that and to put more of my energy into making myself into the person I believe God is calling me to be. I just want to be real, so the gap between who I am and who people see is narrowed. If people don’t like that, well, their loss.

      Liked by 1 person

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