Introverting in a Crowd.
That is legit a thought that has gone through my head during the first month or so of this Remote Year process.
Ironic right? I'm traveling the world with a bunch of really awesome, intelligent, passionate, completely diverse people in cities I frankly never thought I'd visit at this time in my life. Hell, about 6 weeks ago I was trudging through snow after a surprise snow storm gave us a white Christmas in Seattle. And now I'm running around in shorts and flip flops, trying to adjust to the humidity that has never been my friend.
It's surreal to say the least and I'm grateful for it. But to say that the first couple weeks, heck the first month, of this trip have gone without a hitch for me would be the understatement of the year. It took me 3 years in Michigan to find my core group of friends. Friends that I felt like I could wholeheartedly and unapologetically be myself with. I miss the hell out of them. Especially now.
In the past 6 months, my days have gone from beer festivals, 5k's, Tough Mudders and random nights out with this kick ass group of people, to living a life that, frankly, resembled a hermit. I would work from my house, exercise from my house, make Skype calls back to my best friends from my house, and only occasionally leave to socialize with a human in-person. I really only spent time with my parents. Does that sound depressing? I don't know. I didn't mind. I knew who the important people were in my life and I wanted to invest my time in them, especially because I knew I was leaving. My departure date for this adventure loomed in the back of my mind and I found myself very deliberating not wanting to get too close to anybody that I would have to leave or say good-bye to for a year. Especially a significant other or someone that I could see being a significant other. So, arguably, my remedy was being anti-social.
I regret that a little bit now. Especially as I've made some realizations about myself in the last few weeks about why I am the way I am socially.
Opening up is hard for me.
I think I've always been a guarded person. Too often I've been taken advantage of by the people closest to me, dating back to high school, which has made me really cautious about who I actually let myself open up to. Seemingly every time I did get hurt by someone, it was right after fully revealing myself to them. I think many of us can relate to that. Most of the time that was ex-boyfriends. But in late college and graduate school, it became my friends too. Whether it was a friend sharing something deeply personal that I was really ashamed of with someone that didn't earn the right to know, or someone that I thought was my friend taking something I was really proud of and throwing it back in my face, these situations have made me overtly cautious about fully opening up to people, when I cry in front of them, and when I show vulnerability. And that's shitty.
I had a call a few weeks back with my High Performance coach Amy. Ironically, the call was about courage. I joked with her about how well-timed this is. Because I'm realizing so much about myself already. That I do still struggle with external validation and worrying about what people think of me. And that has been no more apparent than during these first few days of this whirlwind experience.
I keep finding myself unwillingly coming back to these situations where I've been burned in the past, justifying my lack of openness by this protection that keeping myself tightly bottled up provides for me. I was actually quoted the other day saying that "I'm much more fun when I'm drunk" because I am. I am able to get out of my head and just relax and enjoy myself, but I also don't want to be the person who can only open up, have fun, let loose and be themselves when they're drunk. That was actually one of my unwritten and unspoken goals coming into this experience: to not let this experience be like college. What I mean is that I didn't want alcohol to be my soul avenue for social comfort. I didn't want to depend upon it to open up and to flirt and to be and do all of these things. It's why I've cut back on drinking so much after the first couple weeks of this experience. Because I'm prone to becoming dependent upon alcohol in social environments and I don't want that.
So, I dove in as much as I could possibly handle in Buenos Aires. I'd go out, I'd hang out, I'd socialize. But, for someone like me, who is naturally introverted, to go from my hermit-esque life this life of social interaction so rapidly was exhausting. I'm not someone who naturally goes out, let alone someone who naturally stays out until 2, 3, 4am, and even sometimes all night. That isn't a natural lifestyle for me, especially when it involves being around people that I feel like I'm still getting to know. So, within the span of 2-3 weeks of this lifestyle, I had very much burned myself out.
Giving myself time for myself.
Around our 3rd or 4th week in Buenos Aires, I drastically started cutting back. I cut back on drinking, I cut back on going out, and I cut back on socializing. I felt bad at first, especially because I had someone comment to me that "I don't go out enough." I told them that I couldn't go out that much, and to that they replied, "Ya, but we all have work to do." I wanted to hang out, connect with all these new people, get to know them, be uninhibited and just experience the shenanigans. I was battling with that FOMO that I talked about previously. But I couldn't muster the energy or the enthusiasm to go out. And I didn't know how to explain that.
For me, I need a lot of time alone. I don't know if it's the fact that I'm much more of introvert than I ever really realized or if it's the fact that this adjustment has been hard. To go from hardly ever socializing with people to being around people constantly and having events and things on the calendar for literally every single day and night? That's overwhelming! This lifestyle change has been jarring for all of us, but for me, the social aspect has been the most jarring. Just the constant push and pull of events and people to see and to talk to has been a major adjustment for me. And I think the time we spent in Buenos Aires was starting to burn me out. Once I realized that, I knew that I needed to be more intentional about the time I was taking for myself.
It started after one of the craziest, most fun-filled, action-packed weekends of this adventure thus far. It started with a Thursday afternoon flight to Iguazu Falls where we spent the next 2 days packing in as much exploring and enjoying ourselves as possible, followed by a day of learning, watching and playing polo, complete with the first time I have ever cantered and galloped on a horse (it was kind of an accident haha). It had been 4 straight days of activity and socializing, and I was exhausted. So, when I had the opportunity to take a Monday afternoon street art tour in Palermo all by myself (which you can check out pictures from here), I'm not going to lie, I relished it.
Now that we're in Cordoba, a city with chill vibes and an outdoorsy-spirit that I totally am loving, I guess I feel like I'm finally giving myself permission to introvert more. Maybe because there's less stuff to do, maybe it's because I'm living with 3 other girls, 2 of which are totally introverts like me who love downtime, or maybe it's because I've finally adjusted to Remote Year and I no longer feel the need to do all the things all the time. Whatever the reason, I finally feel like I'm finding my rhythm. Sometimes it means taking a Sunday to sleep in, do my routines, grocery shopping and meal prep, not leaving the house at all until 8:15pm to go to a Super Bowl party (yes we found a way to watch even from Argentina). Now, I prioritize crushing my morning routine, even if it means rolling into the work space at 11am, and not leaving until like 7pm to go spend some quality time with my roommates.
There's still things on the calendar. There's still things I want to do and see. But somehow, I've found a balance this month. I've found a way to get my introvert on amidst the bustle and the madness. I'm figuring out how to introvert and be social, something that I seemingly forgot how to do. And I'm learning how to take those moments that are just for me and relish them.
Like getting up much earlier than my roommates every morning just because I like the solitude of reading when everyone else is sleeping.
Like walking to the work space by myself because listening to a podcast or some music by myself is something that I fucking love.
Like heading up to the balcony at the work space to eat my snack and bask in perpetual sunshine, sometimes chatting with my fellow remotes and sometimes writing and brainstorming in my bullet journal.
I've found that the little moments work wonders for me. They allow me to introvert in a crowd. And now that I've found my rhythm, I feel like I'm becoming more myself in this experience. And I love that.