Last week – twice – I got home from work and quickly swapped off my blazer and flats for a long-sleeved t-shirt and a pair of running shoes. I was antsy all day and for some reason all I could think about was going for a walk. And last week – twice – I set out for these walks only to end up running and running and running. What started out as me thinking I would be walking around my neighborhood enjoying the nice fall weather ended up as me running about four or five miles in one direction away from my house.
And when I was done running and realized I was miles away from my house and had to walk home? I’d walk until I was tired of it – and then I’d call a particularly handsome bearded man who was gracious enough to come pick me up on the side of the road.
But one of the two times in my post-run walk, I called one of my oldest and most tried and true friends, Louie. She’d just started a new job and moved into a new apartment in New Jersey and I was eager to hear all about her recent adventures.
As I walked up and down and around the busy streets that act like Charlotte’s main artery for commuters and soccer moms, Louie and chatted all about what was going on in each of our corners of the east coast. We talked about work and friends and upcoming weddings and our families and all of the little details and rooted things that only friends who’ve known you since before the days of cell phones can keep up with.
You see, Louie is the friend of mine whose little round face and brown bangs are in the pictures from birthday parties back in kindergarten.
She’s the one who had the same crush as I did in sixth grade and the one whose hands turned orange – just like mine – that time we tried to apply self-tanner in her backyard. She’s the friend who (ew) saw a giant booger shoot out of my nose and onto my Bible when we were giggling into the wee hours of the night at a youth retreat in high school. She was on the basketball team that made the trek out to San Diego to get our tail’s whipped in 2005 – and she was a key component in our Spice Girls karaoke / dance routine that enabled us to fly back to New York feeling victorious. She’s the one who said, “Let’s do something fun,” and then looked up train times and let me borrow her way-cooler-than-mine clothes before we hopped a train into the City on the eve of my very first heartbreak. She’s the first person I called when the mess hit the fan right after I moved to Charlotte and she’s the piece of my heart who normalizes every oh-my-gosh emotion I think I’ve ever experienced.
Louie is the kind of girl whose ears are twice as strong as her mouth because she has the whole listening thing down pat. She’ll let you rattle on and on and on for hours before she even says a word – and she’ll nod in understanding all the while. She’s just the type of friend who everyone should have. (Sweet reader, I hope you have a Louie in your life.)
And as we talked and gave updates on how things were going, I blurted out (because I had this sneaking suspicion she just might be able to relate) a confession that I’d been thinking on for a few months.
“I think I’m starting to realize that I’m way more introverted than I ever realized I was,” I said. “I used to be such a social butterfly… and now? I sometimes get really drained by huge group ordeals.”
I went on to share how, lately, I’d really been valuing alone time. And more than that, I shared how I’d been keener on small group settings or even one-on-one conversations than I was favoring big group gatherings. Part of this “change” was uncomfortable to me. And because Louie knows me inside and out – she knew too that this was a shift for me.
“It’s not that I don’t like big things or parties anymore,” I clarified. “I just would struggle to do that socially every day – like to be around so many people – all the time like I used to.”
And as I suspected – and like she always does – she understood and reciprocated my fumbling epiphany.
I learned that I wasn’t alone in this shift of preferences – and the, “Me too,” of it all freed me up to realize even more about the ways in which I am energized / drained in social settings…
Like how sometimes, I want nothing more than to be surrounded by a huge crowd of my friends – or at a friend’s house watching a football game or closing down the bar and singing karaoke. But other times? I want to be home alone all day, reading and baking and cozy watching movies on Netflix with a hot cup of tea.
I realized that the guilt I feel about wanting to stay home instead of going out – just because I want to stay home instead of going out – is unwarranted. Likewise, I realized that the guilt I feel about wanting to go out instead of staying home and resting – just because I want to go out instead of staying home and resting – is equally as unwarranted.
I came to the conclusion that it’s okay for me to flip-flop. It’s okay for me to walk the line of wanting to be wildly social and wanting to retreat every now and then. And if I go through seasons of favoring one over the other? I think I’m at the place where I think that’s okay too.
The change is okay. The difference is growth. Even if we don’t see it, friends, we are being stretched and strengthened with each passing day.
What about you? Do you find yourself more energized in big group gatherings or smaller group settings?