I’ve been an introvert, avoiding crowds and mingling with new people, since I was young. For a long time, I though my shyness a hinderance, something that needed fixing. Like so many things about me.
As I’ve gotten older, however, I’ve learned to accept, to a certain extent, the way I am, rather than trying to “fix” myself. This isn’t to say self-improvement isn’t a good thing, but within realistic expectations. I will never be an extrovert. I’ll never be completely comfortable in crowds or with new people. But over the years with help and practice, I’ve gotten to the point where I can overcome these character traits in limited bursts.
And I think I’m fairly good at it. I know how to be polite, personable, and how to talk to relatively large groups of people without freaking out. But it comes at a cost. One I didn’t completely understand until I went to Washington D.C. to complete my Masters Degree capstone project.
D.C. Was a Tiring Blast
I had a great time in D.C. I, for the first time during the two-year program, had the opportunity to meet some of my fellow classmates. Because the program is entirely online, we took classes together, but resided all across the country: Virginia, New York, Nevada, Florida, Michigan, Nebraska, and more. With different backgrounds, career paths, and political ideologies, we were quite the hodge-podge of folks.
While I enjoyed the days spent together with these fine people, being “on” as it were, for eight to 10 hours a day was exhausting for me. Yes, there was moving around, getting up early, and having to be mentally sharp during the day, but it was really the social interaction that took the biggest toll on me each day.
Though I learned better my limits during the D.C. Residency, I was nonetheless reminded about those limits just a week ago.
It was Opening Day of the Hawaii State Legislature. A day for pomp and food and talk-story. And glad-handing and lobbying.
In the past when I’ve attended the Opening Day festivities, I’ve usually done so with friends and long-time colleagues. Though socializing is involved, it has always been easy because I’m around people I know fairly well. But this year, as I branch out doing some consulting on my own, I travelled the halls of the Capitol with a new client.
It was fun, to a point, and I think we made some good contacts. When I decided it was time to return home to do some other work, I said goodbye to my client and made my way home. I had every intention of doing work. But once I got home, changed clothes and sat down for a minute, I was hit with a wave of exhaustion. Despite knowing my socializing limits and the toll it takes on me, I was surprised at how tired I as all of a sudden.
A nap was required.
A Measured Approach
Most people I know who are involved in political activism are extroverts. They enjoy the work in all the ways which I force myself to be good at. In all the ways it energizes them, it knocks me out. And though this is something I know about myself, I also think it’s something of which I’m going to have to be regularly reminded. Long days of socializing, meetings, engaging at the Legislature and Council, etc. likely won’t end with me back at the home office doing more work. They’ll likely end with me laid out, mentally and physically exhausted.
Knowing this and trying to adjust for it might mean limiting how much time I spend each day, or week, being “on.” And it might mean late afternoon naps followed by late night sessions at my desk. In any case, Opening Day was a reminder about knowing my limits and doing a better job accounting for them.
I accept these aspects of my personality, though sometimes I wish it was a bit easier. A bit less work. Maybe as I get older and continue to “practice” it’ll become easier. But I’m not counting on it.