More extroverts exist in our world than introverts, so often the idea of what an introvert is gets misconstrued. Sure, some live in their mothers’ basements, squinting out into the sunlight only when they run out of food, and cannot seem to form sentences to verbally communicate with others; however, many of us are what I consider “functional introverts.” We tend to really confuse extroverts. Introverts are just more introspective and so we need time to process life by ourselves sometimes. Sure, I’m not generally a conversation starter, but I can hold my own once it has been started, and I’m a great communicator in writing.
I took a test from the Strengthsfinder 2.0 book by Tom Rath a few years ago, and one of my “strengths” is intellection. A few of the traits mentioned are: “You like to think. You like mental activity…You are introspective. In a sense you are your own best companion.” This can be misleading though, because I am not a socially awkward person. Believe it or not, I can mingle quite well and am even often included in social settings. In the book, an example of what an intellection strength person might sound like is this: “I suppose that most people who meet me in passing presume that I am a flaming extrovert. I do not deny the fact that I love people, but they would be amazed to know how much time alone, how much solitude, I need in order to function in public.” See, that’s the problem. I’m social and friendly (some even say funny), but in order for this to work, I need space.
I went on a mission trip two weeks ago with a group of 13 other people, most of whom I did not previously know or know well. We spent the entire week together, and of course, roomed together in groups. We were kept busy during the day and tried to contact loved ones in the evening. The hostel where we stayed had many areas set up for socializing, and it was impossible to find any place to be alone. Hence, I spent a week in constant companionship with at least part of the group, if not all, not to mention the time spent with the little ones we were there to work with (through the awesome Roblealto Child Care Association). It was all quite amazing and I loved all this time spent, but I never had a chance to stop and process any of it while away on the trip, creating an overload for me.
After I got back last week, I spent a few days with my husband who had taken time off work so we could be together since he had not come on the trip with me. The great thing about Robert is that though he is an extrovert, he knows I am not. We spent time together, but he also gave me at least some space to have some reflection time, like when he left me alone as I wrote my first blog post last Monday after my return. He knows if I do not have this time, the functional part of my being an introvert will quickly turn dysfunctional. Nobody wants to see that. If you do, you’re a freak.
By the time Robert went back to work, I was highly in need of ALONE time, and I did very little that could be seen as constructive to the outside, but I was reconstructing myself. I thought a lot about my team members and felt the need to pray for them as many of them were going straight back to work. I couldn’t imagine having to do that after the week we had just had, so I knew even the extroverts would need help getting back into life and routine.
You know those times you get placed with people you don’t really know, and you’re afraid of how it will turn out? That’s how I felt going into the trip. I wasn’t as nervous about what we would do on the mission trip as I was about 14 different personalities converging in Costa Rica. But sometimes, definitely if God is involved, it turns out to be amazing. After all, He hand-picked us for this trip. We varied in ages and backgrounds, yet we bonded quickly. Our guide and interpreter was amazed at how much like a family we were, and how comfortable and accepted she felt with us. I know we all must have had a few moments of frustration- we are human- but none of that lasted or really showed. We looked out for one another and got to know and accept each other’s “characteristics” (you had to be there to really get that). We bonded, and now I’m proud to call my Costa Rica mission trip team my mission family, and I truly feel love for each member. Though I needed a week away from most of the world, I loved seeing my mission family again at church where we retold our experiences. We all had missed each other, and though we are getting back into our busy lives, we agreed we don’t want to lose the connections we built.
The moral of this post is that we may all work through and process life in a different way, but if we take time to try to understand this about each other, we can all be functional together.