How Do You Solve a Problem Like an Introvert?

Dear Soph-
Your dad and I went out for a “date night” recently. We went to dinner and then decided to walk a bit before heading home. There was a Barnes and Noble bookstore nearby so…that’s where we decided to walk.

I tell ya, kid, I was in heaven. I’d forgotten how much I love bookstores. I could spend hours in a bookstore.

It brought me back to high school and college when I used to go with my friends…all. the. time. We would wander for a bit, pick out some books or magazines that interested us and then sit in the café area engrossed in our finds. It’s where I was first introduced to Chai tea…a delicious drink that tastes, as my friends and I declared, like “Fall in a cup.”

I mentioned that to your dad as we walked back to the car. How I used to spend hours in the nearby Borders Books.

“By yourself?” he asked, laughing the way he does when he points out how nerdy I can be.

“Not all the time.” I responded, a bit defensively “I went with friends, too.”

But the more I thought about it, I realized there were PLENTY of times that I was by myself.

I love to be myself. Not all the time, of course. But I do need – and thoroughly enjoy – some occasional alone time. Oh what I could do with a free day all to myself. I’m giddy just thinking about it.

You see, kid, I’m an introvert.

It’s become quite the trend nowadays to declare your affinity for this particular camp. Cries of “I’m not weird, I’m an introvert” can be heard from Facebook to Twitter, emblazoned on mugs and t-shirts. May be a bit overkill for some people, but I understand the urge to join the charge. For the longest time, I thought I was just weird (ok, ok…I am weird). But to know I’m not alone in my personality quirks and my preferences for social interaction (or lack thereof) is, admittedly, comforting.

My unique personality and take on life make your dad chuckle and shake his head almost daily. Things like:

Why call Customer Service when you can email or instant message your question?

Why answer the door when you can stealthily travel from window to window until you can see what kind of car is in the driveway and then make a more informed decision about who could possibly be ringing your doorbell at 10:30 in the morning on a Wednesday?

Your dad is a tried and true extravert. He loves being around people and he can talk to anyone. The thought of a free Saturday night spent at home watching a movie just doesn’t float his boat. He is completely at home in a large group of people – even if he doesn’t know anyone.

I, on the other hand, cringe at the thought of having to make small talk with new people I meet. I don’t know how to do it. It comes naturally to your dad. It does not come naturally to me. I’m either consumed with trying to come up with a topic of conversation, mentally critiquing whatever just came out of my mouth, or trying to find a way to exit the conversation in a logical, not-awkward-or-out-the-blue way.

But that’s ok.

I think it’s one of the reasons your dad and I are a good match. It’s one of the many ways we balance each other out. And he’s really helped get me out of my shell now and then.

But I’m far from a hermit, so please don’t get me wrong here. I’ve just always been a little slower to warm up to people and I don’t let just anyone in my bubble. It can be harder for me to “put myself out there,” as they say, but I still do it. Remind me to tell you some stories about my (laughable) attempt at pledging a sorority in college.

It’s really only when I’m truly comfortable with someone that I open up. It’s just the way I am.

And that’s ok.

Unfortunately, I spent some of my years thinking there was something wrong with me. Growing up I often felt awkward about my personality. Like it was a problem to be fixed.

I realize now that it’s not a problem. It never was. It’s just me.

And I want you to think the same way about yourself.

Whether you smile brightly at people on the train, open and eager to make conversation with potential new friends around you…or you put your laptop bag next to you on the seat, ear buds firmly inserted, to ensure you sit by yourself.

Whether your idea of a great Saturday night is in the middle of the dance floor at the most popular place in town…or at home on your couch under a blanket with freshly painted fingernails, a stack of magazines next to you and Everybody Loves Raymond reruns on TV.

Whether your circle of friends is so large that you can’t name them all…or you can count them on one hand (and they’ve become like sisters to you – ladies, you know who you are).

Whatever your personality…please know, that it’s ok. It’s better than ok. It’s great. Because it’s you. And you are amazing. Outgoing extravert or reserved introvert. Or maybe you’ll be something in between. Embrace it. Try to stretch out of your comfort zone now and again. But embrace it.

Love, Mom

 

On Being Humble…

imageDear Soph-
I have no doubt you will be a talented woman. Be it music, art, athletics, writing, science, math…whatever it is, I know you will find your talent. And you may be so talented one day that you stand out from the crowd. No one will be more proud of you than me and your dad.

I want you to be proud of yourself and your accomplishments. I want you to have confidence in your abilities. I certainly wouldn’t want you to shy away from the spotlight.

At the same time, I want you to remember that too much ego will kill your talent.

Stay humble.

I can’t think of a better person to illustrate this point than Mr. Kanye West: hip hop artist and wannabe clothing designer.

I – along with a sizeable portion of the population – am wishing on every shooting star that by the time you are old enough to read this, Mr. West is but a distant memory. Don’t get me wrong, I certainly don’t wish any ill will on the man. But if he fell from the spotlight and decided to hole himself up in a remote cabin deep in the back woods of who-the-hell-cares, I certainly wouldn’t lose any sleep.

The thing about Kanye – or “Yeezus” as he prefers to be called – is…well…it’s just that. He gave himself the nickname “Yeezus.” And wrote a song called “I am a God.” And considers himself to be the “nucleus of all society.”

Really.

He thinks he is God’s gift to the Earth. He thinks everything he does is genius. And he never hesitates to let the world know. The phrase “overinflated ego,” while true, just doesn’t seem to cover him. He is beyond full of himself. He lacks even the smallest ounce of humility.

To my surprise, there are many people out there who agree with him…that he is a genius in the music world. In all honesty, what the hell do I know? Maybe he is. I know nothing about what it takes to write or perform hip hop music.

But I will never be able to get past his attitude. Any appreciation I might have for his music or his talent is completely overshadowed by my all out dislike of him as a human being. Because he lacks the ability to be humble. And I find that obnoxious.

His recent performance on Saturday Night Live was actually what sparked this letter. Your dad and I sat through two songs, watching him hop around on stage, mumbling incoherently into the microphone, surrounded by a group of truly gifted singers.

I realize he has many fans who would have considered that performance “genius” or “inspired.”

All I saw was an egomaniacal asshat in a bedazzled letterman jacket lying face down on a mirrored stage while the choir behind him sang their asses off and showed him how it’s done.

But here’s the thing kid, I’ll be the first to admit that I fall short when it comes to this concept. Only I skew the other way. I struggle with confidence.

I was blessed with the ability to sing…and sing well. And I don’t just mean I can carry a tune. When I was in high school and college, my focus was opera. A genre that doesn’t exactly make room for karaoke queens. I was even awarded a scholarship to a relatively competitive school of music.

Even writing that makes me a little uncomfortable. I’ve never been good at tooting my own horn. It feels strange to me. Maybe Kanye could loan me some of that confidence.

I guess what I’m saying is this: You can be confident in your talent and your abilities and, at the same time, refrain from commandeering the stage at the MTV Video Music Awards waxing lyrical about how you’re so awesome that you’ll be running for president (Google that reference when you get older…I wouldn’t classify it as “entertaining” but it was certainly a spectacle).

But really…be proud of your accomplishments. Be confident. Toot your own horn, when it’s appropriate to do so. But at the same time, remain humble. Appreciate the gift that is your talent. And try to be mindful of how often – and how loudly – you sing your own praises from the rooftops.

I’ll be up there doing that enough for you anyway.

Love, Mom

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