Monday, April 23, 2012

Introverts and Work Breaks

There's a student teaching banquet happening later this week. It's a chance for the student teachers to relax and celebrate the achievements of the semester with their cooperating teachers and schools.

And I really, really don't want to go.

There's a tendency in our extroverted culture to take a break from the stresses of work by planning social activities. What they don't realize is that for introverts, that can be even greater stress. I spend all day with people, and I have come to truly cherish my evenings of being alone. It lets me rejuvenate, get my energy back. It's not an empty time to be filled with more social activity.

Spending time with people during the day is a necessary part of the work I do. (Hard to teach theater to people who aren't there.) And because I love that work, I find the social energy to get through it. The joy in what I do trumps the fact that sometimes I get a little tired of people.

The social gatherings arranged to bring people together after a day of work... those are not a necessary part of the work I do. I don't need to attend those to be good at my job. In fact, the more of those I participate in, the more difficult it is to do my job, as I don't get the alone time I need to recharge, which leads to me being cranky and overwhelmed whenever I'm around people again.

I felt the same way on youth group missions trips. We'd spend the whole week working, but always in groups - either working directly with people (kids' programs, nursing home visits) or doing more solitary work like stocking shelves and sorting laundry in thrift stores, but always with our church groups. Then we'd usually get one day off... and something big would be planned. Trips to the city or the beach or the park. Sometimes I'd make an excuse to just bring a book and sit off by myself and read... but more often I felt obligated to join in. The next day I'd return to work more tired than I had been before my "day off." It wasn't a break from the work. It was a day of extra work, and it was exhausting.

I've become more and more comfortable bowing out of these activities, and now I really don't mind going to one every so often. But this week, I feel like I am definitely obligated to go to this banquet, and it happens in the middle of the week, so I don't even get to take the next day to recover from it.

In an ideal world, all these things would be completely voluntary and, not only that, but those who opted out to watch a movie at home instead would face no... well, "social repercussions" sounds much more serious than I want, but it's kind of what I mean. I have occasionally been told that it was wrong of me to want to sit out the social activities, because it meant that I wasn't committed to building relationships. (Which is not even at all true. I am very committed to building relationships. Fluffy social activities just don't help me do that. But that can be a topic for another time.)

To end on a happier thought, I spent yesterday almost entirely in my room, watching movies, doing some work, writing some blogs. And I loved every minute of it. I love when I have time for things like that. If it was entirely up to me, I would spend nearly every weekend that way. (When it is up to me, I do.)

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