Up until my sophomore year of high school, I was positive I knew what kind of person I was — maybe even painfully aware of it. I laughed at the cliché of individuals who claimed they needed to find themselves, and considered self-discovery a pithy excuse meant to help people end relationships or quit their jobs. As for me, I was fine.
Then I took the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, an introspective questionnaire meant to indicate psychological preferences and decisions. Without spending too much time on the details, MBTI consists of 16 different personality types made up of a combination of four traits: extraversion and introversion, sensing and intuition, thinking and feeling, and judgment and perception. Focusing closely on the contrast between extraversion and introversion I was positive the former was composed of people like me. I’m talkative to the point of being borderline disruptive, action-oriented, and outgoing. Yet, when my results were returned and I was labeled an ISFJ personality type, I was forced to learn a little more about what it really means to be an introvert — and dare I say — embark on some soul searching.
The difference between extroverts and introverts comes down to energy. Extroverts gain energy from spending time around other people, while introverts need time alone in order to recharge. My first week at GW proved to be a remarkable test of my endurance in this retrospect. It was exhilarating to meet new people, go out at night, and spend more time in new classes during the day. And yet, by the time I reached the fourth day in a row of making plans and introducing myself to more and more people, I encountered a brand new realm of exhaustion. Of course, I was tired and needed sleep. However, more than anything, I needed time for myself. Still, fear that I would be cast as antisocial, or forgotten if I chose to stay in for a night forced me to endure. I was hardly a soldier in the throes of battle, but at the time the misery felt all the same.
Being an introvert doesn’t mean I hate people, and it doesn’t mean I have a reserved spot at the library where I hang out on Saturday nights. Being an extrovert doesn’t mean you’re the automatic class clown and that friendship offers the same rejuvenation that eight hours of sleep consists of. These are complicated labels and college is a complicated experiment in all things social. If you’re not with classmates, you’re with your roommates, and if you’re not with your roommates you’re with more friends. It’s not a hardship, but it’s a mental expense that must be taken into account when you’re someone who needs time on your own to energize.
I no longer chase comfort where I know I won’t find it. Sometimes my comfort is staying at home in a literally blanketed solitude. At other times my comfort is an endless night with as many friends as possible. I’ve learned my limits and I’ve learned how to say no. This balance has allowed me to thrive as a successful student, and more importantly, live as a functional human being. I’m not plagued by ‘FOMO’ and I’m not bothered by an inability to ‘rally,’ after going out multiple nights in a row. My comfort consists of simply knowing what I need, and knowing myself has helped me to figure that out.