A Party of One

By Diane Stark

A Party of One

I’ve always thought of myself as an extrovert. I am a born story teller and I love making people laugh. If you asked my friends and family, every one of them would label me as a chatty people person.

But recently, I heard something that made me reevaluate my entire personality. At a writer’s conference in Indianapolis, I took a class called “Writing Realistic Characters.” I’d been writing a romance novel, and I’d been struggling to make my characters more life-like. The class seemed like just the thing.

The teacher handed out the Meyers-Briggs Personality Test and instructed us to take it. The idea was to familiarize ourselves with the test so we could take it on behalf of our characters. As a writer, you’re supposed to know your characters as well as you know your spouse or best friend. If you do, your writing will come alive.

But instead of learning more about my characters’ personalities, I learned something about my own. The first question on the personality test asked if you are an introvert or extrovert. Without a moment’s hesitation, I circled the E for extrovert.

But the class instructor said, “I want you to really think about this question. Many people think of themselves as extroverts when they are actually quite introverted.”

I tuned her out. Me, an introvert? Me, who frequently walks away from conversations worrying that I talked too much and made things all about me? Me, whose husband once told me that one of his favorite things about our marriage is our 80/20 split? (This means I do 80% of the talking to his 20%. The fact that he counts this as a positive is utterly fabulous in my mind.)

It is also proof positive that I am not an introvert.

But the instructor continued, “When determining this, think about what energizes you. After being by yourself all day, are you anxious to be around other people? Or after you’ve been in a large group of people, do you feel like you need some down time to recover?”

The words “large group of people” and “down time to recover” grabbed my attention. She’d just described me perfectly. My husband is one of eight children, so family parties are boisterous affairs, which usually take place in our home. I enjoy entertaining, but after everyone leaves, I am exhausted. My favorite way to recharge is to snuggle in bed with a good book.

But that hardly made me an introvert. Right?

“Think about your three favorite activities,” the instructor said. “Are these things you do by yourself or in a small group or are they things you do with a lot of other people?”

My favorite activities? Reading, writing, and spending time with my husband.

“Again, these favorite activities should make you feel energized, not drained,” she reminded us. “Think about your daily routine. When you’re tired or stressed out, what activity appeals to you most?”

Reading a book or writing one of my own stories.

“If this activity is a busy one that involves lots of other people, you are an extrovert, but if your activity is a quiet, solitary pursuit, you are an introvert,” the instructor concluded.

You’ve. Got. To. Be. Kidding. Me.

This lady says I’m an introvert. I never shut up, but she thinks I’m an introvert. I just wasn’t buying it.

I love my family and friends, and I am so blessed to have them in my life, but I also really like being by myself. I enjoy my own company, and I am rarely, if ever, lonely.

“Are you ever lonely or is your own company enough for you?” She asked.

Had the woman pitched a tent in my head? How could she know what I’d been thinking?

“The vast majority of writers are introverts,” she continued. “It’s just how we’re wired.”

I couldn’t help myself. I raised my hand and blurted out, “I talk a lot. Like too much. Everyone who knows me would say I’m an extrovert because I’m outgoing and friendly. But your test is telling me I’m an introvert.”

She smiled kindly. “Are you the life of every party you attend?”

I shrugged. “I do my share of the talking.”

“And how do you feel afterward?”

“Honestly? It wears me out.”

“And to recharge, you do what?”

“Read,” I answered quietly. “Or write.”

It was her turn to shrug. “There’s your answer.”

I learned a lot at that writer’s conference, but taking that personality test was the most valuable part. I talk a lot, and I’d always thought that made me an extrovert. But I was an extrovert who craved solitude, and I never understood why. I often left parties and other large gatherings feeling worn out, and I never understood why.  People often tell me that I am good listener, and I wondered how that could be.

I’d misunderstood my own personality for my whole life.

At the age of 39, I discovered that I am a closet introvert. At first, it really bothered me. I am not shy, nor am I a loner, and I didn’t want to think of myself that way.

But I’ve come to embrace it. Being an introvert doesn’t mean I don’t love people. It means that I love them so much that I give everything I have when I’m with them, and afterward, I need some “me time” to recharge.

So I read for a while. Or I write something. It refills my empty tank.

I love spending time with my family and friends.

But sometimes, I just need to be a Party of One.

Or maybe a Party of Two. I’ll always invite my hubby.

After all, he lets me do 80% of the talking.

About this writer

  • Diane Stark Diane Stark is a wife and mom of five. She loves to write about her family and her faith. Her essays have been published in over 20 Chicken Soup for the Soul books.

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