We’ve just returned from our annual August week at the beach. It’s a yearly reunion of sorts, as my husband’s relatives from near and far travel to the coast for a week of swimming, laughing, and connecting. The kids climb rocks, explore tidal pools, and stay up way too late, while the adults catch up, catch rays, and take a much needed break from routine. All year, my husband and his family look forward to their week at this quiet little coastal hamlet. But once everyone arrives, it’s anything but quiet.
My husband’s family is gregarious and high energy. They sing, they joke, and they play hard. Whether at the beach or in the living room, they find a way to have fun. They’re a gracious, kind, welcoming bunch…..and unabashedly extroverted.
Don’t get me wrong – I love a good extrovert. I married mine nearly twenty years ago, and I still feel like I won the husband lottery. He’s the yin to my yang, and I couldn’t imagine my life without him. However, for an introvert like myself, spending an extended period of time with any group of people, even my own family, is an overwhelming proposition.
Introverts, by definition, love people and conversation, but are also exhausted by them. We tend to be deep thinkers and require time alone to re-energize after social activities. We’re not particularly fond of large group gatherings or parties , as smalltalk and excessive noise and activity quickly overloads our systems. We are quiet in large groups, but we have a lot to say – we just prefer to communicate one-on-one. We’re often mislabeled as shy, when in fact we speak only when we have something relevant to offer. And, just as extroverts enjoy their quiet time, we have been known to break out of the introvert mold and into the center of the party…albeit briefly.
With this in mind, the beginning of our week at the beach is always fine, as the novelty of the trip is fresh and exciting. A few days in, the group sing-alongs, swarms of kids, and crowded kitchens begin to wear on me. I am frustrated by my mental fatigue, as everyone is having so much fun while I’m the Grinch who stole summer vacation. I begin to utilize my introvert coping skills, encouraged by my ever-understanding husband. I steal away for walks, time on my phone, or to hang with the teenagers, who I know won’t talk to me anyway. I just want some quiet. Actually, I NEED quiet. I adore these people, but all the interaction is making me nuts. Towards the end of the trip, I’ve checked out of most family activities. I’m still managing my kids, but counting the days until I can spend extended time alone to do some much-needed thinking. By the last day I’m ready to crush every guitar and ukulele in the house. I’ve talked enough. I want my own room, my own shower, and my kids in bed at 8pm. As crazy as it sounds, I’ve had quite enough of these wonderful people.
In all fairness, this vacation happens at the end of the summer, when I already feel like I’ve spent two months with children sutured to me. I enter into it overstimulated, and by the end of the trip, I’m completely depleted. I gleefully return home with just my family of six to bask in the quiet. (It’s all relative.)
Personality traits aside, I really lucked out with my husband’s family. They accept me and my introversion, and they understand when I occasionally (ok, often) disappear from family events. They are close-knit, supportive, and caring, and as I can’t live near my own family, I sure am happy to be living near them. I’m not sure if they could ever understand me the way that my husband does, but they try, and I’m grateful for that.
So if you’re at a party and you see someone hanging out with the golden retriever in the next room, you now know why. The world is full of extroverts, introverts, and plenty of others in between, and we all deserve to be appreciated and understood.