Extroverting Introvert

Travel, Uncategorized

Every once in a while, I’ll express stress or frustration about having to put myself out there in order to experience even slight success at what are sometimes the most mundane of challenges. My mother always reminds me to “get my extrovert on” and get it done.

The concept of extroverts and introverts is really not as clear cut as defined. My personality type requires time to myself to recharge and I am unlikely to throw myself into a conversation with someone I don’t know. However, life sometimes calls for being an extrovert. You may need to make new friends or ask a question or throw yourself at the mercy of an extrovert in order to survive your new surroundings. It can be overwhelming.

One of my favorite things about travel is meeting new people. That’s particularly challenging for me but oh-so rewarding on the tail end.

In order to successfully adventure as an introvert, I’ve collected goals for myself that allow me to get the most out of my travel experience.

Don’t sit down. The temptation after traveling somewhere new is to sit down on your bed and maybe take a little snooze. Don’t. Firstly, you’ll end up asleep and jet lagged. And secondly, you’ll miss out on meeting people. Especially if you’re in a study abroad program or in a hostel, people tend to be excited and open to meeting new folks from the second that arrive. Take advantage of that excitement and roll with it. You can sleep later.

Smile. I know it’s such an American thing to do, but it works. Maybe you’re sitting in your first day of class or hanging in the common space of your hostel – keep your head up and at least a mildly pleasant expression on your face and you’ve increased your chances of an extrovert taking pity on you.

Keep yourself disconnected. It’s really tempting to just sit on your phone with your head down and your headphones in, but that’s just closing yourself off. I’ve mentioned that disconnecting helps with easing homesickness before. If you’re not attached to your phone at all times, maybe someone or something will catch your eye.

Go to those awkward meet and greets. I know no one wants to partake in the horribly uncomfortable experience of sharing your name, hometown, and a fun fact about yourself. But sometimes that’s what you need to do. Most folks at that kind of event, whether it’s welcome drinks or board game night at the hostel, are looking to be social – seize the moment.

And lastly, accept that sometimes you’ve just gotta be an introvert. Traveling or moving or starting something new, all of these are great ways to learn about yourself and spend some time looking inward. Who are you? What makes you happy? Everyone (introverts included) would benefit from a couple of minutes of time alone to self-reflect. And that’s okay. Not everything about life has to be overwhelming.

Just Down the Block

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I started the New Year off with a bit of chaos – I moved apartments. I am still in the DC area and I’m not going very far at all. I literally moved two blocks down. The move was a bit of a mess. There was miscommunication with my old apartment and of course it rained. I had assistance from All Star Movers (they’re actually saints and the quickest movers in the DMV) and my lovely parents (though one half was sidelined with injuries). Bits and bobs were moved over the week and my plants got special treatment in their transportation and will now enjoy a sunny spot in my window.

I find moving stressful. Partially because there are so many “what-ifs” and partially because its the end of an era. I’ve moved every year (if not twice a year) for the past six years. Mostly it has been from my parent’s house to college and back or into a suitcase to Australia and back. Things have been accumulated (mostly plants) and things have been tossed (r.i.p. the black leather chair that was older than my parent’s marriage). And I try to prepare, but can never quite get it right.

But I found a few things helpful in making the moving process slightly less anxiety-inducing.

One: start packing before the moving truck arrives. This seems logical and yet you’d be surprised. I started putting non-essentials away about two months before I was set to move out. Then I stopped buying food about two weeks before my move. The week of my move, everything went into bags or boxes, one night at a time. The few days before my move, I did a capsule wardrobe challenge, using only ten items of clothing and packing everything else. And the night before, my loving mother and I broke down my bed and pushed everything the movers would be lugging about into the living room for easy access. It worked. There’s not a whole lot that was left to be dealt with after the movers left and things are packed in a semi-organized fashion.

Two: give yourself wiggle room. It’s tempting to move out the last possible day of your lease, but having a day or two or a week overlap to move helped me stress less about getting everything done in that deadline. I could spend three days moving my plants and my last bits over, rather than three hours. When it started snow/raining, I didn’t have to power through.

Three: cry in advance. I knew that I would end up crying (and I did!) but I figured getting some of those stressful emotions out of the way before the movers arrived would be helpful for all involved. So the night before, I watched a movie I knew would make me cry and I let it out. And then in the morning after picking up my apartment keys, but before meeting with my parents, I cried again. And voila! No tears during the actual move.

Four: let the professionals do their job. Other than bits and bobs and plants, we let the professional movers handle the tough stuff. They figured out how to get things into and out of the two apartment buildings and they carried the heavy things.

Five: know when to quit. There’s a certain point in my day when I have to acknowledge I need to rest. As an introvert, I know that too much socialization will eventually mean hitting a wall of exhaustion that can only be fixed by time alone. After a stressful day of moving, I needed to acknowledge that everything wasn’t going to be put away right then and there. I could rest and handle what was left over the next few days (see tip two).

Can I just say I’m happy I don’t have to do this again until next year?

Starting Fresh

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It’s almost the new year and it’s almost a new decade. So it’s time to leave some baggage behind. I know everyone loves spring cleaning, but I find the end of the year to be an incredibly satisfying time of the year to kick anything that isn’t sparking joy to the curb.

First things first: emails. I hate having notifications for emails. So I’m clearing my inbox. Anything that needs responding to, gets a response. Any ads or coupon codes are get marked as read – if I need them, I can always search for the brand or store later. Anything that sends me hourly emails, unsubscribe. I will not start the year with a little red bubble next to my email app.

Then on to social media. Almost yearly, I go through my social media (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn) and clear out the people I just don’t care about. Maybe it’s someone who I was friendly with years and years ago or a comedian I followed and have regretted following ever since or a friend’s ex. Whoever it is, if I don’t love seeing their posts, they’re gone. If they aren’t sparking joy with their content, unfollowed. No more hate-liking or skipping through three hours worth of concert video posted to their stories. If I don’t know them, they’re gone. (And anyone I can’t avoid – i.e. coworkers, family members – gets muted. They don’t have to know.)

Next up, moving on to more physical things. My car becomes a dumping ground for bits and bobs. I’ll be starting the year off with no receipts waded up in my cup holders. Nothing in my trunk. And a full tank of gas. Because I’ll be moving in January, I’ll also be stealing my parents’ shop vac to clean up the evidence of many a fast food stop.

My apartment stays relatively uncluttered and will end up being cleaned and organized when I start packing, but I’ve got a couple of things that need sorting.

It’s so easy to fill a kitchen with half-eaten bits and bobs and then still have nothing to eat. So the last few meals of 2019 will be sourced from what I already have. That bag of chips from that party two months ago will be eaten (or tossed once I realize they’re stale). Anything in the fridge that’s past expiration date will be dealt with. The freezer will be explored and it will reveal whatever I’ve stuffed in there. Basically, I’ll have to come to terms with all my impulse Safeway purchases.

Like most proper adults, I receive mail. This mail usually relates to bills, information about my work benefits, catalogs I’ll never read, and cards from my mother that I never dealt with. Fortunately, I’ve only been adulting for about a year, so it hasn’t accumulated to an unreasonable pile. Yet. So I will be sitting down to sort through what can be recycled, what can be shredded, and what should be nicely filed. Because most of this paper lives on my bedside table, once it’s clear, I’ll actually be able to keep important things next to my bedside like my phone, my glasses, and a candle (or three!).

Speaking of candles, I’ve been burning candles for about a year now and I’ve gone through quite a few. At some point, I considered dealing with the empty candles, getting all the wax out, and reusing the containers. But I’m lazy and they’re in the way. So I will instead just be recycling the containers and moving on. Once those have been cleared of my shelf, I can justify my purchases of more candles!

If you’re like me, you went a little crazy during the Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales and you bought new clothes. Unfortunately, my closet isn’t big enough (and currently has a hole in the ceiling from my upstairs neighbors’ water leak! Yay adulting!). So I’ll be downsizing. I’ve done this many times before but I’m excited to clear out the things that don’t fit or that I haven’t worn in a year or that just aren’t my faves anymore. Don’t worry – they’ll be donated (first to friends and then to a local charity shop).

Lastly, I’ll be clearing my head. (Yes, I went there.) It’s one thing to get rid of physical clutter (the piles of unread mail) or the electronic clutter (the unfriendly “friends”), but emotional clutter is draining too. Especially in the middle of the most exhausting time of the year. An hour or two of journaling. A yoga class or a run in nature. A mediation session surrounded by candles. A hike in the wilderness. A mental reminder to let it go.

It’s a new year, a new decade. Why carry shit with you that you can leave behind?

Creativity for Creativity’s Sake

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I’ve been thinking about the benefits I get from being creative in a variety of ways. I sang and played instruments for years; I tried cross-stitching and embroidery; I wrote prose and poems and blog posts; I spent hours making little watercolor roses. I have artsed and I have craftsed. And I was never amazing at any of it.

But I’m starting to realize that that is quite alright. If I find joy (regardless of the outcome), isn’t that enough?

I think I grew up placing a lot of pressure on myself to perform to high standards (set both by myself, as well as by my education and my upbringing near a city like Washington, DC). If I was going to do anything, I wanted to do it well and I wanted to do it with purpose. Because of my mentality, I struggled to be creative if I wasn’t “good”. Writing or painting or crafting seemed to only be worth it when I liked the outcome, regardless of whether I enjoyed the experience. I could never start a creative project if I was concerned about whether the outcome would be good.

(If you haven’t yet seen Set It Up, it’s a rom-com on Netflix with a scene where the main character’s roommate encourages her to write the worst article of all time in order to break her writer’s block. 10/10 recommend for any rom-com lovers out there.)

Now that I’m a little older, I’ve accepted that I will probably never be a professional artist or a professional crafter – and that’s okay. I like where I’m heading career-wise.

But I miss the feeling of creating. So the other day, I pulled out my paints and a mini canvas and started painting for the sake of painting. A layer would dry and I wouldn’t love the outcome so I would paint another layer. After a while, I felt comfortable with letting this cheap canvas sit. It won’t be on the walls of the Louvre any time soon but I enjoyed the feeling of a paintbrush in my hand.

A lot of this reflection is related to November being right around the corner. Each November is National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo. Nanowrimo is an online challenge where participants write throughout the month with a word count goal (usually 50,000 words). Fun fact: Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen was a NaNoWriMo book. The idea is to get in the habit of writing everyday and in the habit of writing without self-editing. The challenging part is getting everything written without giving in to the urge to edit each paragraph – that’s what December and January are for. The organizers set up writing meetups around the world and have accounts designed to challenge you to write in different ways over different chunks of time. I’ve participated with various levels of success in the past and am debating trying this year.

But it fulfills my desire to creative without an expectation of perfection at the end. I don’t think I’ve looked back at what I’ve written during past Novembers, but that’s alright by me. (I may look back in ten years and die from laughter and/or embarrassment) but at the time those were the words I needed to form.

Will I succeed in writing a novel (with no edits) by the end of November? I don’t know. Will it spark my creative juices? Perhaps. Will I expect perfection? Hopefully not. Happy NaNoWriMo, y’all.

Let me know if you’re planning to participate or if you have in the past.

How I’m (Working on) Spending Less

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The other day I had a conversation with a friend about job benefits and how terrifying it was to pick a benefits package – it was one of the first adult decisions I had to make that seemed permanent. Right after that conversation, I wrote a check for my rent, looked up LSAT prep classes online, and cooked myself a nutritionally balanced (ish) meal. I was adulting. It is terrifying.

One of the perks of adulting is recognizing that money should probably be saved more frequently than it is spent. I’ve tried the whole budgeting thing before and had varying levels of success, but this time it is real. Thankfully, I have no student loans – shout out to mom and dad for that one. But in a possibly stupid move, I’m considering law school.

The goal is to save as much money now while I’m fully employed so that law school is less of a burden (fingers crossed for a nice scholarship). However, spending money is just so much easier than saving it. If you’re like me and pretending to adult or you want to save up for that trip to Bali next year (take me with you!), I’ve taken some (very basic) steps to save money.

First up was a nice little closet clear out. Maybe you’ve heard of the capsule wardrobe craze or the minimalism movement, but the core idea is to limit how much clothing is hanging on your rail at any point in time. I regularly go through my closet and pull out things that don’t fit or that aren’t my style or that I wanted to fix but never got around to. The move from my parent’s house to my apartment meant a big clear out – my donation pile was embarrassing large, but there’s a satisfaction to going through and clearing all those maybes out of the way. (Feel free to try the Marie Kondo Konmari method or just to do it willy nilly – whatever works best for you!) Despite having fewer items of clothing, I could see every single piece and know they fit – I didn’t have an “I have nothing to wear” excuse anymore.

Next up, all winter pieces were tucked away for the summer and all summer pieces were pulled out and hung nicely. The mentality is that only that which is useful right now is visible. I tucked all my winter clothes in a gym bag I never use and will rotate out my summer clothes when my apartment switches from A/C to heat. An added perk of this organizational update is that when I pull out the clothes from the next season, it’ll be like adding new clothes to my wardrobe – all those sweaters that have been tucked away will be a new surprise. Switching to summer, I didn’t really feel the need to buy twelve new summer dresses because my old favorites came out of storage and I was reminded how much I loved them in past hot weather rather than remembering them as the things that blocked my access to my sweater.

Continuing the clear out theme, I went over to my emails. My mom jokes that she doesn’t need an alarm because every morning she gets an email from Joanne’s Fabrics that wakes her up. If you’re like me, you get a thousand emails a day from every website you’ve ever ordered online from. Well now’s the time to clear them out – unsubscribing from all those stores you might be tempted by means one less temptation to spend money on things you don’t really need. If you really need a plain white work shirt, you can always go shopping specifically for that. Once I unsubscribed from a bunch of those email lists, the temptations to shop every week were gone. Maybe you’re not a quilter and don’t get those Joanne’s emails, but everyone is on a listserve they don’t need to be on – since typing this I’ve received an email from Keds, Potbelly, H&M, and IcelandAir. The temptation to buy myself a new pair of shoes and a new outfit, grab a sandwich and head for the airport is strong. I’ll be unsubscribing shortly.

Next step was to head to my wallet. I’m trying to transition away from using a credit card for every little purchase and focus on using cash and/or a debit card. There’s limitations to how much cash I have on hand at any given moment, which makes my spending lower. (I also really don’t like handing over cash and receiving change for some reason – it sparks some serious anxiety.) Using a debit card is slightly less successful in this because I do not want an overdrawn charge (again :/). But both keep me in line better than a credit card. Even though I work diligently to make sure I don’t overspend on my credit card, the temptation to pay now and worry later is there. I am trying to build credit, but I’m trying to transition to only using it for emergencies and to pay for a biweekly metro card reload.

Speaking of my metro card – one of my job benefits is a travel reimbursement program that means I don’t get charged tax for my daily travel-related purchases (I think that’s the deal – I could be getting swindled right now. One of the perks of an “adulting” decision.) Each paycheck has a fee withdrawn and I then pay for my Metro card reload and can get reimbursed for that payment. It would be easy to pretend that that reimbursement was new money, but it’s not – I’ve already paid for it in my check. So that reimbursement money has been going straight to my savings account. I try not to look at it and just pretend the money is long gone. Reimbursements and tax returns and checks from Grandma are all going straight to savings, where they can build a slightly higher interest and be saved for a rainy day (a.k.a. the start of law school). I calculate money based on that direct deposit, rather than on the money I’m being reimbursed.

(Quick shout out to direct deposit for saving me from a biweekly trip to the bank).

Every other money-saving step I’ve taken has been relatively small. Like a proper adult, I use my mother’s washing machine (thanks mom!). I try to metro as much as possible rather than taking Ubers or paying for parking. I try to avoid eating out (despite Chipotle being my one true love). In a strange bit of health conciousness, I’ve been trying to work out multiple times a week and thanks to YouTube, there’s a thousand free 15-minute, 30-minute, 45-minute workouts online, rather than paying for classes or a gym membership. I’ve adopted a more European approach to the grocery shop, where I buy for a day or two rather than a week – I make less waste when my fruit doesn’t inevitably go bad, and it’s easier to pop in and out without extra purchases than it would be if I was doing an aisle by aisle shop.

Basically, there’s a thousand ways for me to save money and I’m trying them all. So here’s to hoping we all find scholarships and cheap travel deals.

Application Season

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So unfortunately, it is time for me to begin the process I have been dreading since Senior year: applying for a proper adult job.

See, I got out of adulting by going to grad school. I lived in student housing, had a part-time job and kept telling myself that I’d worry about getting a job once I had another degree. And who knew? maybe I’d end up with another degree or in law school…

Then when the end was near and I couldn’t hide behind the safety net that academia had provided me for the past five years, I panicked. I was running out of time to write a dissertation, apply for jobs, see London, say goodbye to friends. Adulthood was only a few weeks away and it felt like it had crept up on me when I was looking the other direction.

So I began a frantic wave of applications, sending out as many as I felt qualified to handle. Cover letters added stress to the final edits of my dissertation and moving out. I sent out application after application for internships and fellowships and jobs, rarely receiving a response back whether positive or negative.

Finally as I was beginning to panic, I got an internship. It was unpaid, but it was an internship. And it was somewhere exciting and new and relevant to the paths I was considering pursuing. It seemed like the perfect way to push-off adulthood for another semester.

But that semester is coming to an end. I am almost out of the appropriate timeframe for thinking about life in terms of semesters. And I have no idea what’s coming next.

This is my procrastination. I should be bragging about how clever and interesting I am in twenty cover letters or rewording a description about working with three-year olds for four summers to better apply my resume to a position in foreign affairs, but it’s just so difficult.

Times running out and the idea of leaving this internship with no future prospects is terrifying, but adulting is hard.

Maybe I’ll take Hemingway’s advice and write drunk before editing sober (but then I’d be hungover for work the next day). Or maybe I’ll just wait for my mom to take pity on me and help me write these daunting documents that could decide whether or not I end up with a job in the next few months.

Or maybe I’ll just put off adulting for one more year and apply to another Master’s…