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.

Dark and Dreary Days

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The first time I experienced some form of seasonal depression was when I moved to Indianapolis. I think the onset was from a series of factors: suddenly experiencing “real winters”, stresses from being far from home and on my own, and a lack of structure in my day to day life. Whatever the causes, it hit me hard.

So when I went to Sweden and lived through only a few hours of cloudy sunshine a day, I had to start finding small ways to elevate the symptoms of my seasonal depression. With the days getting shorter and the nights getting longer and my toes now being permenantly frozen, I’ve started to reintegrate some of those seasonal cures into my daily life.

First thing: getting up. The hardest thing for me when facing long dark cold days was getting out of bed. Wrapped up in my warm blankets, tucked away from the world, I was (and am) happy to wallow. Up and out of bed, and I have a better chance at a good day.

Next thing: comfy and cozy. If I’m planning to leave the house for the day, I make sure I’m wearing my comfy and coziest clothing. It’s hard to be happy when you’re freezing and you can’t feel your toes. It’s time for all the warm sweaters and tights and scarfs. If I don’t need to leave the house, I pull on my fuzzy socks and a nice sweatshirt and grab a nice blanket to wrap around myself. (I can also recommend a humidifier and plenty of moisturizer – dry skin is no fun.)

Let there be light. The bridge between comfy and cozy and this next step is hygge. Maybe you were part of the craze a few years ago when everyone jumped on the idea, but the general gist of the Danish hygge is you wrap yourself in the comfiest thing you’ve got and plant yourself next to some candles or the fireplace and it makes everyone better. The Scandanavians know what they’re doing. Light a couple candles, stick your toes near a fire, and light up your space.

If the sun can’t do its job, artificial light will just have to do. My mom gave me a Happy Light last winter and in using it every morning while I put on my makeup, not only am I able to actually see all the wrinkles and zits on my face, but it wakes me up and genuinely puts me in a better mood. Rather than sitting in a dark room staring at a computer or phone screen, I’ve now got multiple string lights and lamps throughout the space and have become fond of mixing my candle scents. Basically, anything I can do to bring light into my room during the dark and dreary months, I do.

Seek the sun. I’ll admit there’s few things like sitting inside of a library or an office and seeing a beautiful day outside. Maybe you don’t have the ability to skip work and soak up the sun all day, but I like to force myself outside on sunny days, regardless of the chill. I treat myself to a purchased lunch if it means I get a few blocks worth of sunshine at its peak. I’m also trying (and sometimes failing) to catch those last few rays on my way home. Rather than racing towards my bed, I go to the next metro stop over or I go grocery shopping right away – essentially holding on to the sun for as long as I can.

Force some friendships. One of the hardest parts about living in Sweden those first few months was saying goodnight to everyone at 3 p.m. and then sitting alone in the dark for hours. The winter is a great time to visit museums (I tell myself and yet we shall see) or encourage friends (and/or your mother) to do silly seasonal activities for the ‘gram. Anything I can do to get out of bed and see other faces means I’m spending less time alone in my own head.

And lastly, acceptance. It is okay to not be okay. Some days are good. Some days suck. It’s okay to accept that not every day will be amazing. But I’m glad you’re here. I’m glad I’m here. And I’m glad summer is just around the corner, right?

(Disclaimer: I’m no doctor. Everyone is different and this is simply my approach. If you need help, talk to your doctor or call 1-800-662-4357.)

Working From Home

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As a currently fun-employed 20-something, I’ve found myself sitting at home scrolling through the endless job offerings on LinkedIn, hoping for a diamond in the rough posting that will perfectly fit my qualifications. While I continue that, I wanted to share my realizations about working (or simply being) at home all day. These tips (for lack of a better word) can apply to the unemployed, the self-employed, the telecommuting, or the retired.

Get Dressed

It’s such a simple step that makes such a difference. If I spend the morning in my pajamas lazing in bed, nothing gets done. Even if it isn’t until 11 a.m., get out of bed and get dressed – nothing fancy, just something new.

Distance Yourself

Speaking of bed, get away from it. Distance yourself from distractions in your apartment/house/dorm. If you can, get out of bed and sit at a table or even on your couch. Other distractions I’ve found include the kitchen, my phone, any televisions, and messy places. Anything that could give you a task or a temptation other than work has to be left in the other room. If you’re really motivated, head to a coffee shop or a library nearby.

Leave the House

Distancing myself from my apartment can mean distancing myself from the stress or anxiety that comes with applying for jobs. Waiting for an email? Take a walk. Can’t think of the right words for your resume? Run an errand. Partly, new environments spark new thoughts, but it’s also nice to leave every once in a while. Folks working at offices get to leave the stress at the office; you should distance yourself from that every once in a while. (Maybe the “stress” of retirement is not exactly applicable in this conversation, but being cooped up isn’t good for any of us.)

Give Yourself Days Off

Just like you should depart from your home every few days for your sanity, taking a break is important too. I find that due to social interactions, my weekends often become my days off, but it can be any day of the week. It also can be just when you finish what you’re working on. Though it helps to get out of bed and put on real clothes every day, it’s also nice to take a day to sit in your pajamas and watch Netflix. You’ll come back refreshed.

Be Social

I mentioned social interactions – you should be having them. As an introvert, I can happily spend days in a row by myself, but it’s nice to talk to someone every once in a while. Call your mom. Text your pals. Go grab a drink with your fellow unemployed millennial. They might spark an idea or give you a hint towards a job opening or make sitting at home alone sound like a dream.

Make a To-Do List

Maybe this is just me, but I have to have everything written down or it doesn’t get done. I make daily, weekly, monthly to-do lists. Everything from laundry day to apply to a job to vacuuming to my super busy (non-existent) social calendar gets written down. It feels really nice to cross things off the list and means you won’t walk away forgetting to hit send on that email.

Finish One Task a Day

I’m stealing this one from my grandma – give yourself one task a day to complete… and then complete it. I make a goal of applying to two jobs a day or finishing my laundry. If I’m super motivated more things get crossed off the to-do list, but if I’m not feeling it, I can cross one thing off and the day isn’t wasted. For low motivation days, I focus on something simple like clearing all my emails into “important” and “clothes websites that I don’t have money for” or taking out the trash or decorating a corner of the apartment.

Have a Creative Outlet

For a while, my roommate would come home from work to find I had hung something new or moved something to a different corner of the apartment. It’s slowed down for now, but having a creative outlet gave me all sorts of stress relief. My mother quilts, I’ve taken up crafting or cross-stitching, others knit or paint or draw (or if I’m being generous here, write blog posts about riding their bike….). Creative pursuits (even poorly executed ones) are worth a small portion of your time.

Pay Attention to Your Productivity

Everyone works differently. Some people are night owls, others prefer the morning. Some people need to get everything done at once, others have to spread the task out. Some people require breaks between tasks, others need rewards for a full day’s work. Whatever your style is, follow it. And ignore all those Facebook articles about how the smartest people are most productive at 6 a.m. or whatever. You’re most productive when you’re most productive – pay attention to you.

Take a Shower

Last tip: take a shower. Showers are a nice refresh from the day before or the last job application. Also, you might not realize it, but you could smell. Just saying…

Manspreading and Other Public Transportation Woes

Travel

I’m sure you’ve experienced it. You’re sitting on public transportation, probably sweating and hoping you’re not sitting in some wet substance that’ll stain the back of your pants. The doors open to the next stop and twelve hundred people get on. You, being a conscientious public transportation rider, pull your bags onto your lap and tuck your elbows in, taking up as little space as possible. You’re not comfortable, per say, but you’re not squished.

And that’s when it happens. The passenger next to you either puts their bag between their legs (rather than on their lap) or is trying to air out their inner thighs. Whatever their reasoning, suddenly their legs are spread beyond two parallel lines and what little space you had is now taken up by the manspread.

I should note that women are guilty of this takeover of any and all space, but men are definitely the worst offenders. What makes you think that I want to feel your leg pushed up against mine on the hottest day of the year? What makes you think that your comfort is more important than my right to a personal bubble?

Now I get it, sometimes it’s inevitable. The tube is absolutely packed so your armpit is right at my face level as I try not to flail all over the place. Or we’re all pushed up against the door trying to squeeze two people more onto the traincar between this station and the next. But come on. Spreading your legs out is just unnecessary. (And no this is not a promotion of that weird Russian “activist” who decided to spray bleach on manspreaders.)

You know, I’m actually okay with you manspreading or crossing your leg or putting your bag on the seat next to you, but when the bus/train/metro/etc is full, or someone is sitting right next to you, make yourself tiny please.

This rant on manspreading in public transportation comes after three-ish weeks of traveling by metro in DC. And my problem with metroing to my internship has almost never been with the super crowded four stops on my commute, but instead with the jerks who exist on the metro on the six or so half-crowded stops.

I’ve begun to collect complaints that I would like to share with you now:

One. If you are riding the metro with a friend/co-worker/family member, there is no reason you should not sit next to each other. Do not take up two rows or sit across the aisle from each other and shout over your fellow passengers.

Two. Wear deodorant. Even if it’s not a super humid day, public transportation is smelly enough without your armpit sweat adding to the mix. (Also, please don’t drown yourself in perfume or body spray or cologne. There is such a thing as too much.)

Three. Playing music through your headphones is polite, but if I can hear the entirety of the playlist from across the train, maybe turn it down a dial or two. Your ears will thank you later.

Four. If the seat is empty, you are not required to take it. However, move the heck out of the way. Standing directly in front of an empty seat is worse than taking it from someone who might need it.

Five. Take your backpack off. I have an ongoing theory that three things make people into automatic assholes: backpacks, suitcases, and umbrellas. Fortunately, the last few weeks have been rainy so I’ve been smacked by many a careless umbrella user. I also happen to pass an airport on my commute, so I’ve been tripped up by plenty of lost tourists and self-important businessmen. But backpacks just piss me off. When folks are wearing them, they don’t always remember they’re there and they’ll swing ’em around, pushing people, taking up valuable space, and smacking you with all the random straps that tend to hang off them.

Six. Stop standing directly in front of the door to the train. If you’re in the way, I can’t get off. Now, over the years, I have lost any fear about using my shoulders/elbows/body to push people out of my way, but good golly, why’re you blocking the door? Step to the side!

Seven. You walk on the left of the escalator, you stand on the right. If you’ve got stairs or a broken escalator (which let’s be honest. Just about every escalator in the DC Metro system is broken), why do you feel the need to push past the people standing on the escalator? You have alternatives! Use them!

Eight. If a kid gets on the train, stand up and give them your chair. If you sit in the “priority seating”, you better look up at every stop to see if someone needs your seat. My Metro ride is maybe forty minutes and as much as I would like to kick my feet up and relax, you can bet your bottom dollar, I’ll pop right up if you need my spot.

Nine. If you take one of the free newspapers, take it with you. Metro stations have special recycling bins for newspapers now. Don’t just leave it on the seat for me to have to push on the floor or to the other seat. I didn’t take one because I don’t want the responsibility, why the heck should I have to deal with your leftovers?

Ten. (And my last one, for now.) You are never more important than the other people on the car. You are one of thousands of people trying to get from point A to point B. Everyone’s got a journey. Be kind. Be patient. Don’t manspread.

Happy Encounters

london

I told my mom that my next blog post would be about how I pack for trips with only my backpack, and I promise I have a draft post being worked on, but I had a happy encounter today that I wanted to share.

While living here in London, I decided to get a part time job. In part to fill my hours with something other than Netflix and in part to afford my travels and Diet Coke addiction, I have been working in retail. It’s introduced me to some wonderful characters: my coworkers are lovely and we regularly chat about cultural differences and what it’s like to live in a city like London and what funny customers wandered into our shop on any given day. Most days, in fact, I genuinely feel happy being busy at work, tidying and organizing (and occasionally dancing/singing along to mediocre music).

As most people who work in retail can tell you, you’ll meet some pretty unpleasant people. Folks who are frustrated, angry, impatient, generally unpleasant. These people come into the store just about everyday and you do your best to help them out. Sometimes they leave happy and sometimes you’re left feeling a bit down or useless.

But then there’s real gems. Like the girl who came up to the till and asked how my shift was going (and then remembered me the next week when she came in again). Or the girl on a mission trip who informed me that God had sent her to the second floor of our shop to offer aid and prayers to whoever was working there. Or the babies that come in and smile.

Because of the location of my particular shop, we get a lot of tourists, oftentimes popping in to buy shoes to replace their broken ones or to grab an umbrella for a rainy day. Sometimes, they are just killing time while they wait for their train. French, Spanish, Italian, Hebrew, Arabic, Chinese, Korean, all spoken in one place. As I struggle to translate my question of “would you like to purchase a bag for 5 pence?”, we use smiles and hand motions to communicate.

Every once in a while, I hear it though: the American accent. I don’t know if folks aren’t expecting it or if I’ve been in the U.K. long enough that my y’alls aren’t as strong, but most Americans don’t seem to notice that I’m not British.

But then there’s those happy encounters, like the one I had today, where an American (usually a mother, bless them) will stop and do a double take, asking me where I’m from or what I’m doing here.

Today, I had a customer leave the fitting room and then come back to chat with me. When I mentioned that I was getting my Master’s here, her face lit up. She was visiting her daughter who was studying abroad in London.¬†She asked about my travels and how I was finding it with such enthusiasm and joy that our small conversation washed away any frustrations about my shift or any anxiety about my upcoming exam.

We exchanged a high five, or two, and she said “if I knew you better, I’d give you a hug!“. We’ll probably never cross paths again, but my day was made by this simple happy encounter of an enthusiastic, interested American mother who I just so happened to run into.

Now, don’t get me wrong: I’m happy to have three days off from work in a row, but it was a nice reminder of why I stay in my part time retail job: the people.