It's been a few years now since I realized I was an extrovert. This came as a surprise; my Myers-Briggs tests have always scored me as an extreme introvert, and I leak energy -- not just leak, hemorrhage -- in a majority of social situations, as an introvert does.
For instance, I recoil from statements such as:
- You spend your leisure time actively socializing with a group of people, attending parties, shopping, etc.
- The more people with whom you speak, the better you feel.
And nod vigorously when I read things like:
- After prolonged socializing, you feel you need to get away and be alone.
- You often prefer to read a book than go to a party.
But nope. I'm not an introvert. I'm just deaf. People energize me. But lipreading and the other things I need to do in order to communicate... they pulverize me. It's like having to make a blood donation every time you go out to get food; you often end up spiraling onto the floor, dizzy and starving. Grumpy. And lonely. And bewildered. Or at least I was for many years -- because I didn't understand why.
I didn't understand my reactions, didn't understand how to recharge -- didn't understand why my recharging strategies (be alone! do things without people!) weren't working. I thought all introverts were like me, so I'd constantly push through my own exhaustion to draw quiet friends into constant interaction, because I thought they wanted that -- even if I didn't.
A hearing introvert will tire early in a party, walk outside, and go "phew -- now I can go home and recharge." A deaf extrovert will tire early in a party, walk outside, and go "hurrah, now that the background noise is gone, I can talk to people!" It's been a long hard haul to recognize more and more things I didn't know I didn't know.
The learning continues. Deaf extrovert friends are teaching me to be okay with taking internet-socializing breaks (chat, Twitter, Facebook, etc.) to recharge during work hours -- I get a little energy from the real-time text-based communication, but without the lipreading burnout. And I have been learning how to savor solitude, to differentiate communion from communication, and to learn the shape and heft of my great hunger for community. It's a hunger I've long ignored and matted down.
I love walking into a room of people I know, and sitting and simply being in company, in silence, maybe with occasional nods and waves. Places where I don't need to constantly reach out to prove and/or reestablish the connection, because I trust it. Being able to relax into that sharedness of understanding. This makes me happy, and I want to find and nurture spaces like this everywhere I go. Places I can recharge.
I think these are my thoughts for now. I will post them and go to lunch.