Confession #1: Just because I’m an extravert, doesn’t mean I’m always happy.

I feel like this should go without saying, but, apparently, it’s not as obvious as I think. Personally, I enjoy being perceived as a happy-go-lucky individual. Every day, I strive to embody a lighthearted, unconditional kindness to help lift others spirits and inject some positivity into the universe. I smile at the strangers I pass on my way to class, pay people compliments on their outfits or hair, and perform other small acts of kindness that all add up in the end. I like being the girl remembered for her optimistic attitude, who goes out of her way to make people’s day.

What I don’t appreciate is when people assume because I’m so happy, my life is easy and I don’t have a single worry on my plate. People fool themselves into thinking I’m some airhead, or have had everything handed to me on a silver platter, and send snide remarks my way to try and denigrate my personality. While I’d be more than willing to admit I have had many advantages at my disposal, it’s not okay for people to assume I’ve never faced any hardships. I’ve had to work hard to get where I am today, both academically and emotionally. I wasn’t always this happy; I know what it’s like on the other side. Happiness is a choice, probably the toughest I’ve ever had to make. Wallowing in self-pity and misery is easy – climbing out of those emotions is a whole different story.

It’s not always easy after you’re finally able to embrace happiness, either. Life continues to throw obstacles in my way, but I hold onto my smile with an iron grip. It takes strength to stay happy through hard times, and to continue to share what little happiness remains with others. That’s what being an extravert means to me: sharing your light with others, no matter how little you have, because what you give to others and put into the Universe, you will receive ten-fold. Happiness is never a sign of weakness, no matter what others around me might believe.

Despite whatever cosmic enlightenment I cling to, I’m not happy all the time. It’s nearly impossible to be, unless maybe you’re a monk in Tibet and have really forgone all earthly possessions to achieve levitation or other cool abilities. I have bad days like everyone else, as much as I try to not let them get to me. When the stress becomes too big of a burden to carry, as an extravert, I lean on my friends to help prop me up during hard times, the same friends who I was there for during their own trials and tribulations. Some people fight these battles alone; I’ve tried, and found I was much too weak to battle my inner-demons. Each one I attempted to vanquish merely multiplied, like a demonic Hydra hungry for my soul.

 

Confession #2: Before I embraced my extraversion, I used to suffer from extreme loneliness and disconnect.

In middle school, I would have never pegged myself as an extravert – nobody in their right minds would have, not even my parents. I spent the majority of my free time alone for a variety of reasons: social awkwardness, friends with strict parents, and an affinity for books. During this time, I began to feel isolated from my surroundings, and began to question who I was, along with my self-worth. My emotions spiralled out of control, infected by dark thoughts and feelings of confusion, and life seemed bitterly pointless.

To be completely honest, I couldn’t recreate those thoughts if my life depended on it. It seems as if I was almost a different person then; not necessarily a stranger, but the way a caterpillar is foreign to the butterfly. Though I can’t remember what I thought, I can remember how I felt: the anxiety, hopelessness, frustration. This was a time of stunted emotional growth I was desperate to escape. It came to the point where I constantly needed something to distract me: movies or tv shows, books, computer games, homework, writing, anything to prevent me from being left alone with my own thoughts; I was in a perpetual state of fear, terrified of what my mind would come up with next to torture myself over.

I wasn’t able to properly face the terrors which plagued my mind until I started branching out and interacting with my environment more. I discovered I was an introvert not by nature, but merely circumstance. As I interacted with more people and pushed myself to try new things, I developed the courage to confess my internal struggles to my friends, who became my support system and ensured I’d never have to face crippling loneliness again. Slowly but surely, I dug myself out of the hole I realize now was an early onset of depression and was able to admire the blue skies in my eternal pursuit for pure happiness. I discovered I truly loved people, shedding my social awkwardness as I entered into high school and discovered new friends and opportunities that allowed me to emerge from my dark chrysalis as a social butterfly.

 

Confession #3: I used my extraversion as an emotional crutch.

There’s still a small part of me that’s scared of the dark cavern in my soul. Though over the years I’ve cleansed most of it’s toxic energy, a lot of pent up, self-resentment resides there. I’m not an overly emotional person; I have exactly one breakdown each year, in which I cry for three hours and question my existence. After I pick up the pieces, I’m fine until the next one occurs, like clockwork. It may not be the healthiest habit, but it’s how I’ve lived my life so far. I wouldn’t even describe it as a coping strategy, it’s more of an internal processing system.

What is a coping strategy is the habit to lose myself in hobbies, extracurriculars, people, social engagements and more. I would relish in being so involved, having weekends for two or three months at a time completely booked, that I soon forgot I needed to take care of myself. The ugly truth was plain and simple: I was avoiding myself. I liked who I was when I was out and around people, cracking jokes, flirting, doing crazy things and making priceless memories. I didn’t like who I was when I was left to my own devices, always scared I’d slip back to my own habits.

It wasn’t until I had swung so far in the opposite direction, draining my energy from my extraverted ways when I realized I needed to find balance. I began to practice yoga, and found that from the brief meditations ending the workout I was able to find a light to clear my foggy emotions. Surprising myself, I cried more often during this period, but I was able to cleanse some of the negative energy from my prior phases which remained. Slowly, the person I was around others and the person I was when alone soon coalesced into one individual; a flawed individual, but one I could accept, love, and nourish just the same.

Sometimes I still use my extraverted nature as a crutch: instead of working problems out on my own, I rant to my friends and then push the problems aside, considering them treated when I’ve only scratched the surface. Occasionally, I manage to wear myself too thin, but I have the wisdom now to turn down invitations when I’m in some need of Kira-time. Before, I considered myself learning how to lead my life as an extravert; now, I’m just learning how to lead my life.

 

Confession #4: I cheat by having lots of introverted friends.

Let’s not forget how for the first twelve to thirteen years of my life, I considered myself an introvert. This means I greatly enjoy introverted past times. Strangely, this has made me somewhat of an introvert-magnet: I collect introverted friends and prod them to socialize, though I am more than happy to kick it back with them and marathon a favorite TV show, or have deep talks at a bookstore. Though my best friend is an extravert herself, some of my closest bonds have been formed with introverted individuals, and they remind me the value of one-on-one, intimate relationships. Introverts help me slow down and appreciate life from a different angle, one that I abandoned for a high speed chase for all things excited as an extravert.

I used to mull over the idea I might be an ambiovert: someone who is capable of both introverted and extraverted behavior. Though it’s not an official, legitimate term, some people identify as one. While I’m not going to tell anyone they’re wrong in what they believe about themselves, I personally think the term is inaccurate because introvertism and extravertism are mutually exclusive. The difference is, to put it simply, “An introvert’s’ energy levels are drained from being around people, while an extravert’s energy levels thrive from being around people.” There can be introverts and extraverts who hover near the border, but it is extremely difficult for one to maintain neutral energy levels in social situations (unless, again, you’re a Tibetan monk).

In general, I think it’s beneficial for both extraverts and introverts to form bonds with people who are opposite from them, so they can gain a refreshing new perspective in life, as well as a friend whose strengths improve upon your weaknesses.

 

Confession #5: HOV lanes cultivate the epitome of my social life.

When I was younger, I would fantasize about my future as a young adult, being able to drive to new places with my friends and soak up all life had to offer. I guess those daydreams should have been the first hint at my extraversion, though I suppose I labeled it as wanderlust, or a side effect of my loneliness. But I’m proud to say those hopes have been realized. I’m usually the one to drive every time my friends and I go out, whether to a party or to explore a new part of town (mainly because I’m the one who organizes the excursions), and every time I merge onto I-95, my face lights up at the fact I’m able to enter the HOV lane. To me, this privilege represents friendship and adventure. Driving to our destination with the radio on and friends laughing all around me, I’m filled with love and inspiration; driving home from our adventure in the evening, friends chatting quietly or scanning their phones, I’m filled with contentment. Both reflections take place in the leftmost, diamond labeled lane of the highway.

I’ve come a long way, and I’ve still got plenty of decades to discover new facets of myself. But no matter the difficulties I have faced and will continue to face, I am glad for my extraverted nature, because it has empowered me to become so much bigger than who I was yesterday.

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