Since I was quite small I’ve been clear about one part of my personality: I am definitely an extrovert.
That’s not to say my extroverted nature always expresses itself in stereotypical ways. We are probably all aware that the extrovert-introvert dichotomy is more than just loud vs quiet personalities. I find new social interactions daunting, and I’m also usually not the loudest voice in the room. Oh, except when I’m running a rehearsal... then I’m probably the only voice in the room.
For me, being an extrovert is about how I get my energy. Charging the ‘Chloe battery.’ Whilst an introvert may find that a social situation drains their battery, for me, it works like a turbocharge. To be honest, it doesn’t even have to be a social situation. A boost of energy can come from simply sitting in a cafe or library amongst other people, or walking through a shopping centre. As though I am receiving an electric charge from each person I pass.
Of course, there are some exceptions to this. If I’m not feeling well, then a large social gathering can bring me down further. Generally, the best charging points are spending quality time with a small group of people. I know some introverts who would agree on this.
The life of a conductor, which appears the perfect stomping ground for an extrovert, is full of alone time. Many conductors and pedagogues profess that every hour on the podium requires at least 20 hours of previous private study.
I’d say this is the bare minimum.
Growing up I struggled with being by myself. Perhaps it was just due to an extreme extrovert tendency, or a lack of close friendships with other children my age to provide the charge for alone time. Whatever, the cause, I distinctly remember getting very itchy if I was ever encouraged to play by myself for an afternoon. Typically my solution was to blastout whatever music was handy and dance around the living room. Deafen the silence.
I wonder what you did?
In my working life - a ‘freelance’ life - this itchiness creeps in, too.
I’m very blessed to live with flatmates, so I never feel completely alone when working from home. I find that even the mere presence of other people in the house energises me in my self-motivated work.
However, there are times when I simply need to get out and be amongst people. I take a stroll through town, go and watch a concert or a rehearsal, make plans with friends. It’s as though my capacity for alone time has a shelf-life and once it’s used up, it makes me very uncomfortable.
Covid-19 has added to this conundrum.
In The Netherlands, since the middle of October, we have been in what I will coin a ‘Partial Lockdown Plus’. Like your standard airline ticket, with premium bonuses.
On 14th October, the government shut down restaurants and bars, encouraged working from home, banned all but essential travel, restricted in-home gatherings to no more than three guests, and limited event capacity to 30 people. This latter change knocked out several of the Dutch orchestras, who promptly cancelled all concerts until mid-November.
Then, two weeks later, further restrictions - the ‘plus’ - were added: closing museums, theme parks and zoos, reducing indoor guests to two, and outdoor gatherings to two people as well.
In general, the restrictions haven’t caused too much strain, and I’m grateful that education is exempt from the majority of these restrictions, meaning my classes have been going ahead as usual. However, I’ve missed the buzz of a dinner out with friends, or the change of scenery offered by an afternoon studying in a cafe. Small things, but important ones. Even when I can go out - perhaps for some shopping or a takeout coffee in town - there’s a feeling of unease, and the charge I receive from people passing is muted by the face masks and the fear.
I straddle a line between choosing to stay in, following guidelines, and then feeling guilty for wasting the opportunities offered by life in another country: going out, meeting people and exploring a new culture.
What a strange time.
Nature has offered solace and refuge. I’ve tried to draw energy and inspiration from creation and its sensory awakening. Feeling the sand on my feet by the beach or hearing wind pound against my ears as I freewheel down a dune on my bike. The smell of the ocean or the landscape view which demonstrates its enormity. The crunch of the autumn leaves or the sight of a golden sunset. Beautiful things to experience, and moments to draw energy.
Time in the morning has become critical. Waking up and reading my bible, journaling extensively to God, enjoying a satisfying breakfast. Preparing myself for a good day of work, and allowing grace when the day doesn’t go to plan. Living each moment and allowing space and time to breathe. I must remember what a rare blessing it is to have time.
I’m finally starting to understand ‘alone time’ and its benefits, though it is a slow and uncomfortable process. Lockdown has offered the chance to develop a stronger appreciation of time with myself, my thoughts and my prayers, and the way these can offer healing.
Ultimately, though, I need balance. We all need balance. And this alone time will surely be most effective next to plenty of time amongst friends and colleagues and family.
If I’m honest, I still long for the day when we can gather together in groups again and experience the joy of vibrant human interaction. I hope then we will also appreciate more readily the beauty these moments hold.
Extrovert attempting to embrace alone time wholeheartedly.
Sun peeks over the horizon.
A Magnificent Incoming Tempest.
Warm hues of a late afternoon.
Rose gold permeates the sky.