Candace Ganger
February 12, 2016 9:24 am
Image via NBC

Being an introvert means having to make some really difficult decisions. My Friday night’s epicness depends solely on staying in to watch a movie or staying in to write or possibly staying in to clean. Seriously! Every now and then though, I get an invite to go out. As in, venture past my mailbox into the great wide open where there are people and stuff.

To many people, this is a prime opportunity to get dressed up in something fancy and enjoy being immersed in friends and drink fancy cocktails and meet new people. For me, being asked to leave the comfy confines of my elastic waistband to go be personable and “fun” is an anxiety attack waiting to happen.  What will I wear? What will I talk about? What if there’s traffic? Or worse—what if I miss a new episode of Shark Tank? The struggle is real and I know I can’t possibly be the only one who feels this way (Hello? Can you hear me?).

In forcing myself out of the old comfort zone, I’ve learned just how crucial my alone time is. Space = everything for a gal like me. If I don’t have enough of it, there’s little enjoyment in those rare times I do accept an invite. Having just gone out for my 34th birthday this past weekend, I now realize there are five stages to my unraveling in any social situation.

Phase 1: I guess I should go

Approximately two minutes into the drive, I rethink the whole thing. “What am I doing? I should go home.” I may circle the block once or twice, find a reason to go back inside the house (did I unplug the karaoke machine???) and maybe even park in an empty lot until I decide this WILL be worth it. Because it WILL. Won’t it? Maybe it won’t. I’m never sure at this stage. A possible self-sabotage could be in the works via text message explaining why I can’t go (lies!) but ultimately, I will just go and get it over with. It’s nothing personal to my friends and loved ones. It’s just that I don’t want to go.

Phase 2: Why did I do this to myself?

Once I actually arrive at said place, the sheer amount of noise and people is usually enough to make me question my decision-making skills. Maybe I’m not capable of adulting or even attempting adult-like activities. These thoughts will plague me as I wrestle with getting out of the car. There may be a good song on the radio I will use as an excuse to continue sitting but really, I’m hiding. I will fight the urge to leave but will reckon I’ve come this far so I’ll pay the door cover with change, and stagger inside to find somewhere to sit or stand where I will not stray from.

Chances are, I am the first to arrive because I always leave early enough to allow the back and forth inside my head. I am a considerate introvert at least. Next, I will pretend to scroll through my social feeds (though I’ve already been caught up for awhile) to keep my hands busy. I never know what to do with my hands. Do you fold them together or stick them in pockets? I tend to choose a more natural approach such as waving at people I think are my friends (not them). This is the point in the night I feel a lack of oxygen and eye the door pretty hard. I may even prepare to leave but wait—there are my friends. I am stuck here now. Yay.

Phase 3: Please don’t talk to me

After fighting off stranger’s attempts to woo me, the usual small talk with friends resumes but there inevitably comes a lull where everyone splits off into their own conversations. It’s totally normal and yet, kind of startling all at once and more times than not, I’m sitting on the tail end of the friend wagon so my chances of hearing anything that is going on is next to zero.

If  left alone, I will spend time thinking of more excuses to leave. Or sometimes funny cat memes. Depends, really. If you are speaking to me, I am sweaty under the spotlight. You cannot possibly win in this scenario and I’m sorry. Also, thanks for inviting me out!

Phase 4: This is kind of fun, I guess

Once loosened, fully conversed, and feeling good about my rockin’ decision to leave my regimented routine bubble at home, I realize “hey! I’m actually having this weird feeling! It’s similar to…fun?! And to think I didn’t want to come out! I’ve grown a lot in the time since that struggle!”

Now that things are going well, I might make jokes and all the awkward insecurities melt away, if only for a while. This is kind of awesome! I LOVE going out! I am a party animal and I’m totally committing to doing this more often. Pinky promise.

Phase 5: It’s only 8:30???    

Just when I feel like I have ruled the night, I glance at the clock. IT’S NOT EVEN 9 PM??! There is no graceful way to exit so if my half-hug-handshake-goodbye thing isn’t awkward enough, I will likely stand up and run without a word. Sorry. When you’re an introvert like me, you may find yourself trying to decide which is better –going out or staying in. The tricky thing is, there is NO right answer because whatever you choose, you’ll wish you’d done the other.

To all my fellow introverts, even knowing the mental anguish you may go through, try something new and put yourself out there. You might even have a good time. Or at the very least, you’ll be able to say you left the house this week so you’re all good for awhile.

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