Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The direction of others

As a child, I was apparently gregarious. My nickname was "Little Miss Sunshine" because I went around smiling at strangers.

As an adolescent, I grew introverted. My favorite companions were a good book, my headphones, and my diaries. Because this time in my life was so instrumental in shaping my personality, I've always thought of myself as essentially a loner.

Now that I'm deeply rooted in my career, I find that I am an inveterate extrovert once again. I'm a hugger. I hail colleagues loudly across the quad. I love interacting with students in class, and I'm known for the force of my personality and my unabashedly extravagant gestures.

Who is the real me? I suspect that the hearty, social Donna doesn't ring true to some people; I sense that sometimes they feel it's all a put-on. But it feels absolutely real and natural to me. I don't try to be that way; I just am, as a reflexive response to the energy I draw from the work I'm doing.

In fact, whenever I retreat into solitude, where I used to find my center, I find myself overflowing with ideas and emotion. There seems to be a surfeit of feeling -- too much to keep to myself. I fear that it will dissipate into the ether, lost forever. And because I experience every day the fruitfulness of contributing those thoughts to a larger conversation, it seems a terrible waste to generate them all by myself. I am brimming, and there is nowhere for what I am becoming to go.

This must be why all my solitary activities have morphed into public performances. I read books and watch movies and television mostly to write about them for the A.V. Club. I knit alone, but equally important is sharing knitting with the Ravelry crowd. I write my journal, but I do it here where the whole world can see.

Yes, I've shared these hobbies with large audiences because those observers motivate me to continue and to progress. But when you think about it, that's the very definition of extroversion. I'm drawing my inspiration and energy from others, and it enables me to find satisfaction in transforming and reflecting it back as my personal contribution to the whole.

Note: Actual reflective content courtesy of Granny Lou and Papa, who were playing Skip-Bo with the kids while I took the time to write.

2 comments:

papa said...

I believe the correct name was "little Mary Sunshine", from the title of a cutsey play of the same name. the first line of the song being " you've got to hand it to Little Mary Sunshine, little Mary's happy all the time.

Kimberli (aka Wacky Auntie) said...

Loved this post! As an often gregarious introvert...I totally understand where you're coming from. Even when I'm not feeling particularly chatty...it just spills over, bubbling like a stream, and I wonder just who is this person I've become?

And can you tell I'm doing major catch up on my Bloglines today? That's me...nothing for ages then a flurry of comments at once ;)