I Became An Introvert In My 40s
Why I don’t want to go back to a life that’s so overscheduled I welcome someone canceling plans.
In my junior high yearbook, you’ll find my photo next to the words “Most Talkative.” That title applied for the next 25 years — until suddenly it didn’t. During my 20s and 30s I was, as an ex used to call me, a social butterfly. I filled my evenings with comedy shows, concerts, trivia nights and readings. I accepted any invitation to hang out, from close friends and more tenuous acquaintances. I’d bring as many people as I could to parties. Wasn’t that the point of living in New York?
By my late 30s, though, I still went out most nights, but with far less enthusiasm. When I fell in love with someone who lived in the suburbs of my home state of New Jersey, I jumped at the chance to move to a city that did, in fact, sleep.
At first, hanging out with my boyfriend on our couch on nights and weekends rather than seeking out local entertainment was an adjustment. I felt like I was missing out — on what, I didn’t know, but surely something more fun.
Gradually, my focus shifted to what was right in front of me. After a long day, I found myself looking forward to cozying up with him, watching “our” shows or playing marathon video game sessions, or just reading side by side. I got used to spending more time alone — not because there was no one else around, but because I actually enjoyed it. I dove into doing elaborate jigsaw puzzles, as giddy to start a new one as the old me had been to score concert tickets. I’d stay up late, obsessed with finishing my latest puzzle, immersed in a world all my own. Puzzling wasn’t some second-rate way to pass my time; it was my primary hobby by choice.
Because I now lived farther from my friends, I couldn’t gather them together like I had in the past. When I did visit, we spent time together one-on-one, having much more meaningful conversations than we ever could in a crowd. I didn’t mind ordering takeout and binge-watching whole seasons of shows, catching up on our lives in between, or quietly soaking up the sun with them on vacation rather than exploring the nightlife or hotspots.
Deep down, I had assumed that if I wasn’t a flurry of activity, my friends would find me boring. But I no longer wanted to be the life of the party — or even necessarily attend a party. I wanted something deeper. I’ve since come to realize that any judgment was on my end. My friends haven’t abandoned me; we’ve just found new ways of interacting.
My introversion has served me well during the pandemic. I used to spend much of my time planning trips, using them to mark my mental calendar. Just get through this month, and then you get to fly to Maine or LA or Thailand, I’d tell myself. Home was an afterthought, a place to park myself until it was time to leave and be a more glamorous version of myself. Embracing being an introvert has meant thinking of home as the place I belong, not just the place I live. I appreciate the little touches we’ve added to make our home truly ours, from our three succulents I say hi to by name every morning to each piece of art on our walls, which I used to pass by with hardly a spare glance.
As I think about the post-pandemic era, I don’t want to go back to a life that’s so overscheduled I welcome someone canceling plans. I want to continue to block out large chunks of time on my calendar that are pure me time. I’ve discovered that I not only need that time to recharge, but also to be the best and happiest version of myself for everyone else in my life.