From the Corner

Today I ate lunch in the student food court at my college. It’s not often I eat there (I usually wind up bringing leftovers and eating at my desk), but when I do, this is my favorite place to sit. I park at that corner chair with my back to the wall. What you can’t see in the picture is the arrangement of half-walls and seating areas that make this corner almost impossible to find if you aren’t looking for it. But I look for it.

Why do I hid in the corner when I eat lunch? It’s not that I don’t want to talk to people or specifically to students. I’m famous for keeping my door open all day. I once had a student who was SHOCKED to come by at 3:45 on a Friday and find I wasn’t in! Still, I need a few times each day when I can just be by myself. You see, I’m an introvert. I have a job I love that brings me into contact with dozens and dozens of people each day, and I wouldn’t have it any other way, but it’s hard.

Here’s some technical theory on this. When I teach about the introversion/extraversion dimension in my class, I describe it in terms of where people get their batteries charged. When you’re tired or sick or stressed, what do you do? An introvert will push everyone away, no matter how much they love them, because for an introvert it’s being alone that charges the batteries. At the end of a hard week, an extravert will want nothing more than to be surrounded by people, the louder and more social the better. An introvert will curl up with a book, or a cat, and just breathe. Being in class or working with students on their projects is deeply rewarding, but also drains my energy in a way that I can only restore when I’m by myself.

The introversion/extraversion dimension was first defined by psychologist Carl Jung (who also spelled extraversion with an A — extrAversion — because intro- means within and extra- means without). It later became one of the five fundamental personality dimensions in the Big Five model of human personality. Most psychologists agree that this dimension is one of the most important ways that people differ from each other. For a while it was one of those things “everybody knows” that it’s better to be an extravert, and that quiet, introverted types should take steps to fix their “problem.” There’s been some popular psychology press lately, some of it actually backed by good science, on why this idea is wrong-headed. I particularly recommend Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking.

Books are the lifeline for introverts. They can be connected to the world and to other people while still being alone. This is one of the things I love about being a writer. It works for my introverted personality, and works for all the other introverts out there.

Fellow introverts – I see you! I’m waving to you and I’m glad to connect with you…

….from my corner chair, to yours.

Posted in response to the WordPress photo challenge: Favorite Place