My extroversion and sociability tints how I see a lot of the world.
Like any sort of mindset or personality trait, it’s pretty hard to see outside of it…I only see myself as an extrovert because friends have told me I am one. But otherwise, having that characteristic is like water to a fish. I’ll still try to give you insight into my world.
Even though I had a nice little group of mountain biking friends (we made jackass-style movies together) I felt left out, both from the wider high school class (my peer group), and from the dating scene (I really wanted a high school girlfriend for some reason). I lived in the suburbs; my parents didn’t have close friends and didn’t get along with each other. Apparently, this is fairly normal in the US. 25% of Americans have no close friends (to give you one stat). Bowling Alone goes into this a lot more. Americans have become far lonelier people over the last couple decades. This really bothers me. It feels like a societal sickness and the root of so many of our problems.
Contrast my upbringing with my first travels. I went to New Zealand after high school with my good buddy Heath. We bought a car and lived out of it for 4 months. We travelled around, did hikes, explored beaches, and partied a lot, especially in Wellington. I stayed at a hostel called Rosemere in Wellington’s downtown. It was a social paradise. People talked to you! They wanted to know about you, they wanted to have adventures. People said hi in the morning and I had conversations with fellow travelers until 3 in the morning. It showed me a closeness and sense of community I had barely experienced before.
Then I lived in Colombia. Colombians knows their neighbors, they say “good morning” “good afternoon” and “good evening” to strangers, even on the elevators. There are seldom cliques in their high schools. Latinos in general make public squares where they gather with their families to merely rest, sit, and watch goofy clown shows. It’s incredible to see.
Travel showed me how life could be.
Then I came back to the US, got over my confidence issues from high school, and learned to talk to strangers. At first, a stranger is a stranger, one among many. Then when you talk to them, they become human. They have/had a mother, they have a story, they’re on their way somewhere and you happened to intersect with them on their/your journey. And they usually have something interesting to say! You get to hear about a part of humanity/life that you wouldn’t have been exposed to before. It’s like your very own private live, “this American Life” episode. We’ll all be dead so soon, why not have an interesting fun conversation while we’re here?
Being an extrovert feels like living in a world of potential friends, conversations, and connections.
Going out into the world, making events happen, connecting people…it’s a personal crusade against the disconnection and loneliness which plague us.
Being an extrovert is also quite fun. Once you’re not afraid of rejection or disapproval, you can say and do most anything. Once you realize that most people “are only really thinking about themselves”, you don’t really care about being outlandish. I enjoy saying what everyone is thinking but not saying. I enjoy pointing out the absurdities of life. I’d like to think I’m not an attention whore, but there’s probably some kind of positive feedback loop in place. I try to be outspoken in good ways, not in merely attention grabbing selfish ways.
Being extroverted can also be exhausting. I’ve had to realize that there’s a quantity-quality tradeoff with people–there’s only so many coffee dates/meet ups you can handle. I don’t think introverts are unfriendly or afraid of rejection, rather many of them have just realized that there are limited marginal gains to a bigger and broader social life (and it can also distract from accomplishing bigger things).