I have a memory of being a teenager: a glum teenager. I was stood at my bedroom window next to my lovely Dad, feeling about as low as I could be.
A group of girls were going past in the street: they were all dolled-up and laughing raucously.
“Why don’t you get dressed up and go out too, love?” my Dad suggested kindly. He just wanted to see me happy again.
Fast-forward to my art college days, where I have memories of struggling to stay awake in strangely damp underground Bath nightclubs.
I wanted to socialise and make friends, so I bargained with myself:
“At 1am you get to go home: hang on in there… not long now.”
And zip on again to right now: joining in the fun at family gatherings, all the while certain that there must be some sort of warning light flashing on my forehead:
“If you don’t plug this device in soon, she will crash into power saving mode.”
I used to wonder why I wasn’t more like the other girls.
Why everything seemed to be too much for me, and so quickly.
Why a simple party would leave me reeling, exhausted but unable to sleep, due to my mind’s insistence on chewing over every. little. thing.
Of course, I get it now.
Heading towards fifty has never felt better, because I finally make sense to myself.
I don’t have some fatal flaw; I’m not missing the party gene. I’m just introverted.
I need my times alone scrapbooking, because they feed and restore me.
I need dates at coffee shops with paperbacks and quiet bus rides where all I do is gaze out of the window and daydream.
I need the daily walks on the beach that still my inner monologue, and from time to time, I need for all the online noise to stop, because – for me – it’s a draining place and not a restorative one.
Over the years, I’ve learnt a thing or two about being me and being me well.
I’ve learnt that I can do hard-for-me, sociable things, but I can only cope with one extrovert challenge a day – and once I’m done, I make sure I reward myself.
I’ve learnt that I don’t cope well with house guests.
I’ve learnt that I can visit others and have them visit us, but that there needs to be a clear ‘going home’ time.
I’ve learnt that exercising off a little nervous energy before socials helps me no end.
And I’ve learnt that I can’t say ‘yes’ to every event – however much I’d like to be that amenable person – because when I’m saying yes to too much activity, I’m saying no to my wellbeing.
But most of all, I’ve learnt that to be fully me, I need to embrace my introversion as the gift it is, and not waste any more years wishing I were one of the giggling party girls.
Because my perfect party? Well, it involves my softest flannel pyjamas, a mug of hot chocolate, the latest Sophie Kinsella and not a single damp-walled nightclub in sight.
I guess as the quote goes, I’ve learnt that, “I’m not anti-social: just pro-me.”