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  • Writer's pictureJeremiah Ritchie

500 Words - Day 6: Do you like to be alone or with company?

This is one of those questions that has to be answered with a qualifier. I don't dislike company, depending on the company. It reminds me of Bilbo's words and how I find them both humorous and comforting - "I don't know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve." And that little nerd-out moment may shine some light on my preference between being alone or with company. I enjoy the company of a few close friends with whom I can reminisce, laugh with, craft a Negroni or Old Fashioned for, or talk about all the joy and grief of life together. Whether it's the golf course in high summer, around the campfire on a cool autumn night, or shoulder-to-shoulder at the dinner table during Christmas vacation, I enjoy being with company. Until I don't.

This is no fault of the company. It's simply the way I'm wired as an introvert. Introversion and extroversion is about energy on a spectrum. Introverts gain energy from from being alone and expend energy through social interactions. Extroverts are the opposite, gaining energy from social interactions and expending energy when in solitude. An introvert, like myself, doesn't mind going to parties, but will often find a quiet spot to observe the party or spend time in good conversation with a few people. Within a relative short time the introvert will feel tired, ready for a quiet car ride home to take a shower in the dark and read a book before falling to sleep. An extrovert is more likely to mingle, to seek out meeting new people (I don't understand this), and when the party is near the end invite whoever is willing to head to the bar or their own home to continue the festivities. Extroverts love afterparties. Introverts love Bose QuietComfort noise cancelling headphones and This American Life. Again, it's a spectrum, but my fellow introverts know what I mean.

This is why I come home from working in a busy office/retail environment and am exhausted. It's why my wife and children understand, respect, and claim their own need for time to be alone. It's why I have no problem being that guy that goes to the movies by himself or eats alone in a restaurant. Solitude gives me energy, brings me life, and helps me enter a state of flow in my creativity. In fact, I'm writing this now, alone in my basement office, after a long day at work, and I feel more rested and alive than I did when I got home a half hour ago.

Introversion is my superpower (one of them). It allows me to see and experience the world in a way that is different from the extroversion superpower. The key is understanding how to leverage our superpower to make an impact in the world. I work best with individuals and small groups where I'm able to create more intimate connections. I'm able to accomplish huge tasks or think through difficult problems on my own. And solitude allows me to access my creativity in ways I never could when I'm around others.

We need each other's super powers. I need the extroverts to lead me to experiences I would otherwise avoid, and the extrovert needs me to help them know when it's time to wind down and reset. I need people who have the patience to wander and explore options or possibilities, and they need me to help them make a decision and close the loop. Regardless of my preference to be alone, I recognize and cherish that we need each other.

Just maybe not all the time.

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