Camp was weather-beat buildings clustered across scrubby grass. It looked like Texas with trees -- dry, gravely and barefoot-lovin'. There were cars and no people when the Explorer rolled to a stop. I saw a volleyball net, sand, a plywood pyramid. I had no idea what I was getting myself into.
There's an easy way to tell if a trek to a new place is going to be normal or nerve-wracking: if you pay anything. You pay to get into concerts and basketball games, and everybody knows that concerts happen in auditoriums (find the ushers) and basketball games in gyms (follow the squeaky shoe sound). Those sorts of events are simple: nobody's looking for you; you pay, come, enjoy, go and don't have to expect or be expected by anyone. You don't pay to participate in piano recitals or recite speeches, and MCs and program coordinators aren't as obvious as popcorn stands and ticket booths. You don't know where to go, since you're no longer in the audience; you don't know who to find; and you don't know what to do. That's why it pays to pay.
The same with counseling at a brand-new camp. All the buildings are separate and none say, "New counselors -- this way!" There are no ticket booths and certainly no popcorn. I wondered how many buildings I'd have to peep into before I ran into another human being.
She ran into me first -- actually, she didn't run at all; she walked off the gravel path as I unloaded my pillow and duffle bag with the casino logo. Her name was Chloe. She wore a tank top, flip flops and a normal smile. Her hair was pulled straight back. She was short. I liked her. I didn't know who she was, besides Chloe, or how old, but she knew what I was and where I supposed to go. She tried her best to small talk with me, hater of small talk, failure of small talk, but she gave up when I defaulted to nervous laughter. I watched other people be social in the air conditioned cafeteria. It was cold.
I possess the skill of standing by stupidly. I'm also fond of sitting by stupidly. I did that when the tall, cool counselors sat around my table and talked and laughed and gave up trying to include me. People have the absurd notion that I want to talk and laugh with them when really I am quite entertained watching them do it for me. To be civil, I offered a few words sprinkled liberally with awkward silences. Only appropriate.
You get the gist of me in new situations. I like my own company in a circle of strangers. I get along just fine undisturbed. I'd rather not tell you what sort of doughnut I'd be if I were a doughnut, which I'm not. Really.
So I don't know where this other me hails from, the one who hugs and squeals and small talks about Sun Drop and dark chocolate. She jumps around from one friend to the other, checks up on the shy girl, shoos people to the front of lines, teases the quiet, guilts the reluctant, asks stupid questions about what sort of doughnut they'd be if they were doughnuts. Life's one big party, and she's very close to the center of it.
Does that make me an introextrovert?
On the one hand, I like people, I like talking, I like fun and games. On the other, I like solitude, I like listening, I like slow and boring things. I get along well with the outgoing (in fact, I shock people with how loud and obnoxious I am), but I don't like parties and I don't like big groups and I don't like long strings of sort-of-funny stories. I prefer one-on-one encounters, transparency and deep things -- none of this babble about favorite colors and what major I am and what my hair was like when I was two. Frivolity is meant only for close friends.
Most of all, I need space. I'm introverted like that. I need to recharge -- in my room, door shut, people gone. Ironically, I'm normally IMing or emailing or talking on the phone while me and my sanity are squirreled away. So perhaps I cannot escape my extroversion after all.
Introextrovert it is.
Your turn -- introvert, extrovert or somewhere between?