Swirls & Snowflakes

So, old news. I’m a social introvert, one that loves people and is fascinated by their stories and perspectives and nuances, but one that needs to take a nap directly after speaking with said people. It takes ALL of my energy to widen my eyes in the right moments and to figure out how to hold onto that thought I had – the one that won’t be relevant in three seconds because the conversation has turned a corner into, like, Connecticut and my thought was basically somewhere in the vicinity of a Boise backyard. I live in my head, where my thoughts churn like slow ice cream, folding over and over into one another until something deliciously insightful forms, a tasty dessert for my soul to dine on.

Semi-sad tangent: I’m generally the only one who benefits from these insights, because I’m terribly inept at actually communicating them. Yesterday, these exact, precise words came out of my mouth, no joke: “It’s like that song, “Go your own way.” Isn’t that beautiful? Like, really. Just go your own way. Just do that. Go. Your. Own. Way.” Terrible.

So, last weekend, social director Ken was renovating the basement so Bee and I needed to find something to do solo, and because I need a daily dose of people-watching (social introvert, remember?), I couldn’t handle the thought of a sunny afternoon wasted with Daniel Tiger. Plus, I’m working on seizing the diem and such. It’s going well.

So I took a deep breath and we packed ourselves into the van (have I told you I love vans? I love vans!) to head to a summer festival as I tried not to negatively charge the afternoon ahead. Sometimes (kind of all of the time) I add pepper to events that haven’t even happened yet so I can brace myself, like when you were a kid and you’d tell your aunt it’s Sprite – not water – so she doesn’t spit from the surprise carbonation when she takes a drink.

And I remind myself that this is an adventure, and it’ll be great and traffic will be easy and it won’t be crowded at all, which are all lies, but it helps.

That’s when the magic starts. When we find the greatest parking spot around and Bee grabs her snacks and water and I unfold the stroller and Bee straps herself in and we lock the door behind us and start walking into the snowglobe of people swirling about. There are faces everywhere, but I can breathe because there is plenty of space between the snowstorm of hair and shoes and denim. Not space, really, it’s crowded. But space – the kind of wormhole that’s created when nothing is required of you. No interactions except for friendly hellos and casual eye contacts and sure, a few “I’m so sorry’s” when I’d run over a toe or two with the stroller. (I really am sorry, downtown. Ken’s the stroller driver for a reason – mega apologies for the distracted frogger moves).

And for a few moments, Bee falls silent. She takes it in and I take it in and we walk alongside the white tents filled with wood sculptures and acrylic paintings and handmade soaps. And it is perfection – flakes of people passing slowly around us as we weave through to nowhere at all.

I’d always associated large crowds with large amounts of interaction (which inevitably equated to large amounts of stress): college parties, rehearsal dinners, office holidays, grand openings, conference events. But I’m realizing that those large amounts of interaction existed because I had a role in those events. I had a stake in it, as an organizer or a speaker or a hostess or a sister of the bride or something. But here – at this summer festival that’s ours for the enjoying – it’s just us. No expectations, no performances. We get to float. We get to be. Our roles are toddler and mother, just two flakes chasing each other around a Midwestern downtown.

Like all snowglobes, a giant hand shakes the glass ball and everything is chaos again. The sun sets and the snacks are gone and the eyelids are droopy and the Merry-Go-Round shuts down, but all is well. Because things will be quiet again, very soon, and the flakes will settle around the introverts as we drift into tomorrow – a quiet blanket for our tired souls.

  • I’m a social introvert too and you described what it’s like perfectly. I’m going to read the first paragraph to my highly extrovert husband who understandably has a hard time getting the fascinated-in-people-but-can’t-be-around-them-lots thing and my own ice cream churning mind. Thank you! Glad you were able to enjoy the festival!

    • Ha, we’re cut from the same cloth, dear. :) And my husband’s an extrovert, too! It’s quite confusing to explain!!!

  • Oh Erin, you GET me.

    Beautiful post. Your ice cream analogy in the fist paragraph is perfection.

    I think people like us need delightfully extroverted husbands to balance us out. I’ve got one too. :)

  • Hi, my name is Jamie, and I’m a social introvert. I used to love to go to the airport to pick up or drop off just about anyone – the people watching is the BEST! But it’s not the same when you can’t hang out at the gates. I’ve also been knows to go to the mall for alone time. Here’s to more fabulous crowded places to enjoy!

  • Loved this post as well, I’ve never seen my social life described so well as in that first paragraph. When we are done hanging out with all the people (which I truly do love to do) all I want to do is sit on my laptop and NOT TALK TO ANYONE for about an hour. Then I look up at my husband and say, do you want to watch something? :) He’s not an extrovert by any means, but he doesn’t need to shut himself off for awhile like I do. Beautifully put.

  • Ah I’m similar! I love being around people, but I so need the nap afterwards and if not I feel socially and emotionally exhausted. In writing I’m communicative but in real life my spoken words are so simple. I’m the slow churning icecream too:)

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