For as long as I can remember, I have felt most content when I am alone.
As a child, you would most commonly find me nestled in the corner with a book. Or perhaps taking a book outside, to find the perfect reading spot in nature, with an animal or two in tow.
I was lucky to have spent a childhood surrounded by a menagerie of animals. Some of these were planned, such as our cats and dogs, some less so, such as our chicken (Katy) who turned up at our door one day. One of my self-imposed jobs as a child was to 'walk' (without a lead!) the chicken. Although she has a spacious pen, I was keen to give her as much freedom as possible, so we would wander around the surrounding fields, having our own quiet adventures. These are some of my fondest memories.
I'm sure many would have described me as a shy child. And they may have been correct. I certainly did get a fluttery tummy in large social situations. My voice was never the loudest in the room. However, I never really thought of myself as shy. I nurtured a quiet confidence and, as I matured, these flutters diminished and I found that I did not mind larger crowds or being the centre of attention. In fact, in some cases, I rather liked it.
I could not do my job now if I wasn't a 'people person'. The effectiveness of my work as a wildlife conservationist relies on my ability to communicate with a wide range of humans, often to persuade them to change their behaviour for the benefit of nature. When I first started this role, back in 2018, I threw myself into this. My confidence grew with my experience and I would find that I was buzzing with energy after another successful meeting. At this point in my life, I would defiantly class myself as an extrovert.
Then lock down happened. Before I knew it, I was facing down weeks of solitude, with only my cat for company. Rather than fearing this, I noticed a quiet determination settle in. Even more surprising was the relief I felt. I had not realised how tired I really was.
As my world shrunk, my days shifted. Although I was still working full time (home-based), the pace of this was significantly slower. I was suddenly reminded of this other part of me. The introverted child that was never in a hurry. That would willingly lose hours in a good book and didn't need to travel far to feel like I was on an adventure. It was like greeting an old friend.
Now our world is opening up again, I've found that I do not want to let go of this part of me. As the social invitations increased, I felt myself resisting. Although I was thrilled to be spending time with my loved ones again, I could not return to my old pace of life. Something had shifted within me, so my world needed to change accordingly.
I've been dwelling on this a lot more, now that the festive season is upon us. There is a pressure to 'make the most' of it this year. I've found myself shrinking away from populated areas, with town's being too busy with frantic shoppers and blaring Christmas music. Perhaps you feel the same?
No matter if you consider yourself as an introvert or an extrovert, I urge you to be gentle on yourself this festive season. The pandemic has changed us all. We cannot expect our world to ever be quite the same. So whether you are jumping on every invitation that comes your way, or choosing to use this time to embrace some solitude, ensure that you are checking in with yourself, protecting your energy, to enjoy the festive season in a way that truly suits you.
When I think back to my childhood, it turns out, I was never alone at all. Although I was not surrounded by humans, I always had the company of my beloved animal companions and the rich life found in nature. It is this from which I draw my energy, and it is a comfort to know, that whatever challenges may come my way in life, I will never be alone.