“It’s interesting to meet the new language assistants every year, because you all are so different,” my coworker commented as we cruised through the Sierra Alhamilla mountains en route to Almería on a Friday afternoon. “You, for example, are much more extroverted than the girl we had at the school last year.”
I couldn’t help it – I started to laugh. Me, an extrovert? Anyone who knows me probably would have laughed as well. I’ve been the “shy, quiet” girl my whole life, especially around people I don’t know very well. I thought of all the people who have joked that they could count on their thumbs the number of times they’ve heard me talk, and of everyone who expressed disbelief that I was a cheerleader for most of my pre-college life because I was “soooo quiet.” If I was extroverted, the previous girl must have been a hermit.
Once I collected myself a few seconds later, I apologized and explained that it was the first time anyone had used the word “extrovert” in reference to me.
She shook her head. “No, it’s true. The other girl, she would just sit in the teachers’ room during her free hours and play on her phone. You usually come to the café with us to have a coffee and be part of the conversation. You enjoy being around people, even if you’re not constantly chatting away.”
Shortly after, she dropped me off at the bus station in Almería, where she shook her head and refused the €20 bill I offered to help pay for gas. I found my bus to Córdoba, settled into my seat, and thought about what she’d said. It’s true that I probably listen more than I talk, but I do enjoy being part of a group. I feel much more relaxed when I’m sipping my café solo among friends – like my coworkers during the daily 11-11:30 a.m. break at work – than when I’m sitting in a coffee shop by myself. I’d much rather go to a group fitness class like Zumba or spinning than do my own solo workout at the gym. Something about being in a group gives me an extra burst of energy that going it alone just can’t do.
I thought about that conversation again the following weekend, when I decided to stay in the small town where I live and save some money rather than heading off to another grand and glorious Andalusian city. I’d originally planned to spend the day deep-cleaning my apartment, but after about two hours I started feeling stir crazy. I went outside to take a long walk, and it wasn’t until I reached the relatively busy main square that I finally started feeling calm.
Still, I wasn’t as relaxed as I might have felt in Córdoba or Chicago or Cleveland or any of the other larger cities I’ve become familiar with over the years, and that was something I’d been feeling ever since I got here in September. This time, though, I was finally able to put a name to the sensation: I’m too extroverted to be living in a small town.
The Myers & Briggs Foundation offers a description of an extrovert:
I like getting my energy from active involvement in events and having a lot of different activities. I’m excited when I’m around people and I like to energize other people. I like moving into action and making things happen. I generally feel at home in the world. I often understand a problem better when I can talk out loud about it and hear what others have to say.
I feel comfortable saying that most of the above applies to me. Way too many bloggers and Pinteresters and lo que sea before me have said that “travel helps you to find yourself,” and at the risk of making every single person reading this roll their eyes, I can’t help but agree in this sense. Moving halfway across the world has made me realize that I’m more extroverted than I ever would have admitted before.
I’m not sure what else my adventure in Spain has to teach me about myself, but I guess it’s just a matter of time before I find out.