Thursday, 24 November 2011

Solitary vs social

Today's prompt for NaBloPoMo is "Do you enjoy being alone? Would you rather be around other people?"

I feel the question is around the wrong way.  As it stands my answers are "yes" and "yes".  

Anyone meeting me would peg me as an extrovert.  I'm quite happy to walk up to people I've never met and strike up a conversation.  I seek people out and enjoy activities that require me to play with others.  I'll happily chat to the tram driver, the person behind the counter at the post office, the person who serves me my coffee.  I've also had my extroversion certified through the Myers-Briggs type indicator.  The first time I was profiled I was deemed ENTJ (the E stands for extroversion).  The second time I was revealed to be ENTP.  So that's that.

Once I was at an event and a friend rang me up to see if I could find a particular person who was attending the same event and deliver a message.  I had never met the person whom I was to find and there was a hint of hesitation in my friend's voice as the request was made.  Without hesitation I agreed.  My friend thought this was amazing and quickly gave me the information I needed to be able to find the recipient of the message.  Off I went.  I quickly zeroed in on the person I thought it was and walked straight up and asked whether they were such-and-such.  

Two women were sitting together and the woman sitting next to the woman whom I approached answered in the affirmative.  I told the story and delivered the message.  The women then wanted to know what information I had which allowed me to find them so quickly.  Now this was awkward as aspects of the description were unlikely to be considered flattering.  So I didn't reveal, pretending that I had special powers that enabled me to identify strangers in any setting.  They were charmed and satisfied.

From this highly extroverted situation, I can adapt to enjoy being alone.    There are many things I enjoy doing which are solitary activities, but I have managed to also extend them into social activities with other people.

Reading is part of my daily life.  I always have at least one book on the go and my e-reader makes packing to go on holidays much easier as I have room for things other than books in my luggage! Spending time reading is a great pleasure, but I'm not really on my own.  There are many characters whom I have encountered in the pages of a book who feel like they are part of my life.  Holidays from boarding school meant going home to western Queensland where there was only one television channel.  I would spend hours lying around, finishing huge novels with astonishing speed.  I read Peter Carey's "Oscar and Lucinda" over the course of a day, followed closely by "Illywhacker".

When I first moved to Melbourne over eleven years ago, one of the first things I did was establish a book group.  I wanted to expand my network in my new home town and thought that doing it through my passion for reading was a good way to go.  We've been meeting about once every six weeks ever since.  People have come and gone from the group but there are still two members from the early days in the group.  It's a lovely way to combine the solitary pursuit of reading with a social gathering in a cafe or bar to share ideas and food.

Knitting is the other thing I love to do.  My Grandmother taught me and I spent many happy hours knitting side by side with her.  I find it hard to just sit and watch television; instead I knit while I'm watching.  It makes the time feel more productive.  I occasionally attend a stitch and bitch group - again making the solitary activity a social one.  A group of women from various backgrounds meet once a week in a Richmond cafe for dinner, chat and knitting.  It's a great way to get help and share the satisfaction of completing a piece of work.  

I have learnt to happily spend time with myself.  I also know that there's a limit and I'll start to crave the company of other people.  That's when I head out into the world to see who's available to make friends.  But if I had to choose one or the other for the rest of my life, I would choose to have people around me.

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