An Ambivert Speaks Out
The first time I took the Myers-Briggs personality-type test about 30 years ago, I landed on the midpoint between “I” (Introvert) and “E” (Extrovert), with just a point or two weighing more heavily into introvert territory. I’ve since learned that there is a third classification, called an ambivert, which is probably my correct diagnosis, but my official Myers-Briggs type was INTJ (the Architect: Introverted, Intuitive, Thinking, Judging). I took the test two more times over the decades and have scored exactly the same every time, which makes me think there’s something to it. Recommended career choices for my type include aerospace engineer, lawyer and—no surprise—writer.
Over the past year of COVID sheltering-in-place, I’ve noticed that some of my friends and relations have fared better than others. The ones who’ve fared better, of course, are the introverts who live alone. And the writers, most of whom are also the introverts (INTJs forever!). If anything, the forced isolation has made us withdraw even further into our introversion, happily looking forward to an evening of Netflix or HBO in lieu of actual social interaction. For me, a big day of human engagement has been one in which I made small talk with the cashier at Trader Joe’s.
During that year, in addition to my nearly fulltime job as an in-house marketing writer, I’ve served a handful of freelance clients and worked on the editing and promotion of my new memoir, The Ghost Marriage. I was also invited to join a new writers’ group, which prompted me to start on a long-postponed new novel and produce two new chapters every few months. I never before thought there could be a thing as too much writing, but trust me, there is. My humorless introvert side has become a ruthless task-master, using the pandemic as an excuse to work harder and toil longer. Kind of like the mom who says, “Well, since it’s raining outside, let’s clean your room.”
Now that the shelter-in-place order is gradually being lifted and people are brazenly venturing outdoors with the lower halves of their faces exposed, I’m finding that my “I” and “E” sides are starting to bicker, like bad roommates. The introvert side of me is akin to the family dog, who couldn’t believe his good fortune when everyone was suddenly home all the time. The extrovert can’t wait to bust outta Dodge. Here’s a typical conversation between them:
E: The sun is shining! Look at those puffy clouds! Let’s go on a hike!
I: We can’t. This blog post isn’t going to write itself.
E: I’ve been writing for five days straight. I miss my friends!
I: And when’s the last time you did a word count on the new novel, young lady?
E: Get off my back. You’re not the boss of me.
I: We’ve made such great progress over the past year, working almost every day of the week. Look at all the words we’ve written! Let’s never go back to relaxing weekends.
E: (Says nothing as she sneaks out the door…)
Now all the extroverts I know are gleefully putting on lipstick and trying on “hard” pants and shoes (like jeans and any footwear that’s not flip-flops). The introverts are wringing their hands and asking, “How do I ‘people’ again?” and “I don’t even know where my hairbrush is.”
It’s all a lesson, I guess, in how we’ve adapted to an incredibly challenging year, and how our inner selves constantly adapt, even in normal times. COVID has been like a massive sociology lab experiment, controlling our circumstances to see how we’ll react. The good news for many writers is that it’s been a year of great productivity. But without real life to inform our stories—messy relationships and human quirkiness and unexpected turns of events—at some point the ink well will run dry. It’s time to let the extroverts out to dance a little, maybe sing some karaoke.