She bounced into The Alabama Baptist student intern role with no hesitation, blending right in with the staff in such a way that we felt as if we had always known her.
We’ve been blessed with a great number of high quality interns passing through our ministry and she was certainly among the group.
It has been several years now since she served in that role but the positive contributions she made to the team and the work being done can still be seen.
Along with assisting us at the office, this particular student intern also taught me some helpful lessons about life and interacting with people.
Time to revive
While her personality was extremely outgoing and she was involved in just about everything she could be at school, she would periodically crash and end up hiding away from the world for a few days. She would call in sick and skip her classes but then in a day or two be back attacking everything at full throttle. And then a few weeks later, she was out again.
Once I noticed a pattern, I became concerned and talked to her about it. Surprisingly, she seemed to have more self-awareness than I expected from a 20 year old.
She shared with me how she enjoyed being active and participating in everything she could possibly squeeze into her schedule. She also loved being with and around people but somewhere along the way she always hit a wall, she said.
Overwhelming level of activity
The pressure, the demands, the deadlines would finally overwhelm her and her escape was sleep. She could sleep for days when she got overwhelmed, she said.
As she talked I recalled my own insane level of activity in college and how Saturday mornings (except during football season of course) were spent sleeping in and catching my breath to gear up for the next week. I’m sure I would have found myself collapsing periodically like she did if I had not scheduled that weekly downtime.
While I imagine all would agree I’m an extrovert, I’m not sure about her. Maybe she is and truly just pushes herself too hard all the time. But I also think she might be an introvert who figured out how to live and succeed in an extroverted world. Still she couldn’t ignore her innate need for periodic isolation even though she tried.
Navigating through a world of extroverts
I have several introverted friends who have maneuvered a similar path and are now careful to guard their much-needed alone time. It isn’t something to hide or be embarrassed about. It is a real part of their world but we extroverts may not understand and end up stomping all over their sacred ground.
The time alone, processing, regrouping and gaining the energy to re-enter the sea of people and embrace them with the often-required extroverted style is vital.
‘Staring at the wall’
One friend likes to call it “staring at the wall.” She will avoid any human interaction for a day or so after an intense few days with people and then be ready to go again.
Another friend strategically isolates herself at the end of each workday, only interacting with her husband after that time so she can reset for the next day.
Both of these friends are successful at what they do and I believe they will be able to maintain that success because they know themselves well and what is needed for proper care. They have friends and family who support those needs as well.
How often do we try to force ourselves or someone else into a mold that isn’t made for us or them? And how often do we refuse to even try to understand a different approach and different needs merely because we’ve convinced ourselves that the world inside our head is the only logical option?