I needed to cross an ocean to find myself.
Already before my trip to Vienna with another Academy administrator and two students, I’d been thinking a lot about being an introvert-as which I’ve long identified and tested as Myers-Briggs-and wondering how true that is, or if I’m to the degree I’ve thought and most think of and for me.
Before I left, we had friends over for dinner. Talking about personalities, it was something of a surprise to find that one of them is an extrovert-a surprise to me, but not to them-just one who doesn’t feel the need to say much until he has something to say. So I thought about our friend-whom everyone would identify as an introvert but who needs people and recharges by them.
I thought about those dynamics a lot on the trip. It’s probably the distance and separation, the different environment, but I didn’t feel the same sort of weariness. I felt different. I was more spontaneous and funny (I think), more willing to put myself out there (in admittedly the limited situations).
I found that I thought little of myself; I walked with my eyes up, watching the world around me, rather than perpetually downward to avoid eyes and even to hide myself from a world I believed would find me wanting; I stopped needing medicine for headaches because they mostly disappeared.
And I thought about stories my mom sometimes tells, one in particular about a school performance (or maybe Sunday school-it was before school) where during a performance, I grabbed the boy’s hand next to mine, and we swung our hands so wildly that we fell off the stage, then climbed back up nonplussed. Apparently other folks had to convince my parents not to discipline me. She tells that story not as a one-off but somehow as something typical of me at that young age; she tells other stories of when I was very young and didn’t know a stranger. I thought of that boy…and how he went to hide. It wasn’t safe to be him, so I turned all inward.
My exhaustion with being with people, I think, has rarely been from introversion, but from shame, from the need to constantly feel that I had to be good enough or somehow maintain an illusion. When I can rest, truly rest, I enjoy people and can find being around them energizing. Perhaps I’m not who I’ve thought.
Back now, and even as we finished out the trip and I began thinking of all that awaited here, I’m not sure what to think coming back. I don’t know how to bring this new me back. This more at rest, happier, more at peace, me. I don’t know how to let that little boy come out and play, or rather, to let the man I am have him live inside me.
Yet I’m learning. I’m learning that I can’t go back; I can’t undo the years of turning inward; I can’t ask whom I might have been-whether that boy would have grown into a different man than I am now had he-had not I-lived differently.
I’m learning that I can’t tell my story. Or rather, that I can’t dictate my story or make it make sense as I would like. I can’t make my story make me other than I am.
I’m learning that there is One who tells my story. Had He wished me different, He would have told the story other than He did.
I’m learning to rest that I am, perhaps, not as I would have been nor as I perhaps wish to be. I am who I am because I belong to I Am Who I Am, because I have died and my life is hidden in God.
I’m learning to live in rested assurance.
It is not that I had to cross an ocean to find myself; I had to cross an ocean to lose myself and be found as I’ve always been-enwrapped in the embrace of a loving Father who calls me His own.