Real Talk: The Upside of Being Alone

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Hello everyone,

Today I want to talk about something different – something that is deeply personal to me. Maybe it relates to you as well.

I used to hate being alone. I used to spread my introverted self thin, and fill my evenings and weekends with activities, because I thought I needed to be with people. It seriously drained me.

Now, my fiancé is on the other side of the country (and when we are talking about Canada, this is a long distance.) And I am living in a smaller city called London, away from my family and 71.4% of my closest friends. Being an introvert, who is now happy about being an introvert, I spend a lot of time alone.

There is a stigma to being alone. On social media, we see pictures of people having fun with friends, and we feel that there is something wrong with being alone, that it’s not fun, that you can’t possibly be happy. When we see a group of people chatting and laughing on the street, we assume that they are having fun and that they are happy. When we see someone eating alone at a restaurant, we wonder if they are bored or lonely.

I want to challenge that. I want to challenge the idea that being with people makes us happy, and that being alone is lonely. I want to sell you the idea that being alone is absolutely fine.

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Better alone than with bad company. You know those friends who you love to bits and pieces, who make you laugh and inspire you, who leave you feeling happy and fulfilled? These are the people who are worth our time. And then you know those other people, maybe even people we call “friends”, who we don’t connect with or relate to, who leave us feeling drained, who, even worse, hurts us? These people we are better without.

Coming out of college and moving to London to start a new job, I feared living on my own. At the same time, I didn’t have any close friends in London. So, I moved in with a girl who I thought was my “friend”, who I knew from the outset that we had little in common with. We did not get along, our personalities clashed, and, needless to say, the year was disastrous.

Now, I am living on my own for the first time, and I love every, single, minute of it.

Being alone is not the same as being lonely. We can be alone and happy. We can be surrounded by people while feeling desperately alone.

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Being alone inspires creativity. Are you a creative person? Creativity doesn’t have to relate to art. Maybe you like writing, or dance, or music, or drama. Maybe you like to brainstorm solutions for real-world problems. Maybe you just like to imagine how the world can be a better place.

I think that being alone gives us the headspace to think of new ideas, without the influence of other people and the outside world. As a blogger and writer, I find that my best ideas pop out when I’m least expecting it, usually when I am walking, or driving, or just on the verge of sleep.

Or maybe you are different from me. Do your best ideas come when you are alone? Or when you are with people?

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Being alone gives you the freedom to try something new. One thing I’ve learned in my twenty-six years of living is that we don’t have to ask permission. Sure, there are consequences to our actions. If we break a law, likely we will end up behind bars. If we jump from a cliff without a harness, likely we will end up on the operating table. And we will likely hear from our friends and families about it. But, my point is, if it is safe and legal and something that we are interested in, why not? We don’t need permission from anybody.

I had a lot of fun spending time with my friends. At the same time, I missed opportunities to do things I wanted to do, because I always ended up doing what my friends wanted to do. Now, I still ask my friends to join me in my adventures, because it’s nice to have company. But whether or not people come with me, I am going to do it anyway.

And the cool thing is: We meet a lot of cool people along the way. There is something about being alone which opens us up to meeting new people. Maybe, when we are outside of our social bubble, we are more willing to start a conversation with a stranger. Or strangers are more willing to start a conversation with someone who is not already preoccupied.

I went to my pole dancing class terribly shy and nervous, and now I met a bunch of cool gals who inspire me to try my best everyday. I also started blogging with one sad follower (myself), and now I have lots more (you guys are truly amazing).

If I had spent all that time with friends, maybe it would be fun. But would I have learned to pole dance, met awesome blogging pals, read books that speak to my heart, traveled around the world, and have so many interesting stories to tell? I don’t think so.

How do you feel about being alone? Have you tried something new on your own? Have you traveled alone? Do you have favourite “alone” activities?

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100 Followers and The Versatile Blogger Award!

Happy Friday!

Do I REALLY have 100 followers? Like, really? (rubs eyes and refreshes page again, because part of me still thinks that I dreamed it all)

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I am honestly SO happy and SO grateful to all of you who read my posts! I remember when I first started this blog with one sad, lonely follower (myself). And in the beginning, I honestly couldn’t believe that anyone would want to read what I have to write. I was ecstatic when I got my first like and my first comment and my first handful of followers.

And you know what? My heart still leaps when I get a new WP notification. I love each and every comment I get from you guys! And each new follower makes me smile! Really! From the bottom of my heart!

I am so grateful for all you wonderful peeps and fellow bloggers. It’s amazing to talk to people from all over the world who like the same stuff as I do. And I love discovering new books and new ideas through you guys. I find myself learning new things and pushing the boundaries of my imagination every day.

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I also want to announce that I was nominated for The Versatile Blogger Award! Big thanks to cseveneaj (@Pen and Paper) and Rejoice A (@The Southern Girl) for nominating me 🙂 Please check out their blogs! Cseveneaj writes lovely poetry, and Rejoice A’s posts will make you smile.

Rules for The Versatile Blogger Award:

  1. Thank the person who nominated you.
  2. Share 7 facts about yourself.
  3. Nominate 10 other bloggers of your choice.
  4. Link your nominees and let them know of you nomination.

Seven facts about me:

I have a greyhound (the dog, not the bus company) named Charles, like the Prince.

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I am one of those people who have to check the stove and my alarm a gazillion times before I go to bed, because I am terrified that my apartment will burn down overnight and I won’t wake up in the morning.

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I am a pharmacist and I work with children who have cancer. Chemo and radiation are tough. But kids are so strong and resilient and brave, because they roll along with whatever life throws at them. They are amazing little humans.

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My fiancé finished medical school this year and is starting his residency in pathology. It’s perfect for him, because he doesn’t like talking to people. He’d rather do autopsies.

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My pole dancing friends call me fearless, because they see me trying things that could get myself seriously hurt. The truth is that I’m terrified each time, but I don’t let it stop me :’)

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I secretly love spending time alone.

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I was born in China and moved to Canada when I was 8 years old. On my passport, I am Canadian. But I am fiercely proud of being both. I love the stereotype that Canadians are nice, because it is so true. And did you know that the Chinese invented paper and printing? And gunpowder? Without China, we might not have books (or gun violence, for that matter.)

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I nominate the following peeps:

(Please check these blogs out, because they are so much more awesome than mine!)

Marie @ Drizzle & Hurricane Books

Sophie @ Blame Chocolate

Breezy @ Breeny’s Books

Annie Earnshaw @ Annie Likes Words

Stella @ Stella’s Journey

Melanie @ MN Bernard Books

The Book-Loving Pharmacist

Inge @ The Belgian Reviewer

Jeanne G’Fellers

Rachel @ Rachel Also Writes

I totally wouldn’t be surprised if you are on this list and you have already been nominated for this award before 🙂

Do any of you share the same quirks as I do? What are some interesting facts about yourself?

 

Beautiful People: Author Writing Process

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Hello everyone!

For those who don’t know, Beautiful People is a character interview meme hosted by Sky @ Further Up and Further In and Cait from @ Paper Fury, which begins on the 5th of every month. Each month, a list of questions is posted for the characters in your story to answer. Feel free to check this out and join in on the fun! Don’t worry about being late to the game – you can join in at any time during the month!

This month is an author interview! Author, as in, me. (Gulp.) For those who don’t know me well, I don’t like writing too much about myself. I would rather hide in a bush until it is all over. But I will give this a try 🙂

How do you decide which project to work on?

Whatever my mind is preoccupied with at the moment!

These days, I’ve been revising an old project, Together We Will Live Forever (tentative title), written during Nanowrimo 2016. Currently on draft 4 (which is hopefully going to be THE draft.)

How long does it usually take you to finish a project?

Usually 3-4 weeks per novella-length draft. I’m a big fan of “write now, edit later”, and I live by the Nanowrimo philosophy even much, much beyond the first draft.

Do you have any routines to put you in the writing mood?

  1. Get EVERYTHING done beforehand, like chores, dog walking, paying bills, etc. I need to have NOTHING on my mind, except my story.
  2. Put on some soft piano music. I have a Spotify playlist that I ONLY play while I write the story. The rationale is that I will create a psychological association between the music and my story, and that when my brain hears the music, it knows that it’s time to kick into writing gear! (I am still a science nerd from the bottom of my heart 🙂 )
  3. Get comfortable and write. This means lying back on the couch with my laptop on my lap. I’m not sure if I can write sitting up…

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What time of day do you write best?

Because I write best after finishing everything else in my day, it just so happens that I do a lot of writing right before bedtime. The science nerd in me wants to say that there is research showing that creative juices flow best early in the morning and at bedtime anyway 🙂

Are there any authors you think you have a similar style to?

I… can’t really tell. Though as I write, I often hear these words from Stephen King in my head:

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Why did you start writing, and why do you keep writing?

I started writing because I’ve always loved stories. My earliest memory of hearing a story is when my grandpa would read me stories that he wrote. When I discovered that I could create my own stories in grade 3 ESL class, I was beside myself!

I keep writing because there are so many stories inside my head. If I don’t write, where will they all go?

What’s the hardest thing you’ve written?

For me, writing quirky, humorous and awkward scenes is second-nature. It may be because I am quirky and awkward and (I’d like to think) humorous. Serious scenes are hard for me to write, and I always feel like I am dragging my feet through them.

Is there a project you want to tackle someday but don’t feel ready to yet?

I’ve always wanted to write about characters who have HIV. This is because there is a lot of stigma surrounding these people, and that I feel that books can inspire understanding and dispel judgment, and that if everyone were more understanding in the world, it will be a better world. This was initially a theme in my first real novel (TWWLF), but I removed the subplot and shelved it, thinking that it deserves a book of its own, and that any less would not do it any justice. Now I am intimidated by the topic, because it is not anything I have personal experience with, and that I don’t want to get it all wrong and to do any disservice to the people out there who do have HIV.

Have you ever written or wanted to write about a topic that you haven’t personally experienced? And if so, do you feel as intimidated as I do?

What writing goals did you make for 2017 and how are they going?

I want to finish the fourth draft of TWWLF and send it out to beta-readers.

I also want to do Nanowrimo again this year with a new novel idea. I am thinking about writing a fantasy/romance with a character who is transgendered. However, I am as intimidated about this as I am about HIV (see above), so I am not sure if this will happen.

Describe your writing process in 3 words or a gif.

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What are some of your writing habits? What are your writing goals for 2017? Do you feel as intimidated as I do about writing something that you haven’t personally experienced?

Let me know if you are doing Beautiful People this month! I would love to read your post as well 🙂

 

The Get to Know Me Tag!

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Hello everyone!

I was tagged by Vrinda over at A Bookish Human. In real life, I am a quiet person and not good at talking about myself, so let’s see how this goes! I am excited but at the same time nervous (runs off and hides in a corner.)

Vital Stats

Name: Sophia

Nickname: Lots! Most common: Sophie. Most creative: Soapy. (Yup, Soapy.) Others: Sophs, Soso, Sopho.

Birthday: January 7th

Star Sign: Capricorn

Occupation: I am a pharmacist (although sometimes I introduce myself as a “drug dealer” for fun and people take me seriously).

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Appearance

Hair Colour: Black

Hair Length: Varies. Now it is shoulder-length

Eye Colour: Brown

Best Feature: My smile, if that is a “feature”

Braces: No, my teeth are mostly in line, except four of my teeth jut out slightly like fangs! (I’m not a vampire! I swear!)

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Piercings: Ears

Tattoos: At one point I was thiiiiiis close to getting a tattoo but chickened out at last minute! If I were to get a tattoo, I would go for a small and simple one (like a tiny heart on my back). One day, one day 🙂

Right Handed or Left Handed: Right handed

Firsts

Real Holiday: What makes a holiday “real”? Back when I was 3 or 4 or 5 in China, I went to a beach with my mom. It was called “Bei Dai He”. Although I don’t remember much about it, I’d like to think it was an amazing vacation and that I was being a real darling 🙂

Best Friend: That would be Rebecca and Vera, who I met after I came to Canada. Rebecca and I went on to go to the same junior high and the same university program, and we still keep in touch today :’)

Award: Student of the Month back in grade 4. I was super proud of it!

Sport: Triple long jump. (I am terrible at team sports, but I loved track and field.)

Concert: Do junior high band concerts count?

Favourites

TV Shows: Big Bang Theory, How I Met Your Mother, Modern Family, House MD, Lost

Colour: Red

Songs: I love songs by Hedley, Sia, and Chopin. My current ear worm is Despacito by Justin Bieber. Did I mention that I met Justin Bieber before he got famous? My high school class went to see a play at Stratford (Bieb’s home town) and we saw a kid playing guitar and singing in front of the theatre, surrounded by a small group of people. He was pretty good. My friend took a video, and we watched it again several times later, “wait, isn’t that Justin Bieber?”

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Restaurant: Pretty much anything 🙂

Shop: Value Village. I love thrift shopping, the perfect combination of cheap and unique.

Books: I can’t name them all off the top of my head! The list would go on and on and on! Let’s start with My Heart and Other Black Holes, Everything Everything, and the Name of the Wind.

Shoes: I LOVE bright-coloured heels.

Currently

Feeling: Happy.

Single or Taken: As of a week ago… ENGAGED!!!!!! *Shouts from atop a mountain*

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Eating: Just finished dinner (spicy grilled chicken thighs, peppers, and spinach on a whole-grain bagel with baby tomatoes on the side) and a glass of homemade iced tea.

Thinking about: Writing this post!

Watching: Myself type 🙂

Wearing: DIY sleeveless top (DIY in the sense that it was once a T-shirt before I cut off the sleeves and collar), gym shorts, and slippers.

Future

Want Children: I love children. They are super cute and I’m sure they will bring fulfillment to my life. However, they seem to cost a lost of time, energy and money! How am I supposed to be a published writer and pole champion, while working full-time, if I have a kid (or two) on my plate? That being said, I do want children one day, just not today.

Want to be Married: Yup 🙂

Careers in Mind: Pharmacist (which I am now). I also want to be a published writer part time.

Where You Want to Live: West coast, with the mountains and the ocean.

Do you believe in

God: Depends on the day.

Miracles: Yes.

Love at First Sight: I believe that we can “click” with someone at first sight. There are people that we naturally get along with better than others. But love develops after years of commitment and mutual understanding.

Ghosts: No, but I am still terrified of them.

Aliens: Yes. There must be a planet out there with living creatures. But I am skeptical that they are anything like the aliens we imagine.

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Soul Mates: Yes.

Heaven and Hell: No. The world is not black and white and it doesn’t make sense to divide people into good or bad.

Kissing on a First Date: Hasn’t happened to me.

Yourself: I believe that I can do anything that I set my mind to 🙂

Tag

I want to tag these wonderful peeps:

Jackie @ Too Much of a Book Nerd

Shanah @ Bionic Book Worm

Lashaan @ Bookidote

Stella @ Stella’s Journey

Carl @ Scene from Afar

And YOU! Yes, you who are reading this post 🙂

Please don’t feel obligated to do this tag. If you have done this tag before, or don’t like to do tags, or are too busy to do this tag, that’s quite all right!

 

Cheers,

Sophie

Top 10 Tuesday: Best Books in 2017 (so far)

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Hello everyone!

Top 10 Tuesday is a meme created by The Broke and the Bookish. This week I will write about the best books that I read in 2017 so far.

If you stay tuned until the end, I will have a picture (or two) from my cross-Canada road trip 🙂

Without further ado, let’s begin! In no particular order:

The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression by Andrew Solomon is a touching memoir about living with depression. This book also delves into the neurobiology and social impact of depression. I love how this book ends on a hopeful note.

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King is a memoir and how-to book about writing. It is a book that I refer to again and again and again, and certain quotes and passages haunt me each time I write. For example: “The road to hell is paved by adverbs.”

In Drug Dealer, MD: How Doctors Were Duped, Patients Got Hooked, and Why It’s So Hard to Stop by Anna Lembke, the author explores various facets of prescription drug abuse. As a pharmacist, I see headlines about this critical issue every single month. Prescription opiate abuse is an epidemic that needs to be stopped.

E. H. Gombrich will draw you into the world of art in his book, A Story of Art. It is an amazingly (oops, adverb) written account of art history, from the Prehistoric times to Modern Art, complete with prints of famous artworks that will allow you to follow along. A must-read for art lovers.

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss tells the story of Kvothe, who is rumoured to have burned down a town, stole princesses from kings, spent a night with the Felurian and survived to tell the tale.

In The Captive Prince Trilogy by S. U. Pact, Damen, the prince of Akielos, is sent to serve the prince of an enemy nation as a pleasure slave. This series is more than what meets the eye. It is perhaps the best surprise in the form of a book for me, ever. If you enjoy a good romance (and enjoy or at least don’t mind the occasional graphic depiction of gay sex), you will very likely fall in love with this series.

My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Wanga and It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini are heartwarming stories about depression and suicide. They are must-reads for anyone who is interested in mental health. I love that, despite the heavy topic, the authors incorporate a sense of humour in the main characters’ view point, and that there is a spirit of optimism.

Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon tells the story of a girl who is “allergic” to the world and confined to her home. Everything changes when she meets and falls in love with her next door neighbour. This Savage Song by V. E. Schwab takes place in the dystopian city of Verity where monsters roam the land. August is a kind monster, who meets Kate, a human, and the daughter of an influential man in the city of Verity. I love the chemistry between the characters in both novels. They are both page-turners that kept me hooked until the very end.

And that’s all!

As promised, a few photos from my trip across Canada. Both were taken in Banff:

 

 

Audiobook TBR for The Great Canadian Road Trip

Hello everyone!

My boyfriend and I will be driving from Toronto to Vancouver tomorrow. This is my state of mind:

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It will be 4500 kilometres, which is 45 hours of driving. This also means 45 hours of audiobooks. Now, because we are two people, I have to compromise with respect to what we are listening to. Brownie points if you can guess which one(s) is/are mine 🙂323331743083191232191710

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Want by Cindy Pon

Jason Zhou survives in a divided society where the elite use their wealth to buy longer lives. With the help of his friends, Zhou infiltrates the lives of the wealthy in hopes of destroying the international Jin Corporation from within. And against his better judgment, Zhou finds himself falling for Daiyu, the daughter of Jin Corp’s CEO. Can Zhou save his city without compromising who he is or destroying his own heart?

There are so many great reviews about Want (like this one by Shenwei and this one by Aila), so I am dying to read this book. I love that the story takes place in a futuristic Taiwan and features Asian characters.

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman presents a dazzling version of the great Norse myths.

I’m not a mythology buff, though I may have dabbled in it a teensy teensy bit back in the day. This should be interesting.

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil DeGrasse

While you wait for your morning coffee to brew, for the bus, the train, or a plane to arrive, Astrophysics for People in a Hurry will reveal just what you need to be fluent and ready for the next cosmic headlines: from the Big Bang to black holes, from quarks to quantum mechanics, and from the search for planets to the search for life in the universe.

I am also not an astrophysicist, although I am always in a hurry. This means this is the perfect book for me, right? 🙂

All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself—a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink.

Lately I’ve been reading books about mental health. I just finished It’s Kind of a Funny Story, which is amazing (will post a review soon!) This is another book that I’ve heard wonderful things about (check out this review by Lauren.)

My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga

Sixteen-year-old physics nerd Aysel is obsessed with plotting her own death. There’s only one problem: she’s not sure she has the courage to do it alone. But once she discovers a website with a section called Suicide Partners, Aysel’s convinced she’s found her solution: a teen boy with the username FrozenRobot. But as their suicide pact becomes more concrete, Aysel begins to question whether she really wants to go through with it. Ultimately, she must choose between wanting to die or trying to convince Roman to live so they can discover the potential of their energy together. Except that Roman may not be so easy to convince.

Another book to go with the mental health theme!

And that’s all! If you are curious about our route:

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Yes, it is much faster to go through the States, as you can see! However, we have never driven across Canada and we are both very excited about the experience. When will there be another chance to drive across the Prairies? Or the Rockies?

This is a 5 day road trip, then I will fly back on the 6th day (Monday.) Boyfriend will stay in Vancouver (frown.) This is a trip that I will not want to end.

I have some blog posts lined up, so I will be posting according to my regular schedule (Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday.) I may be slow to respond to comments, but I promise to eventually read and reply to each one 🙂

Cheers,

Sophie

PS. Do you like audiobooks? Any favourites? What do you like to do when you are driving (ie. audiobooks, radio, talking to a friend, listening to the wind whoosh by)?

On being an introvert

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Hello everyone! Today I want to write about something that is close to my heart – being an introvert.

One day, I was telling someone about my dog being an introvert (he rarely barks and he doesn’t demand attention.) That person looked at me and said, “ohh,” with a disappointed expression. As if being an introvert is a bad thing. I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs, “There is nothing wrong with being an introvert!” But, being an introvert myself, I don’t scream at the top of my lungs.

I am an introvert. I spent many years of my life pretending to be an extrovert. But I don’t think I fooled anyone. I just made my life harder in those years. Maybe you are an introvert too. And there is nothing wrong with that.

Introverts are people who find energy in being alone. I’d like to think that introversion and extraversion are a continuum rather than two distinct categories. Everyone is some blend of an introvert or an extrovert. For example, I am 30% extrovert and 70% introvert (this number came from the OCEAN personality test, which you can take for free here.) Being high on introversion means that I need time alone to recharge after social events, and that my favourite and most relaxing thing to do is to curl up with a book. (Though maybe you have a different favourite introvert activity, like watching shows, or talking walks outside.) I don’t believe there is such a thing as a complete introvert or extrovert.

Introversion does not equate to being antisocial. There are introverts who like people, and there are extroverts who dislike people. As an introvert, I enjoy meeting good friends one-on-one, or in a small group. I also enjoy spending time alone doing the things I love to do. Back when I was trying to be an extrovert, I went to every social event that I was invited to, even with people that I didn’t care for. It exhausted me and left me feeling less than fulfilled. I learned the hard way that I’d rather spend a full day by myself than two hours with bad company.

This means that as an introvert, I can still enjoy going to social activities. It’s just that it would be exhausting to have brunch, then dinner, then bowling, all in one day. I would prefer to do one thing a day, then have the rest of the time to recharge.

I also love going to pole dancing classes, where I get to challenge myself and learn something new every time. (This has nothing to do with being an introvert or an extrovert.)

Introversion does not equate to being shy. Introversion relates to where we get our energy (either from within, or from other people.) Meanwhile, shy people are nervous or anxious around other people. There are shy extroverts and introverts who are perfectly comfortable around other people. I just happen to be an introvert who is perhaps a bit shy as well. Introverts are also not necessarily quiet. I know of quite a few loud people who claim to be introverts. And I can imagine that extroverts can appear quiet in certain social situations. I am sometimes a quiet introvert, and sometimes a loud introvert, depending on where I am and who I am with.

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There are perks to being an introvert. I like listening, and would love to listen to someone talk about their day. Since I am okay to spend a lot of time alone in my thoughts, I can come up with ideas for novels, or blog posts (like this one here). That’s not to say that extroverts can’t be creative, they perhaps do it in their own way. I enjoy hobbies that I can do alone, such as reading, writing, pole, and sewing.

Did you know that Mark Zuckerberg is an introvert? And so is Bill Gates? And Steven Spielberg? And JK Rowling? The list goes on and on.

So, let’s be proud to be introverts. And don’t let anyone tell us otherwise.

Are you an introvert or an extrovert? If you are an introvert, do you ever feel that there is “judgment” towards introverts? Do you have a favourite introvert activity?

I’d also love to hear from the extroverts out there as well (you guys are mysterious beings) 😉

I was about to post a review on Marie Lu’s Legend today. [Don’t worry, that review is still coming.] But after reading Stella’s post about being an introvert, I realized that I had a lot to say on this topic. Check out her post here!