The Insulated Introvert and the Isolated Extrovert
I was recently conversing with my neighbor, a self-professed introvert. She noted that one of her favorite moments in this expat life are those first few months after a move to a new country. As an introvert, she feels insulated - as if surrounded by a wonderfully protective bubble - when she does not yet know the language and she has no connections outside of her family.
As an (almost extreme) extrovert, I was blown away to learn that introverts may find times of transition so comforting! Those first six months are always the hardest for me. I have such difficulties without my "people" and truly struggle until I find my place in my new community.
This comparison, of course, translates into the realm of career change and job searches. There are numerous resources (including the fantastic book and podcast by Morra Aarons-Mele about the introvert entrepreneur) that address the challenges introverts face when looking for a new job. It is hard for them to put themselves out to the world and to "network" in the traditional sense.
We extroverts face a different but equally debilitating set of challenges in this constantly mobile expat life: isolation and disconnection. Truly, where an introvert relishes the comfort of being home alone, an extrovert's worst nightmare is having to be in solitude for extended periods of time.
Oh, it is so true. I remember the first time I realized how much I needed people in my life. We had just moved to a new country. I spoke the language, but not the local dialect, so even the simplest communication seemed ineffective. Navigating the city on my own was daunting given my gender, diplomatic status, and the political climate...so I stayed home. I was actively job searching but had not yet found any good leads. I did all that I could to busy myself. I unpacked and organized the house, I took on new creative projects. I read.
All in silence and solitude.
One day about two months into our time in our new home, I picked up a book and read it one sitting. I made dinner and then waited for my husband to come home. Traffic was bad (as always) so I waited...and waited...and waited. I think I might have actually been sitting by the door like a puppy poised to pounce on its owner - when my husband finally arrived. As soon as he crossed the threshold, I started talking. I think I chattered on for two hours straight. I re-told the entire book. I provided commentary. He couldn't get a single word in. Oh how good it felt to be talking to someone...even if it was only to retell t