You know, I’m continually amazed by how intricate and individual and yet completely similar God has made us: short & tall, quiet & exuberant, quick to attach to things & slower to consider and step closer, burning with a loud bonfire for the things in our life & burning a slow but strong torch for those similar things, stepping back and taking things in & jumping in, creating those things being observed.
And I just realized that most of those things are basically separated by introversion and extroversion, even though that doesn’t even begin to describe the different ways that God has knitted us together, inside and out. Though, that idea has been on my mind lately: that difference between being drawn within or outward.
This last Sunday, I was visiting Seoul for a weekend jaunt and I ended up spending a slew of hours just hanging around in bustling Seoul Station, waiting for my train to come that evening.
Now, this station is an intersection between the cross-country trains (KTX), and city subway lines. There’s multitudinous eateries, and also some department stores and pharmacies. I just googled it, and there are about 100,000 passengers going in and out of the station complex daily, though those numbers have to be higher on the weekends from all I’ve experienced. That’s when people are heading home again for the weekend, after visiting the sights or loved ones. And why not, when it’s so speedy and affordable? I live almost kitty-corner across the country from Seoul and it takes me about 2.5 hours and just over ₩50,000 to do so. Compared to even taking an inter-city bus in Western Canada, this is much faster and cheaper.
Anyhow, it’s a busy place. And on a Sunday evening when everyone is waiting for their train to take them home, it’s even busier. I was already feeling drained that weekend from a combination of circumstances, so I was looking for a quieter, less busy place to pop in some earbuds and chill. Had to take a couple long escalators further down below and explore some other corners and avenues, but I found some secluded seating and just kind of…pooled into my seat.
That’s when I re-realized how important that really is for me, and how much of an introvert I really can be, in needing to search hard for an area to attempt to recharge and rest and stretch out. There I was, in the middle of one of the biggest cities on the Earth with a plethora of things to potentially occupy myself with, and I just wanted to head back to my home, to my personal space.
But I also remembered that that’s okay, too. Really. That’s a part of how I was created, with introversion as my default. It’s part of what makes me who I am, but it also doesn’t define me, since “I’m an introvert!” can quickly become a handy excuse to stay home and withdraw from people around us. And sometimes, that’s the first ingredient for something that will make us spiral and spin and sputter. Speaking from experience, of course!
But that’s not what I want to focus on now because I’m saving those meatier thoughts for a future post on introversion. So, y’know, stay tuned for that, if you wish.
Mostly, with this realization I had bumped into expectations I had for myself that just snuck up on me, and that’s something I’ve struggled with the whole time I’ve been in Korea. Continuously, I’ve caught myself (and other times missing it entirely) expecting me, Adina, to be something that I’m not.
I’ve caught myself carrying notions that don’t fit with me, just like the classic example of trying to stuff a square peg in a circular hole. As I’ve been in Korea, I’ve looked at other foreigner English-teaching friends and acquaintances, seeing them travelling all over and getting out and about so much, and somewhere inside I thought, “That’s what I’m supposed to be doing.”
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve caught this thought process – this lie, really – like a fish slippery from my stream of thought, and then fumbled it and let it swim away again, with me slipping and splashing onto my rump at times.
And it is a lie, for me, because I have been getting out and making friends and seeing places this past year. I will admit, sometimes not as much as I otherwise could have. I will admit to declining some opportunities for no good reason, and sometimes not looking for more, but I will also admit to jumping into others that totally threw me outside my padded comfort zone. Some of those opportunities stung a little at points, and others were ridiculously sweet as they were sewed into me.
Other times, I was expecting myself to fully enjoy living on my own more than I was, to completely embrace living away from my home country more than I was. I thought that, because so many other people did, I should too. That it was normal (but part of it is actually just cultural).
But again, for me, this was not normal. (And I’m not saying that to justify any particular thing I do or like because that thinking can also become dangerous if left unchecked, and if not seeking God for wisdom on such topics (Matt. 6:33)). Besides, as one my most favourite sayings goes: “Normal is just a setting on the washing machine.”
I’ve mentioned this before, but as someone who had/has such a depth of connection with my home, my city, my church and my family, being totally comfortable forging and jumping into a new home in such a different place was just not something I did. Now that I think of it, I’m struggling to imagine someone who could in the same situation, but then again, who knows?
As this year grew longer, I continued to yearn for my home and my city, even as I read a great article, talking about moving away from home (in which she explains leaving her small town and not missing it once for years). I yearned for my hometown, though, because I now know God has put that yearning there. In trying to convey this to others in Korea, some couldn’t seem to understand why I would want to leave Korea, but most completely understood.
On the flipside of that yearning, just earlier this morning I was thinking how awesome it will be to see some of those friends I’ve made here – those givers of hand-stingingly-joyful high-fives and sweet experiences. I haven’t seen some of them in a while, as the winter break has been going strong here these past couple months, and as such I allowed myself to focus more on my home than here. As I brought them to mind again, it pulled at me just how much I’ll miss them.
For all my words on being an introvert, I have become better and better over the years at embracing those social times with others and strongly swimming about in them. Not necessarily being extroverted, but just enjoying the people that God has placed around me for whatever time and season I’m in, and letting myself flow to help them enjoy it as well.
It’s been a strange kind of balance, learning to step outside of myself and when to step back in, but it’s made life so much more brimming and buoyant. This Jesus-lined process has been freeing me more and more to do what He has planned for me, whatever awesome and challenging things those may be.
Really, it’s crazy if you think about it: He has created me to do specific things that others can’t touch, and He’s created others – you! – to do what I can’t even dream of. How does that even work?! It does, somehow – I know that beyond measure. He’s got it all sorted, and it makes a wonderful kind of freeing sense that I can’t even comprehend. And I’m totally okay with that.
I don’t have this all figured out yet by any means, but I know this much:
When we work to both embrace who God has made us, and work towards balancing out our strengths and flaws, our inclinations and disinclinations, in Him – letting Him sand the rough edges and brush us gently with coats of primer and pleasing paint – then the options are infinite where He can place us in His house.