As I had mentioned in You Only Live Forever When You’re Young, my short life of learning yielded me the personal knowledge that I feel most free when on either the golf course or the road. Of course, both the round of golf and the road trip are pleasingly altered by the presence of friends or family, or even of a stranger, and for many people such undertakings would be unthinkable to complete without a companion or companions. I have a friend who struggled mightily to golf this summer in the absence of myself and in consideration of the unavailability due to an approaching wedding for his other steady golf buddy. He played a few solo rounds, but by the time of my return had failed to play for nearly 2 months. He’s playing it off as a lack of interest in the game (I’m calling his bluff – of all the regulars I’ve ever played with, he has been the most reliable, enthusiastic golfer… played with him last Saturday and saw the spark of enjoyment striking flint…), but I have a sneaking suspicion that the reason for his lack of rounds played this summer had more to do with the fact that his two most frequent golfing buddies weren’t around or available to play with. For him, I suspect, golf is most rewarding when undertaken socially.
As for myself, I have found that both golf and road-tripping, the two things most freeing to me, are most rewarding when undertaken alone. Let me be clear: I cherish and appreciate any opportunity I have to golf with other people, particularly family and close friends, and will continue to look to play with friends and family as often as practical until I am unable to do so. Golf as a social activity is spectacular. It’s a place to relax and enjoy time with people you like.
However, it is when I am golfing alone that I feel freest, most purely alert and able to enjoy all that the game has to offer. I will always need to get out and play by myself at least a few times a summer. The same goes for driving – a journey can be pleasant with passengers, but it is an activity properly undertaken by my lonesome.
I had a hunch about these things prior to leaving for my trip, and if the aim of a “life-altering” trip, as my journey has been referred to, is to… well… alter your life in some way, then I consider my trip a tremendous success. You see, I learned that I am an introvert. I sort of always knew this about myself, but struggled with it. This ain’t an introvert’s world, and I rallied against what I, at times, perceived to be the complex social landscape around me. I always seemed to rub off well enough on most people, and never had any serious issues making friends or engaging in social past times; I suspect that my pronouncement that I am an introvert may come as a surprise to some of you, given my gregarious nature when in groups of people. The introvert isn’t necessarily a wallflower or a loner. Simply, an introvert is someone who’s “energy tends to expand through reflection and dwindle during interaction.” (Credit where it’s due – Laurie Helgoe via Wikipedia)
Driving across this country, golfing, largely by myself offered me hours of reflection, and mentally energized me. It was somewhere in eastern North Dakota, hurtling towards Fargo well after it had become dark, that I unleashed a rush of endorphins on myself when I finally realized that it’s okay to prefer solitude. There is nothing wrong with me. Social interaction has tremendous value, and is an integral part of my life, but I find that time alone is most rewarding for me. When I am alone, I am purely and fully myself, able to be creative and articulate. Fully able to concentrate on what it is I find worthy of my energy. No wonder I was able to write so frequently, lucidly, and entertainingly while on my trip.
I have lost the link as I read the article days (maybe weeks?) ago, but another view of the introvert in a social world that I found extremely helpful was that the social introvert can be viewed as a kind of “battery,” (my analogy, not theirs) in that an introvert can be completely capable of any of the varieties of social interaction which are available in our world, but will need time alone to “recharge” before further engaging in social engagements (this is not my idea, only the “battery” analogy was). If the introvert doesn’t get this recharging before going forward with more interaction, you can forget mental energy and sharpness, creativity and productivity. This resonates so very acutely with me. I need my time alone, and once I’ve had it, I only have so much energy to go ’round.
In addition to golfing and driving, writing is an arena in which I feel free. I feel increasingly free when writing. Writing is a challenge, yet also therapeutic. It is challenging to put thoughts together with at least some semblance of consistency; with some indication that the mind responsible for the thoughts is sane and logical. The therapy comes in the exploration writing allows me. This entry is a prime example – self-exploratory and open. Writing allows me to confront my vulnerabilities, to revel in my strengths and to stand in awe of the chasm between them. It also allows me to explore the world outside of myself in the way I feel most comfortable: alone. Writing, for me, is not a collaborative effort. This is me, myself and I looking at the world, and myself, with open eyes. Consider yourselves blessed that I’m letting you in.
To have the mental energy to write with the frequency and at the quality I expect of myself, my “introvert battery” needs to be fully charged. Upon my return to Pennsylvania, I hadn’t really had much of an opportunity to charge up, if you will. Their only son returning home meant that my parents wanted to spend time with me. A lot of time. And I was happy to oblige – I love my parents and get to see them a few times a year. We ate nearly every meal together, watched television as a family, went for walks…. just did stuff, together, for nearly two weeks. We went to Philadelphia, New Jersey and DC, together. It was a pretty decent two weeks. But I had very little time alone. I couldn’t recharge my battery. It wasn’t very conducive to good writing.
Now I’m back in Buffalo, and I’ve been for a few weeks. I needed a few good weeks to fully charge up. I also needed to get my bed into my closet of a room, and to get the apartment I was hardly moved into when I left in July into some sort of livable shape. All that’s pretty much done now.
I’ve got a place to rest comfortably. My batteries are fully charged. It’s time to write.