There’s an iconic line from one of my favorite TV shows of all time. You probably remember it well. Ross & Rachel (the will-they-won’t-they couple on FRIENDS) have a fight and “break up” for a night. In the small amount of time before Rachel comes to apologize the next morning, Ross sleeps with another girl. When Rachel finds out, she claims they weren’t on “a break” therefore he cheated. For the next few weeks/months/years Ross tries to get her back by exclaiming that he didn’t cheat because technically:
I think the funniest part of this whole situation is that he spends more time trying to be right than just saying he’s sorry, which may have solved the problem earlier.
The concept of a “break” has been floating around in my mind for the last few months. Probably because I haven’t had a proper vacation since I went with my family to the UK in Spring 2013. We aren’t taught much about taking breaks in American culture. Everything always a rush and “keeping up withe The Joneses” and “never slow down”. This is especially difficult for someone like me: an Introvert. It’s a common misconception that introverts are shy. In fact, I’m not shy at all. I’m just exhausted by social interactions with large groups of people and need to take breaks alone to recharge.
I’m not sure if my introversion has increased as I’ve gotten older, or if because we simply live in a world created for extroverts I’ve started to notice it more. I’m able to function in social settings fine for hours, but then find myself drifting to the outskirts for a moment of peace. For most of my life, I tended to think this was strange. Why couldn’t I be more “outgoing”? Why was I so exhausted just talking in large social settings? What’s wrong with me?
When I started to get frustrated with this lack of understanding in the world surrounding me, I found this Ted Talk on the Power of Introverts and even read a book about the power of introverted people. I began to understand that taking a break to be alone isn’t being anti-social or hating people. It’s simply my only way of functioning. I needed to take breaks from people.
Over the last year I’ve gotten much better at managing my time spent with others while still getting my alone time. While I still force myself into social situations when I’d much rather stay at home, I’m also able to tell my friends when I need some space. I try to explain to them that while I love their company, I physically can’t spend all day with people. I literally need quiet time alone to be healthy and sane. The last thing I want is for any feelings to be hurt because I need to take a break from a person or situation. This isn’t quite the type of break that Ross and Rachel fought over, but it’s the same type of break that people in any type of relationship sometimes need. Whether intentional or not, sometimes we all need that time to recoup emotionally from a fight, tense situation or just our own individual crisis.
So the next time you need a break to think or sleep or just be alone, don’t hesitate to tell someone just that. There’s no shame in maintaining your mental and physical health by taking a moment alone. And if someone complains about the time off, just tell them: