I’ve always loved fall for the reason I love Sundays—its beauty, crispness and tranquility. I love hearing the crunch of fallen leaves when I’m walking on a trail. I love feeling the cool evenings settle in from my front porch while watching my children play. And I love transition of the night sky from summer to winter—when it’s blacker and my favorite planets shine brighter. Solitude is nurturing, but I haven’t always seen it as such.
As an extrovert, learning to appreciate solitude took time. I draw energy from crowds, and I love meeting new people. I learned that from my upbringing. My house was the hub for all family activity—Sunday dinners, holiday meals, family gatherings and Super Bowls. We had an open-door policy. From a young age, I was entertaining cousins and serving my aunts and uncles. There was no such thing as “down time” unless you were going to bed.
As an adult, that carried over. I’ve always bounced between activities—school, work, family time, client meetings, networking, happy hours, exercise, and I’ve always been ready to roll at a moment’s notice should I get a text or a call.
This year, that changed.
With my wife working most evenings, I end my workday at 5 p.m. and spend time hanging out with and talking to my children. That’s been a different experience. I’m used to intense conversations with other adults about sports, creativity, and personal development. Instead, I find myself talking about Minecraft, Peppa Pig, and which YouTubers are the funniest. I won’t lie, some days I feel like I have cabin fever and I crave adult conversation (OK, most days…I’m and extrovert, remember?). Other days, I feel myself emotionally distancing myself from the myriad of simultaneous conversations my kids like to have with me—they don’t always believe in waiting their turn. Recently though, I asked myself, “What would happen if I just embraced this?” So I did.
I started using the time to learn more about myself and focus on becoming a more complete person—a better husband, a better dad, and a better professional. It’s amazing how things come into focus when you’re outside of the noise. You see yourself clearly and your perspectives change. As for my kids, I talk to them about the things I would discuss with my adult friends. I ask them questions about music, art, books, science, politics and other assorted topics. Children have an amazing perspective that’s refreshing if we listen. I even share some of my work challenges with them to see how they’d solve those.
As a tried and true extrovert, I thought I would wither and die if I wasn’t out and about conversing with everyone I met, but I haven’t. Instead, I’ve learned to enjoy my own company and I’ve gotten to see how insightful my kids can be. All wins.