Can You Get More Introverted As You Get Older?

I just got back from my theater company’s writers workshop and I feel seriously drained. To be fair, I’m already running on less than adequate sleep, but my energy is super low when it’s usually super high after an awesome and creative theater meeting.

Part of me feels like I haven’t fully recovered from working a major auto show in Chicago- I returned from the show a full week ago- last Monday- but it kind of seems like yesterday. My days back in New York have flown by. I spent a good amount of my time back home working on taxes and projects that needed to get done, and other days catching up with people I really wanted to see.

For whatever reason, I just want to crawl up and be alone and do nothing all day for the next few days (don’t we all, sometimes, especially us introverts?) but I have to travel out of town again tomorrow for another show. And the sensation of wanting to be alone and do nothing for days and days in order to recharge is stronger than ever.

So I just googled ‘does introversion increase with age?’ and found mixed opinions. I know that it’s my introverted nature that makes me need alone time to recharge, but I usually love socializing, especially one on one, and don’t feel as drained as I do now by not getting enough time alone. The google search results were a mixed bag, generally not stating that introversion increases with age, but a ton of people had also asked this question, making me think that it’s common even if undiagnosed.

If introversion doesn’t actually increase with age, perhaps we’re just more aware of it as we get into our thirties- we’re more aware of what we want and who we really are. I know that I’m less willing to push myself to the point of burnout, and am much more conscious of my feelings and opinions. So this newfound awareness of how I feel and where my limits are may make me feel like I’m getting more introverted  as I get older when in fact I’m just more aware of what I need.

Actually, writing this is making me feel better. I’m playing classical music and I just made tea and am gonna take a hot shower and I’m writing to you guys and you guys are great. And I’m blissfully, blissfully alone. Le sigh…

But a good le sigh.

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What About Those Creative Projects In Your Thirties?

When I just got out of college, straight out of the drama program, I was hungry for creative work.

I had just gotten out of the directing/acting program at NYU and I wanted to work on plays- I didn’t feel like there was any other choice. I was buzzing with musical moments- I was inspired. I yearned to put my excited thoughts to work. Whenever a possible project came up, I jumped at the opportunity. The projects always felt like opportunities- maybe scary or difficult ones sometimes, but never a drag. I was reading plays all the time and in and out of long rehearsal processes- all of this felt like a hardcore part of my career.

Of course, there were bad moments where I felt like rehearsal processes took up all of my time- and would occasionally cause fights with my ex-boyfriend when he claimed every spare moment of my time was taken up by theater work- with not a second left for him. And that was a problem, but I kept working on theater projects anyway- they were just constantly popping up because I was surrounded by people in the industry, and connected to a lot of theater groups. I tried to find some balance, and I would apologize to my ex and to friends profusely when I was in tech week (AKA Hell Week, when your life is completely claimed by the theater and you eat, sleep, and breath a play yet still never have enough time before opening night).

Through it all, I felt like theater projects were extremely important. I didn’t question why. They just were.

Then, maybe four years ago, another ex-boyfriend of mine changed the way I felt about theater. He never understood my love of theater, and was never into the fact that I loved it. He didn’t come to some of my biggest and proudest productions, always claiming some excuse or another. When he did come to the plays, he always seemed upset for whatever reason and made me nervous.

He reminded me again and again that the audiences of most of my plays consisted solely of friends and families of the cast and of myself. This was basically true. It’s rare that strangers decide suddenly to attend an off-Broadway play unless there’s a celebrity in the cast. He said I wasn’t reaching the people I’d hoped to reach anyway. This was possibly also true. I was hoping to reach many people- and if the audiences only consisted of the same people who always got ‘dragged out’ to support me or my cast, then what was the point? I was making theater in a vacuum.

Even worse, once I believed that I was making theater in a vacuum, for no one, I couldn’t stomach the fact that I did it for almost no money. Most of my theater projects have been a labor of love, with minor stipends paid to me at the end, if that. Yet, as I said before, I still felt like the theater projects were very important, and still worth working on.

Once I felt like theater projects weren’t worth my time anymore, I went on an official ‘hiatus’ from theater. I stated that I had to pay off my student loan before I ever could do a full rehearsal process again. I haven’t yet finished paying my student loan, but that wasn’t the real reason I stopped working on theater- honestly, I felt artistically defeated. I felt cheated- like theater had lied to me. I wasn’t really helping anyone. I was giving my time away for free. Theater is one of the only industries where people are expected to give their time away for nothing- and even compete to be able to do so.

Instead of the theater defeat wearing off once my former boyfriend and I broke up, it grew stronger. I still didn’t want to work on a full rehearsal process- I couldn’t shake the ‘what’s the point of it all if there’s no money in it’ feeling.’ I blamed my ex. But then I blamed myself. How could I lose such an integral part of myself? How do I get it back? What do I do if I still kinda believe that I’m not reaching people with this medium, or that theater is a dying art form that barely pays and is only attended by foreign tourists and the friends and family of the production team?

I still don’t know exactly what to do with these beliefs that continue to cling on. I wish I could press a button and feel like theater is important and worth it again.

Two summers ago, right after the breakup with that same ex, half in protest towards my ex’s dislike of theater, I’d started writing a play. For a moment, in my thoughts of protest towards his beliefs that summer, the passion returned. My anger fueled me and a character came out onto paper. Musical thoughts started to flow through my fingers. The eager audience in my head returned to cheer me on. I felt a bit crazy- a bit wild. Then life got in the way. I slowed down on the script and my project screeched to a halt. The passion was gone.

The other day, when I was feeling empty, I randomly took out the script again for the first time in over a year. It felt distant and removed from my life now, hard to relate to, which cause me some stress.

Would I ever get those passionate, wild theatrical feelings back? I started reconfiguring the script, rewriting and reworking. I manually stuck with it for awhile. Some ideas came to my head- they were shadowy and new, but for a second they felt musical and raw and wild.

And you know what, who cares if no one sees my creative projects but maybe friends and family? Who cares if my creative side work will never make me any money? This kind of work has made me feel more alive than I’ve ever felt without it. So maybe there’s something to it after all.

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Are There New Feelings In Your Thirties?

Do you ever feel like you’ve experienced the full spectrum of your feelings by the time you’re in your thirties?

You may not know how you’re going to feel in every scenario, but when a feeling arises, you’ve probably felt it before. After all, once you’re in your thirties, you start recognizing different versions of the same scenarios repeating again and again…so you start to get familiar with the feelings that come up again and again…like a familiar mix and match.

I never consciously felt like I’d experienced the full gamut of my feelings, but unconsciously, I thought that there were no new feelings under the sun for me.

Then today a wonderful and very exciting thing happened and I sort of couldn’t believe it. Afterwards, I almost went into shock. I felt all tingly and almost exhausted, but also sort of glowing and dreamy and unreal. It was a new feeling, which I dubbed ‘happy shock.’ I didn’t remember feeling it before. I knew ‘bad, unhappy shock’ or just plain ‘shock’ but ‘happy shock’ was a new one. And it was really exciting.

Later, I saw a play that a friend of mine wrote. It was extremely sad, and I couldn’t stop crying throughout most of it. Usually, even when plays are sad, it’s very rare that I cry and feel so connected to and affected by what’s happening. The play was extremely well-written, so that was definitely a part of it, but I think the new ‘happy shock’ feeling earlier just opened me up to my emotions in general. Perhaps one new feeling can start a bunch more.

Do you ever experience feelings you’ve never had before? Are there multiple ones yet to discover?

Can You Monetize It?

My background is in theater. I was a drama major in college who started out as an actor and quickly discovered that I also loved to direct.

After I graduated, I went in search of lots of theater to work on. I quickly found myself directing friends’ plays and also acting in plays for theater festivals and readings all over the city. I was proud of my efforts, even when they took up all my time and didn’t pay anything. Sometimes I would get what’s called a ‘stipend,’ which is a small amount of honorary money for my time and effort. Usually, no money would be involved at all- other than the money I spent out of my own pocket on the production.  I balanced my paying job (working tradeshows) with working on as much theater as I could fit into the crevices of my time off.

Sometimes I would turn down paid tradeshow work because I was in the middle of rehearsals for a production I was directing. The irony of this is that I could sometimes make the equivalent of my entire directors stipend in one day of work at my ‘real job.’

But I found it hard to prioritize tradeshows because theater was my ‘true passion’ and what I ‘really did’…tradeshow work was just a filler job. Theater became this magical universe where being paid a decent rate for your time became something of a joke, and everyone just moaned ‘there’s no money in theater, we need donations’ and continued on.

n the dressing room before a show..I'm not exactly sure what we were doing here.

In the dressing room before a show..I’m not exactly sure what we’re doing here, but bananas were definitely involved.

Then there came a time a few years ago where I reached my breaking point. I needed to put more money towards my student loans and stop turning down paid work. I couldn’t work for free anymore. So I took a hiatus from theater. The hiatus has been going on for about 2 years now…in fact, I’m still on that hiatus.

Amazingly, I’ve been pretty happy during this time off. I still co-run a theater company, so I keep a bit of theater in my life, and I’ve been able to work as much as I can and not double book paid jobs with unpaid rehearsals. I really enjoy my career in tradeshows, so I’m happily going through my days. Things are good, but I sometimes wonder about my real passion.

Now that I’m thirty, I’ve been thinking a lot about paid ‘filler’ work versus unpaid passions. There are so many options here. I kind of turned my ‘filler’ work into my main work, but I could have attempted to monetize my passion. Contrary to what I might have you believe from this post, there are people making some money from theater or theatrical work. And there are lots of people who work on all sorts of passion projects that can be monetized, but haven’t been monetarily figured out yet.

Then there are other friends of mine who know there’s very little money in their passion projects, but are okay with that. When I asked my friend how he replies to people who question his choice to be a playwright even though there’s just about no money in it, he inspired me. He said, “I tell them that I’ve worked lots of jobs that paid me tons of money and none of them made me as happy as I am writing plays. Not everything is about money.”

There’s a lot to think about here.

Charity Fundraising Ideas in your Thirties

Tonight I’m directing a charity concert called Broadway Can that features Broadway actors singing as part of a benefit to raise money for City Harvest. I direct this concert just about every year if I’m not out of town working. In the summer, I also usually direct another charity concert called Broadway Meows to raise money for the Humane Society. I’m really happy to be a part of both of these events- they’re for two great causes, and are also really fun to work on. In fact, even if the concerts weren’t to raise money for charity, I’d still enjoy being part of them. I like the people I’m working with and also like theater.

Me and the awesome cast and crew of Broadway Meows this past summer!

Me and the awesome cast and crew of Broadway Meows this past summer!

It’s great to find causes that fit your personality- things you care about. When I used to think about giving money to charity, I’d feel guilty. I’d think, ‘I’ve never served meals to the homeless on Thanksgiving…I probably should’ and ‘I probably need to make time to work in a soup kitchen one day in order to give back.’ But those thoughts just fleetingly crossed my mind and I didn’t do either of them.

For most of my life, I never really focused on charity…I guess because I felt like I didn’t know exactly where to donate, or felt like I had no money or that every spare dollar I had needed to go toward my student loan, or I didn’t know which cause I should focus on or whether charities were really putting the money to good use.

But lately, I’ve started to see causes all around me where I can easily, happily give back- and in some cases, such as directing the concerts, have already been giving back.

I have dozens of friends putting up theater all over the city. There’s always a fundraising campaign and various fundraising ideas underway for these projects. I usually try to donate what I can- supporting the arts is important to me, especially when I know the people creating the art. Also, I have lots of friends who run or walk to raise money for a cause, and I donate what I can to their fundraising campaigns. It all adds up- even small amounts.

So I don’t need to necessarily be at a soup kitchen serving meals to help others. There are so many different ways to give back that I hadn’t thought of before, even if I have no time, or no money to spare.

Here are some ideas for giving back when you have more time than money:

Some ideas for when you have more money than time, but aren’t sure what organizations to choose, or are suspicious of where your money is actually going:

  • Donate to a friend’s fundraising page for their theater or artistic project, or their charity walk or run for a cause. There are many fundraising ideas- check out their Kickstarter or Indiegogo campaigns!
  • Charity Navigator – Tracks charitable Organizations’ performance and effectiveness, so you can find the most effective charities.
  • Guidestar.org – Similar to Charity Navigator above.
  • GreatNonprofits.org – This is like the Yelp of nonprofits! Read lots of charity reviews.
  • Philanthropedia– Charity ratings by a group of experts in over 35 different fields.

I hope these lists help you help others…and I strongly believe you’ll end up helping yourself along the way!

 

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