The Intrepid Introvert: Reflections on A Year-Long Expedition to Shake Up My Life
The challenge: for one year, I would do at least one thing outside my routine each week.
52 challenges. 52 chances to stray from my norm and shake up my life. To take a class after work instead of just tidying the house and relaxing with a book. To try activities that I’d been eyeing for years but didn’t make the time to register. To go to festivals and fairs and events that look like fun, even if it meant going by myself. To make new friends and reconnect with old ones through shared experiences and engaging conversations.
Getting to the point of inspiration for this challenge wasn't a speedy process.
In early 2017, I realized I was in a rut, and each day looked much the same. My routine was so well entrenched that I allowed the comfort of it—and my introverted inclinations—to take the lead. I passed on invitations. I skipped fun company events. I said no to opportunities where I'd need to go solo and wouldn't already know someone there. I said, “That would be fun to do sometime,” then “sometime” never placed itself on my calendar. And I was single and hadn't been on a date in three years.
It's no coincidence that it was during a month-long escape from that routine that the inspiration and plan for an intrepid year came together. For the second year in a row, I had taken advantage of my job's flexibility to rent a place in Florida for the month of February, to work remotely, and to get a break from the mid-winter doldrums in the Midwest.
While away, I explored new areas of town on a daily basis. I scheduled road trips every weekend. I took maximum advantage of all the resources around me, putting myself in an open and adventurous state of mind.
Why not do the same at home?
A new mindset was born.
I created the challenge, then upped the ante by adding public accountability: I'd blog about my experiences and call it the Intrepid Introvert. I even developed a scoring methodology: the bigger the personal challenge, the more points I'd get.
I set out with a list of ideas but left the schedule open to flexibility. I allowed myself the chance to say “yes” to spontaneous opportunities.
In the course of my intrepid year, I:
Volunteered at an Easter Egg Hunt for children with special needs
Took a road trip with a coworker to Mammoth Cave National Park
Walked as an ally in the Indianapolis Pride Parade
Said “yes” to a volunteer trip to Nicaragua that made me nervous and I'd been saying “no” to for years
Lifted strangers into the air while trying acroyoga at the Steamboat Movement Fest in Colorado
Survived a thrilling and terrifying downhill mountain-biking clinic (and sprained my neck in an over-the-handlebars wipeout)
Represented my company in the Indianapolis Corporate Challenge as the sole woman on a team of five cyclists
Attended a writing workshop hosted by the Indiana Writers Center
Created a profile on Bumble and went on 18 dates with 14 guys in 9 months
Willingly had 45 needles inserted in my skin while trying acupuncture
Said “yes” to an invitation to visit New Zealand just five weeks later
An intrepid outlook
Early in my intrepid year, I encountered this advice from Brené Brown: “You can choose courage or you can choose comfort. You cannot have both.” I wrote it down and stuck it to my refrigerator. I painted a coffee mug and inscribed this quote on it. I've made it my personal mantra. Choosing the courageous option, one week at a time, has transformed how I view myself and my life.
A year later, I say “yes” more often than “no, thanks”. I indulge my curiosity more freely. I routinely have at least two weeknights with activities out of the house, like dance class or a small-group gathering from church. “It's such a long flight” or “the time change is too big” or “I can't drink the water” are no longer valid excuses for not traveling to places I want to see in the world.
And “sometime” has become “now” as I take responsibility for my own happiness.
I wrote this at the end of a road trip that I took solo (with my beloved furry copilot) from Indianapolis to western Colorado by way of Badlands National Park and Mt. Rushmore. I have family in Colorado and visit regularly, but I've always flown. I wanted to see, at least once, the states in between. Why not now?
I chose courage.