Let me start by saying this, I love people. For reals, I do. (Most of them anyway.) Actually, if you know me well, then you hear that come out of my mouth a good chunk of the time. And even though I sometimes say it with a certain, shall we say, tone, I genuinely mean it roughly 96 percent of the time.

Cause, honestly, what’s not to love? Most people are at least a little bit funny or charming or clever or engaging, at least on some level. Not to mention fun to play with when you’re lonely. And certain people can even flesh out the very best in us, which is one of the things I love the most. Plus, since we’re all soooo unique, everybody has at least some capacity to light up different corners of our heart. And I love that too.

When I was a kid, meeting anyone new used to be such a thrill for me because it was always so exciting to see what someone else could bring to the table. Because, well, people are fascinating. Like the ones who could talk about anything and nothing and make it feel like it was the most interesting conversation ever. Or the people who were just naturally funny, no matter what they said or did. Or the ones who were so kind and warm and genuine that it felt like you’d known them forever.

And that excitement stayed with me as I got older. Sure, there were those awkward years in middle school when I had about three friends and wasn’t much for socializing. But once I hit high school and college, I was like a runaway friendship train, always putting myself out there for the benefit of making another new friend.

I’m still like that.

Although, in kind of an ironic twist, as I’ve gotten older, I’m actually becoming a bit of an introvert.

Now I know how this sounds. And I’m aware that I just spent 300 words explaining why I love people so much, but what I need you to understand is that being an introvert doesn’t mean I don’t like people anymore. Cause I do. My love of people and being around them hasn’t changed at all. What has changed is my need to disengage with people after a while and have some time to decompress alone in my own head.

See, according to Susan Krauss Whitbourne’s article in Psychology Today, “Nine Signs You’re Really An Introvert,” most people wrongly assume that being an introvert makes you a people-hater. But it actually doesn’t.

When you really dissect the definition, someone who’s introverted isn’t really any different from anyone else — we enjoy being around people, we have full, rich social lives, and we love interacting with everyone around us. There’s really only one major difference — we just need some extra time to be alone to recharge. And the further along I get in my life, the more I realize that I’ve grown to really need that. In fact, I’m at the point now where I feel like I’m split down the middle about how I like to spend my time. There’s still that side of me that loves being part of a community and cultivating relationships and really getting to know people. But then there’s the flip side that really craves being alone, just me and my thoughts, doing that thang we do.

Look, Dave and I have been married almost 25 years, together for almost 32. And I’ve also been somebody’s mom for almost 21 of those years. So that automatically means I’ve been semi-surrounded by at least a few people pretty constantly for the last few decades. And I’m fortunate to have a rich community of friends in my life who I love to connect with as often as I can. But all of that constant interaction with the people around me has also made me grow to love and appreciate my alone time. It’s made me value the solitary time I get that gives me the chance to quiet my mind and just retreat to a place where I can power down. Actually, I’ve learned that I need to shut myself off in order to recharge my social battery life. I’m a better version of myself when I do.

That’s because being with people, even when we’re just chillin’, can be hyper-stimulating simply because there are other people around. Other people to consider. Other people to interact with, even if it’s only low-key small talk. And I don’t know about you, but I can get overstimulated pretty damn quick these days. So unplugging from people, even if it’s just by putting in earbuds or not answering the phone when it rings or going off somewhere alone, helps to take the edge off a little. And I find myself doing that a lot more than I used to.

The other thing I realized, by doing a super-deep dive into the world of introspection, is that introverts loooooove being introspective. And that’s actually when the lightbulb really went off for me. Because I spend a huge amount of my time just floating around in my own head. Always have.

But it’s not daydreaming, it’s purposeful. It’s where I contemplate life and other significant stuff and make plans and reconcile decisions. It’s like my own private treehouse. And the older I get, the more time I need to spend up there.

Author Cheryl Strayed said it best when she said, “Alone had always felt like an actual place to me, as if it weren’t a state of being, but rather a room where I could retreat to be who I really was.” And she nailed it.

But I’m a big believer in balance and how one quality doesn’t fully thrive inside us without the opposite quality to balance the scales. I mean, I’ve always had pretty exposed emotional wiring, I know that. And that usually leads to a lot of general contemplation. I’m also addicted to structure and order; I much prefer writing to speaking; and I overthink things to a total fault. At the exact same time, though (and here’s where it gets weird), I’m also a super-social people-lover. I guess I just need both sides in me to be able to harmonize. In fact, I think we all do.

So here it is — I’m an introvert. And I’m embracing it 100 percent. Something I think we should all consciously try to do.

At the moment, though, all this emoting has made me kinda need to fall off the grid for a little bit. Gotta go jam some earpods in my ears and recharge in the den, under a blanket, with the door closed. Maybe with the lights off. Then I’ll be ready to roll again.

— Lisa Sugarman lives just north of Boston, Massachusetts. Read and discuss all her columns at lisasugarman.com. Or, find them on LittleThings.com, Hot Moms Club, BeingAMom.life, GrownandFlown.com, More Content Now, and Care.com. She is also the author of LIFE: It Is What It Is and Untying Parent Anxiety: 18 Myths That Have You in Knots—And How to Get Free available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and at select bookstores.