It’s easily assumed I’m outgoing. I’ve a reputation for wanting to be the life of the party. For a significant portion of my youth, I thought I neededto be the life of the party so much so that if I wasn’t in full form, people would say, “are you ok?”

With that assumption came my own self-expectation: I need to be the outgoing one helping parties thrive.

And then I got older.

During an end-of-year party in my kid’s 1stgrade class, a friend muttered to me, “I loathe these things. The frenzied energy of the parents, the temperature in the room, the kids are over-whelmed, our own expectations for throwing a party for the kids and yet we have to get in and out in forty minutes. It’s awful.”

And this guy, whom I consider perfectly at-ease in public, made me realize: “Oh my God. I hate these things, too.”

At my 40thbirthday, my partner asked what I wanted to do and how many dozens of people I wanted to invite, and I realized, “You know? I just want to have a dinner party with my closest friends. And no more than that. Just like…a few super close friends.”

Most of the birthday parties my kid has been invited to, this year, have been met with protestations. “I don’t wantto go to that party!”

“But buddy, it’s your friends and there’ll be pizza and cupcakes!”

“I don’t care.”

“What do you want to do?”

“Stay home.”

Eye roll. (My own.)

Part of me thinks this is his anxiety about being in uncomfortable circles where there might be different kids and he’s insecure in a dress. But I’m probably projecting that.

My instinct is to say, “Life’s tough, kid. You gotta be in new circles. You can’t avoid it all.” And every single time he attended one of these birthday parties, he had a great time.

But toward the end of the year, I started to pull my head out of my ass and gave some real consideration to the fact that going to parties is notalways fun. Structured birthday parties aren’t always great, even if the cake rocks. The screaming, the waiting for your turn to hit a piñata, the other kids melting down, etc. It’s not that fun. Even for a six year-old.

And I think I’m taking us all out of contention for “life of the party”. Because that is such a tiresome role to play. Just…be yourself. Don’t fulfill perceived social pressures.

That’s a lot different when you’re 6 rather than 26. But still.

I spent so much energy needing to be the person I felt others expected of me. Now, my extroverted part needs heavybalance from my introversion. The older I get, the more I really just wanna be home alone. And I love it.

I love the occasional raucous night out. Love that, too.

And I looooove binge-watching Orange is the New Black. (Ohmigod, you guys, have you finished the last season? What a powerful final few scenes.)

I’m gonna do a better job letting my kids find their own social comfort station.

If they feel like being outgoing, so be it.

And sometimes there are obligations to fulfill. Life’s easier if you can perform when need be…occasionally.

But knowing limits is important, too.