Today’s INF interview is with Alli Stone. In her own words...
Alli Stone lives in the Dallas suburbs with a lively bunch of humans and pets. She’s worked full-time in public education for nineteen years, with the gray hair and swollen heart to prove it. When she’s away from work, she’s busy transcribing her daydreams into stories so she can one day list her published novels in her biography. She consumes books like she does caffeine and blames her favorite authors for keeping her entertained with their books instead of writing her own. She loves rain, mysteries, and would make Cormoran Strike fancy her if he wasn’t so imaginary.
🎧 We also followed this interview up with a podcast conversation -> listen here (episode #14).
Hi Alli! So can we start this interview by finding out where in the world you currently reside? Is this also where you grew up?
I live in the Dallas suburbs (north Texas), but I grew up in Houston (south Texas). My dad’s family is from Dallas, so we spent a lot of time visiting when I was younger. After some traveling around and a few years at college, I joined my parents who’d settled in Dallas. That was 20 years ago.
I’ve been fortunate to visit the States on several occasions, but not Texas as yet… the Southern states are on my ever-growing list, though.
Do you remember what you were like as a child?
I was always in trouble! Or at least it felt like it. I have an older sister who was, and still is, basically an angel. Then I came along and shocked everyone. The funny thing is that I almost never meant to do something bad. My problem was that I didn’t ask for permission. I followed my curiosity, made my own decisions, and then was puzzled when I got in trouble.
I love that, that you were following your curiosity even at that young age. (And I’m actually the older sibling to a younger brother). Speaking of these childhood years, what was school like for you? And how were your teenage years as a whole?
I’ve always loved school. No matter what the social situation I was in, I could detach from it and immerse myself in what I was learning. Even the subjects that came harder to me (I switch my numbers in math and I’m convinced that all science is basically magic--how can anything be THAT small???), I liked learning about them. Like you’re working a puzzle when you learn something new. My early years in school were great because we’d lived in the same place and I was plugged into the neighborhood and religious communities. The last few years of high school were tough because we moved around. I became reclusive and rebellious. Thankfully, that angsty period was short-lived.
And in the present day… What words, or phrases, would you use to describe your current self?
Creative, nurturing, intuitive
When did you first realise that you were an introvert? How did this happen?
I’ve always known it, but I only started using the word in the last few years when it was discussed more in the media. What had confused me before was that I knew I was an introvert. I’m never lonely when I’m alone. I’m never bored. But I also enjoy people and I can talk to absolutely anyone. What I realized is that I equated being an introvert to being painfully shy. I’m not, though I do sometimes have mild social anxiety...mostly when I’m worried that the upcoming interaction will be awkward or long-lived. Once I understood that I could enjoy social situations, but that I needed lots of time to recover from them, the idea that I was an introvert made a lot more sense to me.
I can so relate to everything you have said here. I can be really sociable, which is why my being an introvert seems to constantly be met with confusion.
So, are you an INFP or an INFJ?
And when did you first do the Myers-Briggs test and realise you were an INFP?
A little less than a decade ago. I was working summer school with my best friend and we each did the test. I’m INFP. She’s INFJ. We were astounded how accurate the descriptions were.
Wow, how cool that you had an INFJ best friend. Do you feel that discovering you were an INFP has impacted you in any way?
I don’t think discovering it impacted me in a big way. I didn’t change the way I did anything. But it did help me understand who I was in relation to others. And it did provide an opportunity for reflection. Now I extend myself more grace than before. Instead of berating myself for my introverted tendencies, I try to avoid the pitfalls. For example, I went to my first professional writing conference this fall. I wanted to take advantage of every event offered, but I knew I wouldn’t be able to hang in without getting overwhelmed. I scheduled a break for myself after lunch every day. I’d return to my hotel room, get in pjs, wash off makeup, and climb in bed for a nap. I’d get ready again like it was morning and head back to the conference for the evening events. By doing that, I was able to avoid meltdowns, to look forward to every moment I was with the other attendees, and my brain was rested enough to process all the new information. BUT, I did mess up once. And this is SO ME. There was a full-day writing workshop the day before the conference began. I was so excited and morphed into the social butterfly version of myself. I made friends with everyone in my path. Everyone. Fellow commuters, the greeters at the hotel, the folks who helped me with the find the conference room, the ladies who signed me in, the other people at the tea station, the man refreshing the water jugs, everyone who made eye contact with me as I tried out 1, 2, and finally the 3rd seat to would be the best, and finally, the three ladies who sat closest to me. Within 5 minutes, I’d pulled my seatmates into our new best friend group. We took photos, we talked about our lives, and we made silly plans to travel together on research trips. I felt really bonded to them, to everyone in the wonderful new world of likeminded people, but especially to them. This is at 8 am. The conference started, we learned great things, we chatted, we made murmuring noises of support to each other. Then mid-morning, there came this moment when I knew I’d messed up. I was overwhelmed: by the proximity of the people, by the vast amounts of information coming at me, and I desperately needed a quiet moment. I was able to laugh at myself, at least, that I was the catalyst who brought this group together when I was also the person who needed out immediately. “What did you get yourself into??” I knew that my new friend group would be expected to lunch together--that’s the social expectation anyway--and I absolutely could not do that. So I started talking about needing to write over the break to set the ground work for not attending a group lunch. Once it became decision time and everyone looked at each other to see who would suggest lunch, I was able to excuse myself. I thought it was interesting they all decided to other things when I wasn’t organizing lunch. In the afternoon, I had to take a break in the lobby during the lecture, but I couldn’t help it. I was overwhelmed and needed quiet and space immediately, not during the scheduled break.
Oh my goodness, this is all so interesting to read about and extremely relatable. It feels like I had a very similar experience myself at a Summit I attended in Portland, Oregon a couple of years back. It was a place that was completely full of “my people” and some really cool talks and workshops… I definitely got over-excited and over-extended myself, though. Since then, I’ve honed my understanding of my energetic levels and boundaries… but that doesn’t mean to say I still get carried away now and then (often), though...
What qualities do you feel that INFs share?
I think it’s mostly everything. Creativity, understanding of others’ needs, also energized by quiet time.
What were your favourite subjects at school? What did you study at university/college?
For me, it was anything with a story. English literature and history have always been my favorites. I was an English Lit major and French minor in undergrad. I have an information science (aka library science) masters degree. Really, anything with a story brings out my curiosity. I thought I wanted to be a business major for a while because I loved my macroeconomics professor’s explanations of the financial market and society. That dream ended when I realized I had to take accounting courses. Nope. Same for my political science and law school dreams. What I really wanted to be was a character in a John Grisham book, not an actual lawyer. It was in my obligatory literature class, that I became obsessed with critiquing fictional people. I’m still obsessed.
Haha, this reminds me of the time it was my dream to be a detective like Columbo or someone from CSI; an example where the ‘reality’ would not have lived up to my dream-like imagining of it.
So, Alli, what are you spending your time on at the moment?
I’m a full-time librarian in a public high school (grades 9-12). I’m working on becoming a professional writer. I’ve written 1 middle-grade manuscript that’s in the editing process, I’m drafting a YA caper, and I have a couple of projects currently in the brainstorming stage.
Oh, that sounds exciting. And was there a moment in your life when you made a drastic change?
Yes. Actually, many. I tend to be methodical in my daily life but spontaneous with the big decisions. So many times, I’ve upended my whole life off pure instinct. Sometimes it was a good idea, sometimes not the smartest thing, but it always seemed necessary. Imperative, even. I don’t wake up with an idea for a new life, it’s been simmering below for a time, but when I act it, it’s usually drastic and surprising to others. I’m trying to think of an example that isn’t intensely personal..still thinking!
Wow, I love that sentence and it really resonates with me - “Methodical in my daily life but spontaneous with the big decision.” The number of times I have upended… thank you for sharing this, I’d never thought of it like this.
I know you’ve talked about writing already, but do you have another creative/artistic outlet at all?
Yes, I like textile arts, and I complete projects to relax. Mostly, I make quilts in blankets and do some embroidery. I like to pair making with television time. I used to think it was because I didn’t like to sit idly, but I’ve realized that’s not it. In addition to enjoying the tactile sensation and aesthetic appeal of fabric, it also provides a barrier between me and what’s on tv. As much as I love entertainment, the content can get under my skin.
Would you describe yourself as a 'highly sensitive person' (HSP), or an empath?
So, yes! Both actually. I identify as an emotional and physical empath, and there have been times I’ve wondered if I’m some of the other types listed in Dr. Orloff’s The Empath’s Survival Guide. This is a newer discovery for me. I’ve worked through my thoughts on the topic--this is NOT the way I grew up!!--and now I’m trying to be open to it instead of defining it.
You know, I haven’t read any of Judith Orloff’s books as yet but I’ve heard good things. I know that the understanding around ‘empath’ is a little less clear (as opposed to ‘high sensitivity’, where there is a scientific test devised by Dr. Elaine Aron), but I am definitely interested in learning more about being an ‘empath’ and the ‘types’ you refer to. I often feel that us INFPs and INFJs are more than just highly sensitive, we really really feel the energy of others and our surroundings.
Moving on a little, do you have a personal definition of 'success'? What does being 'successful' look like to you?
I wish I did. I really don’t know.
Thank you for being so honest. What about 'happiness' - do you have a personal take on that?
Nope! Haha. For me, there’s “everything is pretty good!” or “oh geez, I can’t bear this life.” Not a lot in between.
Do you like to plan things, or are you more of a go-with-the-flow type of person?
I’m a little of both. I’m very organized and I have many plans for the future, but I’ll change directions and ride the flow, too.
I like it :) And again I’m reminded by that oh-so-relatable sentence that you used earlier!
Okay, we’re getting close to the end of the interview now. What does your 'perfect Sunday' (or Saturday) look like?
I need both Saturday and Sunday to have enough time for what my version of perfect! I’d like to go for a run, meet with a writing partner, spend time with my kids, spend time with my husband, worship, read, watch a movie, get caught up on tv shows, spend some time in the backyard, and get full nights of sleep.
There isn’t enough time, is there? All of this sounds lovely, though :) Is there anything you've recently read, watched or listened to that you've loved?
Oh, all the things. I love all the things. Movie: 1917. Book: Are You Sleeping by Kathleen Barber. TV: Fleabag. Podcast: True Crime Obsessed. Blog: crimereads.com. And so many others!
I love True Crime, too… Speaking of which, do you have any other favourite blogs or podcasts?
Well, I’ve heard about this new INF-club blog that I plan on checking out!
Haha, oh bless you, you’re very kind… How about favourite movies or TV shows? Anything you've seen recently that you'd recommend?
I just watched the first episode of Living with Yourself on Netflix. It stars Paul Rudd and I thought it was perfect.
If you could go back in time and meet "you" back in 2010, is there any advice that you'd give this younger self?
To ‘the me’ that was specific to 2010, I’d tell myself to act on what I knew was right. Sure, there’d be devastating consequences, but not acting would be catastrophic.
And if you could one or two pieces of advice to your follow INFs, what would they be?
Get your ideas out into the world. We’re the idea people. Being an introvert is no excuse for keeping that greatness to yourself!
Yes - this! Thank you for sharing that. What does 'self-care' mean for you? How do you practise it?
Self-care is time to myself, using that time any way I want to. Sometimes I’m productive (writing, cleaning out a closet, working in the garden), sometimes I entertain myself (going to a movie solo is the height of indulgence for me!), and sometimes I give myself [time?] to do nothing (take a nap, daydream).
Again, this all sounds lovely. Do you have a favourite quote?
Not really one I can quote off the top of my head . I can usually remember the sentiment of the current Dalai Lama’s quotation. I just looked it up: “Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.”
Alli, this has been so enjoyable. If they wish to, is there someplace whereothers can find and connect with you online?
Lastly, is there anything else you'd like to say?
Not a single thing is coming to mind! Thank you for this opportunity. I’m not used to be a person others want to know about. I’m fighting to overcome that outlook and share, share, share with the world!
It’s been such a pleasure to interview you, Alli. Thanks so much for taking part!
Jas + Alli
Published: June 14th, 2020.
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