KingMidget's Ramblings

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Wearing a Mask

This post by Carrie Rubin really hit home for me.  While there are ways my introversion differs from Carrie’s, what is fundamentally true is that I do things that people wrongly interpret as meaning there is no way I could actually be an introvert.  That I am somehow different than how I actually am.  What is fundamentally true is that there are so many things I do that are not me, but that I must do to fulfill my obligations, and those things are so exhausting.  As Carrie describes it:

Extroverts are energized by social interaction. Introverts are drained by it.

That doesn’t mean we don’t desire it. We just desire it in smaller bits, less often, and with fewer people. Which is why social media is easier.

But even that can leave us sapped.

This is what most people don’t get about us introverts and I am a proud, card carrying member of that tribe.  The fact that I work in a high profile job, interacting throughout the day with all sorts of people, addressing problems and issues, speaking up in meetings filled with people and engaging in discussions, debates, arguments, and everything in between in defense of my “client” does not mean that I enjoy it.  No, I don’t.  As Carrie says, I am not energized by what I must do for my job, I am drained by it.  On a daily basis.  The need to put myself out there to do these things is not me.  It is not who I am.  It is, in some respects, the antithesis of who I am.

Regularly, on my “client’s” behalf I must pick fights.  I must challenge other people.  I must argue and push and prod.  Every day with a whole range of people.  It is not who I am.  I am a quiet person who would like to cooperate and collaborate.  One on one to achieve a common end.

People look at me in the work environment and believe this is who I am.  That I must thrive on the type of chaos that exists there.  The reality is that they don’t even recognize it as chaos.  This is as things are supposed to be.  But, to me, it is frequently utter chaos because it does not fit who I am.

Who am I?  I am an introvert.  Send me to a party with a room filled with people and I will not like it.  I will dance around the edges, darting in and out of conversations, but I will not enjoy it.  Even if I’m laughing.  Even if I’m sharing and talking.  It is not me.  That kind of interaction.  It drains me.  I’d much rather sit with you and talk for two hours about anything and everything under the sun than to sit in the room full of people.

Who am I?  I’m the type of person who will do things that I must.  I may even volunteer to do things that take me out of my introverted comfort zone because I should.  This past weekend, for the second time in my life, I performed a wedding.  About five years ago, it was for my niece.  She and her husband-to-be asked me to officiate and I was so honored, I accepted right away and then spent the next few months preparing for the ceremony.  I loved it.  It was one of those rare highlights of my life.  Easily in the top five.  I hated it.  I was the center of the attention.  Up on a stage in front of dozens of people.  Speaking.  I hated it.  I hated it I hated it I hated it I hated it.  I absolutely loved it more than you can possibly know.

Fast forward a few years and one of my best friends met a guy she was clearly going to marry.  She knew how much I had loved (hated) performing the wedding for my niece and we began to talk about me performing her wedding.  In fact, she didn’t ask me.  I volunteered.  Because I had loved the experience with my niece and this friend means the world to me.

The wedding was this past Saturday.  On Friday, I was mentioning to a co-worker that I would be performing a wedding and how nervous I was because I’m not into public speaking.  “Oh really,” she said.  “It doesn’t show.”  And there’s the rub right there.  We introverts are experts at wearing the mask.  We have to to survive.  This is a world that doesn’t favor introverts.  This is a world that views introverts as odd.  This is a world in which introverts acting as they wish they could would not succeed in most fields or professions.  We would be buried.

As Carrie says, I’m not averse to social interaction.  I crave it, but at the same time …. when I go for my walks along the river these days, or experience other acts of solitude, I am torn.  Between the desire to be myself, where I can think and experience, and the desire to share those special moments with somebody else.  To have a companion to join me and worship with me the things I see and think and feel when I am alone.

Saturday night, my friend had planned a pretty informal ceremony.  More like a cocktail party with a wedding thrown in, the timing of the thing was completely up in the air.  And until the ceremony was over, I was a basket case.  I don’t thrive on these situations, I am drained by them.  The ceremony took place about an hour after the party started.  For that hour, I couldn’t get outside of my head.  I was in there, going over and over and over what I was going to say, even though I had a script.  My wife was with me and she could tell what was going on and while she didn’t laugh at me, there were moments when she smiled knowingly and … I felt like it was a bit of a dig. Like, “you volunteered for this, get over it.”

Yes, I didn’t have to volunteer to perform my friend’s wedding.  But I wanted to.  I wanted to do it for her and excel at it.  To knock it out of the park.  I loved it.  I hated it.  I loved it I hated it.

And this is what I think is one of those fundamental truths about writers and artist types.  How many writers have you met that like the promotional parts of writing and publishing?  Anybody?  Probably not too many, if any, and those who do — well, I think they’re kidding themselves.  We are, by nature, inside of our heads.  And I find myself moving more and more in that way.  When I visualize retirement, which may be a handful of years away now, I see myself writing, painting, running, staring at the ocean, walking along the river, baking, and just being.  Yes, many of these activities could be done in social settings or with others, but most of them are, in the end, solo activities.

It’s a challenge when you wear a mask.  Those around you frequently don’t realize you have one on.  And you spend your days and weeks and months wondering if there will ever come a time when you can just rip it off and let the world see you for what you are.  A quiet person who finds energy and solace in the quiet things in life.  Who doesn’t like the fight.  And that should be okay.

And, yeah, I’m pretty sure if you asked, I’d perform your wedding ceremony, too.  I love it that much.


15 responses to “Wearing a Mask

  1. Carrie Rubin June 8, 2015 at 8:18 pm

    Oh, how I can relate to this, as you know. I admire your honesty because you took it deeper than I dared to on my own blog. You captured the angst and fatigue perfectly. I felt that way at the end of a clinic day, and I feel that way during conferences and other professional activities. And, as I mentioned, I can even feel that way after a lot of social media. But also like you, I can talk for hours about deep subjects one-on-one with someone. Nothing superficial. Only the deep stuff.

    So yes, we get great at donning our masks (so much so that others can’t believe we’re introverts), but that doesn’t mean the masks ever feel comfortable.

    Thanks so much for the link to my blog and article. I appreciate that.

    • kingmidget June 8, 2015 at 8:24 pm

      Your post helped me realize the basis, one of the reasons, for why I am so drained at the end of the day. I’ve known it for years, but it really shined the light on the cause of that exhaustion. When you are forced to be something that isn’t you, that isn’t how you get energized, it has the opposite affect on you. It drains you. And that is what my job is. So, thank you for your post and how it helped me clarify what I have been thinking for a few years now.

      • Carrie Rubin June 8, 2015 at 8:33 pm

        My very introverted oldest son has thought about law school. He also excels at math and statistics. Needless to say I’d like to see him go into the latter just because I know it would better suit his personality. I’ve leaned from experience. But I suppose there are areas of law that are less people-oriented. But I’m sure law school puts a lot of pressure on one to be an extrovert.

      • kingmidget June 8, 2015 at 8:37 pm

        There are plenty of ways to use a law degree that doesn’t require an extroverted personality. And regarding law school, one of the reasons I went to law school was this … I first enrolled in a Masters program in International Relations. I dropped out after a month or so for several reasons. First, the amount of work combined with my need to work full-time created an impossible situation. Second, and more importantly, was that most of the classes were small in size, so there would be a lot of group discussions. There were also a lot of papers I’d have to write and presentations I would have had to make. No way. Meanwhile, in law school, with rare exceptions, I was one student in classes of 70-120 students and only had to worry about the one or two times I might be called on each semester. Yes, there are a couple of things like moot court and a few other things that pull an introvert out, but I actually found law school to be more conducive to my introverted ways.

      • Carrie Rubin June 8, 2015 at 8:55 pm

        That’s very helpful to know. Thank you!

  2. Amy Reese June 8, 2015 at 8:59 pm

    I enjoy social interaction, but find I do have my limits. Too much and I feel pretty drained myself. It’s one of the reasons I kind of fell out of teaching. Having to be “on” all the and at the center is exhausting. I don’t mind doses of it, especially if it brings a lot of satisfaction, like your officiating. That’s so cool you did that! Self-promotion has got to be hard! So hard, too, because it is expected.

    • kingmidget June 9, 2015 at 6:37 am

      I don’t dislike social interaction, I just prefer it in small groups. Large groups or a crowd of people I don’t know … blech. I’m not a mingler.

  3. butimbeautiful June 9, 2015 at 12:26 am

    I get what you’re saying. My job involves lots of interaction too, presentations and being charming to old folks and networking and so on – and I do it quite well, which I’m proud of. I like to think back to my lecturer at uni, who said as I was leaving, ‘So you’ve got a job as a researcher – that’d suit you, you’re not a people person, are you.’. So now I think ‘stuff you, mate, I am a people person if I jolly well want’. But like you, I’d really rather not.

    • kingmidget June 9, 2015 at 6:38 am

      Oddly, I think I am a people person, but I’m a people person in one-on-one settings. Example, there was a change of personnel in our office a few months ago. A number of new secretaries and assistants came with the new bosses. I’ve made a point of saying hello and talking to the new secretaries every chance I can to make them feel at home in their new digs. But it’s one-on-one, not grand welcomes with balloons and streamers and crowds of people.

  4. butimbeautiful June 9, 2015 at 12:27 am

    Mind you, I’ve met worse than me. My ex husband doesn’t like people at all and will fight with them given any excuse. Living with someone like that makes you quite warm towards the rest of humanity.

  5. Pamela Beckford June 9, 2015 at 7:13 am

    This describes me perfectly. My job requires that I interact with large groups socially, as well as do public speaking in front of large groups. It exhausts me and drains me of every ounce I have to give. People say I’m very good at it and think it comes naturally to me. I work hard to do it though. I’m happiest when I can spend one on one or one on 2-3 time. Happiest when I can spend time with a friend not saying a single word. Happiest when I can put my nose in a book and not interact at all. Happiest when my interactions are by text or social media.

    Weekends were invented for people like me so I can recoup and regroup before the next week’s onslaught.

  6. sknicholls June 9, 2015 at 10:04 am

    My career put me in intimate contact with people and teaching situations, large group speaking, and so on. I used to consider myself an extrovert, a social butterfly, a nudist, a party person. The stress made me crazy and nearly killed me. At age fifty, with retirement, I definitely became an introvert. Everything changed. Small talk irritates me. Large social events exhaust me. I’m good to make it to the grocery store, and don’t even really like the interactions there. I love 1:1 serious and intimate conversations, but feel tense in groups of more than two. It was to be quiet and distraction free for me to concentrate, especially on writing. My ideal days are spent reading a book, walking the beach, cruising on the boat with nobody but my husband taking in the sounds of the water lapping, the birds, sitting on a dock and watching the dolphins play. The internet and social media allow me to interact to the degree that I feel like, with no pressure to engage.

  7. Kevin Brennan June 9, 2015 at 10:06 am

    We should start an Introverts Club, but I I doubt if anyone would come to the meetings… I’m the same way, to the point of moving out to the country to keep my interactions predictable and rare. Plus I work at home!

    I do think that this is sort of wired into us, extrovert or introvert. There’s probably a gene for it. But what I’d like to see is more of a “whatever floats your boat” attitude in society, so us introverts get cut a little slack for not wanting to party on. I’ll tell any extrovert to knock himself out. Just let me do my thing as well!

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