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.