I am a professional introvert.
Ok…let me rephrase that. I am an introvert working in a professional environment. And I have been very successful in my field. I’m nowhere close to being a 1%er, but I am comfortable and have more responsibility than I deserve. I have been extremely fortunate. I’m not an actor, but 99% of people who know me would tell you that I am a “people person” or very much an “extrovert”.
I have them fooled.
I am a professional introvert.
I like to think of myself as a good planner. For instance, I know that the best time for me to use the break room to cook my Cup of Noodles for exactly one minute and 17 seconds is at 11:45. Not today. Today there was a lady sitting in there who I have never seen before. Can you believe I actually considered skipping lunch?
I took a chance. Of course she turned her head and allowed words to fall out of her mouth. In less than 90 seconds we had four conversations. “We” (she) talked about how there is no good news in the paper anymore. I tried my “go to” response of, “I know, right?”
Then she tried talking to me about war in the Middle East…I think I said something about how it’s been going on for generations, but by now I was already trying to use my imaginary powers to speed up time.
No, I haven’t tried the new sushi restaurant (they don’t deliver) and I have no idea when the Farmer’s Market opens for the season.
Three seconds before the microwave beeped I opened the door and left early. Yes, three seconds. That is how uncomfortable I was having a one-on-one conversation with someone I didn’t know. I felt more guilt about the noodles not having those final three seconds than the lady who obviously had more things to talk about.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a social outcast. It’s just that I didn’t plan on meeting someone new, nor did I plan on having a conversation, much less four of them. So now I sit feeling like I just left a three hour board meeting…except I feel much more comfortable speaking in front of dozens of people.
It’s a fine balance working in an office setting as an introvert. For the most part, I make jokes about it. I talk about how I just need to make sure I’m on my meds (ok…no joking matter, I really do have some for anxiety), or how, “You know me, I just can’t stand people…ha ha!” There’s also that move of acting like I am talking on my cell phone. Just make sure the ringer is off. It IS a bit embarrassing to be “talking” on your phone when it rings.
Usually the local newspaper is sitting in the break room. Most times I will pick up a section and pretend that I am reading it when using the microwave. “Pretend” because I’ve already read it online. I’m not above putting on an act to avoid conversation. Unfortunately there is a different person who likes to stand next to me and read it as I am reading it. THE EXACT SAME SECTION. It doesn’t matter which section I have…if that person walks in and I am standing with the paper, so is he.
I’ve sat in an airport with my headphones on looking at my Kindle with the battery dead on my IPod. Yep, my ears could hear no music, but those headphones stayed on. Even that doesn’t work all the time.
Elevators are another issue. I will literarily slow to a stop just to wait for the next elevator with hopes I won’t have to go up or down. Or hold the door. Or feel guilty (ish) for pushing the close door button. I’ve even found that I can push the close door button and then push the alarm button to have the appearance that I “tried” to push the open door button, just hit the wrong one in my haste to open the door. Don’t worry, the alarm button doesn’t do anything but make a ringing sound. At least that’s all I think it does.
So there it is…my brief introduction to what I plan on “talking” about. As I look over this before hitting publish, I realize that I sort of sound like a dick. Yeah, well, perhaps that’s part of the reason people think we just need to “come out of our shells” or “try a little harder.” We can’t change who we are. It’s in our wiring. Yeah, I can fake it like no one’s business, but my shell is my battery charger. You don’t want to see me without my shell. I don’t want to see me without my shell.