Hello. My name is Joyce, and I’m an introvert.
Right now I expect about half the folks who’ve known me in adulthood (especially since my late 40s) to go “HUH? WHA?! YOU!?”
Um. Yeah. I cover it well. But, like many of my writer tribe, at heart I really am a quiet (but not shy) introvert. That outgoing, bubbly persona? Requires equal amounts of time where I just retreat to a corner and don’t deal with anyone other than closest family. I need my quiet time and one feature of my long commute to work has been the ability to have the time to myself with nothing other than the particular CD that currently reflects my mood.
I don’t even like radio, much less audiobooks. Occasionally I’ll call someone and talk on the long empty stretches of my drive, but for the most part, I really do prefer just me and the music.
Some of my favorite times at the barn come when it’s just me and Mocha. I used to chatter to my horses when I was a kid, but now I really don’t talk much to the horse. For one thing, Mocha’s made it clear she doesn’t care for a lot of monkey chatter–it’s all about the work once the tack’s on, for another, many times I’m still decompressing from work. That doesn’t mean I don’t mind it when barn rats fill the arena and alleyways…that can be fun, too. But I really do like those dark, quiet evenings when it’s just me and Mocha.
Same for the slopes. I like skiing with my DH, but I could never regularly ski with a group of people. Besides the logistics of managing four or more people in a ski group, I really like skiing quietly, observing the world around me. I never did replace my Shuffle when it died out because I got back into the world of quiet skiing, and now I really don’t want the sound track.
What got me off on this tangent? This lovely post over at the Book View Cafe, which also references this Jonathan Rausch essay at the Atlantic. Both are great reads.
How did I ever turn from introvert to apparent extrovert? Spending some time in the political organizing trenches as a young adult didn’t hurt, and then working at the process of socializing with others more effectively. I had the assistance of several extroverted friends who were kind enough to give me tips. Learning from the lobbying process how to schmooze with people whose interests were nowhere near mine, and how to create a persuasive argument for my position was also a big help. Learning not to flinch at my own verbal gaffes but push on without dropping a beat was another key. Learning about mental rehearsals, thinking ahead about what I wanted to say and who I wanted to say it to, and how I wanted to come off with it was another huge factor.
The other big piece is that I also started to pick my physical image very carefully. My clothing is often introvert armor, and I’ve learned to pick non-fussy stuff that’s not likely to lead to embarrassing wardrobe malfunctions whilst making me look reasonably good. I pull this off most of the time. Sometimes the magic doesn’t work, but hey, that’s what it is.
The final factor was becoming a middle school teacher. Middle school, more than anything else, requires a strong sense of confidence in yourself to the degree that you are not afraid to make fun of yourself. Hey, middle schoolers tend to think all adults, especially school staff adults, are stupid at least part of the time. If you’re too much of a stuffed shirt and can be brought down by the skewers of kids just starting to play with the art of verbal darts, you shouldn’t be working in middle school. There will be days when it all falls to pieces and that’s part of the flux of middle school, because those days get balanced by the days when everything is wonderful and soaring. Developmentally appropriate.
After teaching a tough middle school crowd, any adult social function is a piece of cake. Period. I might walk away telling myself “Well that was a crash and burn moment,” but after middle school teaching? I know that things will be better next time.
But I still need my quiet moments.
See you all in the silence.