Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Inner Power: Being an Introvert in an Extraverted World

I'll say it now, I'll say it a thousand times, 'til I'm blue in the face: Being an introvert in a world where extravertedness is considered "the norm" is tough. It's exhausting, not only to BE an introvert where extravertedness is often rewarded with friendship, leadership opportunities in the workplace, and greater opportunities to advance in a person's life and career, but it's also exhausting to have to explain your introverted nature to the rest of the world. These explanations never do the introvert justice either, because, frankly, extraverts (a.k.a. "normal" people), can't wrap their minds around how an introvert can be an introvert in the first place.

I was born an introvert. When I came out of my mother's womb, I didn't cry, but silently observed my surroundings for the first time (until, of course, the doctors made me cry, to make sure I was "normal"). As a small child, some of my best times were spent creating imaginary worlds with my toys, pencils or crayons. I didn't crave interaction with others. I was happy on my own. Socializing with other kids made me anxious. Every time we'd go over to a new house with new children, I'd be overwhelmed with dread, even though, once I got there and got going, I'd play along just fine.

People think that introverts are antisocial, but that's a common misconception. The reality is that interacting with others is extremely emotionally taxing for us. We feel comfortable in our own heads, with our own ideas, and our own understanding of the world, and interacting with others is like actively translating one language into another, in real time. Sure, we can do it, but, when push comes to shove, we prefer speaking in our native language.

Really, I'm not antisocial. I can actually be quite charming:

I've found that, throughout my life, I've encountered some very insecure extraverted types, who need constant validation through enthusiastic interaction. Typically those types of people end up being deeply insulted by me. They take my lack of gregariousness, my selective conversations, and thoughtful, careful demeanor as a personal affront, or sometimes are just profoundly annoyed by me.

At certain points in my life, I've been bullied by these types, those who interpret these traits as an indication of laziness, inattentiveness or stupidity. Extraverts tend to take a very "at face value" approach when it comes to personalities, and, not only that, but those who are the loudest, the "squeaky wheels," if you will, appear to them as being the smartest, most focused, most interested, and leadership-quality individuals.

I must twist a little wry smile at this assumption when I think about how my French grandfather used to say, Ce sont les tonneaux vides qui font le plus de bruit. (Empty barrels make the most noise). 

I'm not saying that all people who speak up are not as intelligent as those who are more reflective, but, after sitting through meetings with extraverts, who tend to fire off mediocre questions, or make mediocre points in rapid succession, while someone like me takes all of the information in and formulates a very thoughtful idea or question at the end of the discussion, or perhaps even afterward, after I've had time to research and understand the subject better, I think it's wrong to assume that just because someone is quiet and observant, that he or she just isn't clever enough to think of something to say.

Those who don't understand introverted folks and make these assumptions, as I mentioned, can turn into bullies, particularly in the workplace. I can't tell you how many times I've heard:



"What's wrong? You look mad [sad, upset, etc.]"


"You have a faraway look on your face. Are you daydreaming?!"


"You don't talk enough!"

The list goes on. This kind of bullying sends me further into my shell, of course. Not productive.

I've had employers and coworkers become angry with me for not scheduling enough one-on-one, in-person meetings. While I take ownership for some of these instances, I always consider that meetings are a two-way street. If you want to meet with me, put it on my schedule. I think maybe they'd get it if I explained being an introvert to a person who was an extravert like: Imagine that, every time you wanted to talk to another person, you'd have to recite the full Pledge of Allegiance. That'd become pretty tiresome, right? You probably wouldn't want to schedule a ton of meetings. Well, that's the amount of energy that I have to expend every time I meet with a person. 

Maybe they'd get it? In my 33 years of history with extraverted personalities, I doubt I'd make any kind of revelatory breakthrough, but it's worth a shot.

Mostly, the onus has been on us, the minority (one in four people are introverts), to change our ways, to expend more energy to "convert" to extravertedness for our eight hours or so in the office, in hopes that we don't offend too many people and can be recognized just enough to advance in our work. Still, introverted tendencies break through this facade. We aren't compelled to constantly reach out to others, we don't think well on our feet, and we work to establish quality over quantity (something all but lost in today's world). 

Last night, I was discussing with another introverted friend how we introverts needed to start a movement, to get people to be more understanding toward people like us, particularly in the workplace, because it takes all kinds of people to form a healthy society. I guess that movement begins with informing the bullies and those who are offended by us. We could say things like:

"I am interested in this subject, but I need more time to reflect on it."


"Stay tuned: I might have something to add to this topic, but I need some time to think about it."


"I'm not ignoring you, I'm just really 'in my head' a lot of the time. If you'd like to share something with me, please feel free to set up time to meet."


"I am not always very expressive when I'm concentrating on something."


"I'm not anti-social, I just need time to recharge my thoughts between meetings/social interactions"

Oddly enough, the more we introverts talk about ourselves, the more people might understand us and see us as "not so weird." 

It's a start anyway. We "lone wolves" need to stick together!

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Star-Crossed: Is True Love Really Rare?

I know it's post-Valentine's day, but, due to a recent avalanche of engagement announcements, including that of my younger sister, I've been pushed into a direction of contemplating the truths about real love. Additionally, when people ask me about my love life (of which I have little to divulge), after I tell them I think that some people just aren't meant to have true love, they scoff at the notion.

Yet, these are the people who will tell you that finding that one someone who treasures you and will valiantly do anything to be by your side, with whom you share a common mind and mutual attraction, is a rare and special gem. Still, these same people seem to think that, for the single folk, love is "just around the next corner!"

Well, which is it? Either love is rare and special, or it's a dime a dozen. My money is going to be on the former, or else it's not worth having at all. If every day I can hop out of bed, walk the dog and find the man of my dreams, well, then, bah, it's a joke.

Mathematician Peter Backus at Warwick University cleverly used the Drake Formula (an astronomy formula that calculated the number of possible highly evolved civilizations within our galaxy), to calculate his chances at finding true love in London. His estimated calculation was 1 in 285,000, and that was not counting the number of women who would actually like him back. I guess that math is one way to look at it, but still, I think, too many wildcards there for it to have any true accuracy.

Still, a person has to actually meet these other potential mates somewhere. Let's face it, how often do post 30-somethings mingle outside of their own social circles? Plus, in big cities where everyone pretty much keeps to themselves, there's not much of a shot of chatting up some random in public. So, we join "singles" sites and activities, searching in narrow channels for that one special goldfish to escape from the proverbial sea of regular fish and swim our way.

Plus, let's be honest, some of us have better chances of attracting and keeping a person than others, whether it's our care in physical appearance, our emotional wholeness and well-being, or our ability to commit ourselves to another person. If we are not ready to receive someone amazing, then it doesn't matter if that person throws him or herself at us. Some people ruin it with their own emotional weaknesses, and other times people are too self-involved to recognize it.

However, even if we know we are whole, and well, and we put on our best sparkling smiles and do everything right,  love can still pass us by, or maybe we meet the right person and they aren't emotionally whole yet. It seems as though everything has to be in perfect alignment for the cogs of love to start churning.  And, even if they do seem to work perfectly at first, life can wear on them, knock them out of alignment, and eventually cause a breakdown.

What I've observed about people who seem to truly be in love and who seem to be lasting is that they don't carry an idealized image of love and the other person in their back pocket. Sometimes the other person may do things that drive them fruit-batty, but, what they have decided, somewhere deep down within them, is that they absolutely, without question, love that person. That person is THEIR PERSON, the one that they can depend on, the one who knows them the best, the one who can wordlessly make everything okay again after an argument, the one with whom they share the most precious of memories, secrets and inside jokes. In spite of tough times, there's a mutual appreciation and an understanding that this couple is in it together. Lasting love requires a lot of emotional strength.

(Sure, there are some people who get together and stay together unhappily because they don't have the emotional strength to bail out. I'm not even discussing these folks. I'm talking about true love.)

At any rate, when I look up at a vast expanse of stars, shining in the vacuous night sky, I think, maybe, to me, a teeny speck on a teeny planet, 1 in 285,000 seems like impossible odds, but, in the universe of infinite possibilities, those odds probably seem pretty lucky.

I guess it all depends on you (and the size of your universe, of course).

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Unemployment Land: A Pointless Essay

Welcome to Unemployment Land This is how we roll.

I never imagined that, at 32 years of age, I'd be unemployed for this long. When it comes to my skills in relation to my field, I'm no slouch. In fact, I've got skills and experience in areas that a lot of people in my field wish that they had. Still...after two almost-hire situations, where things fell through at the absolutely last minute, I'm seven months adrift (thank you, holiday season)in this jobless ocean, getting weary, and a bit cabin-feverish to boot.

Knowing now the length of my journey, I feel like I should have kept some kind of Captain's Log to remind myself of the once-gung-ho, optimistic job seeker who awoke at 5:00 a.m. and spent entire days applying to new opportunities, anything even remotely close to touching her wheelhouse. She is not the me of today. I have to say, I'm slipping, and I'm afraid I'm becoming a little weird.

These days, The Beags, who has no consideration for allowing a person to sleep in, whimpers at my bedside at 6:15 a.m. each morning until I slide dramatically onto the floor, still exhausted, with exaggerated groaning to make the dog realize just how inconsiderate she's being. Then, I carefully place my feet (with one broken toe) into my sneakers, grab a hat and a hoodie, and glare furiously while I wrangle up the dog, who is leaping and spazzing like she hasn't been outside in months.

We take our abbreviated couple-of-blocks walk, which I feel guilty for (for my dog's sake), but it's not fun walking around on an ouchy pinky toe more than is absolutely necessary. Beags randomly lets out a startling "A-rooo!" at something across the street, which, of course, turns out to be nothing at all. I swear, she's either going senile or she just likes the sound of her own guttural bay echoing against my sleeping neighbors' houses.

Two poopies. It always has to be two, before we go back in. That dog is like clockwork. Or, if there aren't two in the morning, there's another one in there, and it'll need to come out later, and let's just hope she's outside at that point.

Back inside, I feed the pooch a little bit of kibble and a fish oil pill, and I consume some kind of breakfast, usually bread with PB and banana (or almond butter), and some water with electrolytes. I check my email, pore over Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google +, read articles, and find out what interesting people who are not me are doing with their lives. After that, I log onto job sites and poke around for new opportunities that seem like things I could really see myself doing, and I might bug some recruiters via email to see if they've got anything new for me.

After my morning job hunt, I might do some writing or sketches that will never see the light of day, or I might attempt to do a little research on something I'm interested in. I might call a friend or my mother, and enjoy a long conversation about life, which usually involves ruminating over the same obsessive thoughts, and looking at them from a different angle each time. Even though the person I'm talking with and I are totally sick to death of the subject matter, I can't stop going down that same path over and over. It's a little depressing, so I decide to do a bit of straightening up after the phone call in order to somehow sweep away the melancholy.

I might sing as I clean, or dance around like an idiot (although, not so much, since the toe incident). I might practice different accents in front of the bathroom mirror, or examine the width of my flapjack-esque, flat and wide butt in the living room mirror. I might see how well my socks slide on the hardwood, and then decide that I should probably vacuum, but not right now because I don't feel like it.

By this time, of course, I'm still not dressed. I get myself ready (for nothing, really), and make myself some kind of healthy stir-fry lunch. The Beags and I go out again for a quick pee. I realize that it's too hot outside for a hoodie. Then, we go inside and I hop on the social media/information superhighway wagon again, take care of bills, read that day's OkCupid messages (which I rarely answer), check a few more job sites, and stand up to stretch every so often. The Beags often bugs me while I'm typing, shoving her nose under my hand to force me to stroke her silky little Beagle head. I pretend to try to bite her, but The Beags, having gone through this charade all too often, sits stoically, calling my bluff as I lunge at her, teeth bared. Nudge, goes her nose. I acquiesce.

A little later in the day, I might have a training session scheduled, either a bike ride or a swim (I can't really run on a broken toe). It's one bright spot that gets me out of the house, devoted, on a mission. Afterward, I come home, shower, check email/Internet stuff again, and perhaps I'll get a call or a text from someone I know, one of those working people who actually works a 9-to-5. Maybe we'll hang out, grab a (cheap) bite, or a drink, or maybe I'll spend the rest of the evening watching Golden Girls,some nature show, or Grey's Anatomy. Maybe I'll spend some time thinking about what I should accomplish with ALL of my free time tomorrow. And, somehow, I'll manage to stay up until 11 or midnight, only to wake up and do it all over again tomorrow.

---THE END---

P.S. Want to help me out of Unemployment Purgatory and help me land the job of my dreams? Check out my professional website, here: (and pass it on)!