I was listening to NPR yesterday, and there was an interesting discussion on introverts vs extroverts. The idea was our idea of an introvert is someone shy, someone who doesn’t connect with others, for example. Most people, seeing that I am a professor that steps in front of huge groups of people on a regular basis and do a fairly good job of being confident, clear and comfortable when I speak, would assume I’m an extrovert.
I’m so fricking not.
It’s not that I’m not comfortable in front of people. I can easily lecture, taking critical questions, for hours on end, be it in front of students, or peer reviews, a whole stadium of strangers. But get me in a office cafeteria, or after class with a handful of strangers, and I cringe. Because I hate small talk. I hate that getting-to-know-you-and-actually-appear-interested dance people do. I can happily go months without talking to anyone. And if I do have a conversation? I’m more likely to step into the deep end of the pool with a in-depth, philosophical discussion or debate. Apparently this is another trait of introverts–we DO like to talk, just deeply.
So I’m not shy, I’m just…a hermit. Not needy for attention. Not looking for social acceptance for self fulfilment. Disenchanted with chit-chat. Its not that I look down on any of it, or that I don’t see the value and how people can build meaningful contact that way…However I say it doesn’t sound good, but it’s like this; some people really love playing soccer. They love the interaction, the feedback in the crowd, the team spirit, the rituals, the nicknames and pats on the back, the feeling of belonging to the group…
Then there are those who like martial arts. It’s more solitary, but your competition is yourself–can you be better? Can you hold that pose for a minute longer? And while you’re doing this, you’re thinking about balance, and chi, and how to grapple with fact that your focus and stamina is for something essentially lethal, yet uses more restraint than you have when eating cookies. And then you start thinking of the concept of restraint as a social construct, and where is that fine balance between Lord of the Flies and Little Women, all while by yourself in a dojo, juggling flaming nunchucks or something.
It’s like that. Soccer may be great and I totally get that, but martial arts is just more my bag.
Which is why the first week of school KILLS me. I’m not used to talking anymore, so my voice is cracked from all the speaking. My head hurts from focusing on caring about a staff members holiday, or what their spouse thinks of sausages. Sausages, for gods sake. Or a student who doesn’t leave after class is dismissed, wanting to tell me all about this one funny video on youtube that they can’t quite remember…Why do we talk about this stuff? Why ask me how I am and keep walking without listening to what I say? Why ask, when you don’t really want to know? Should I be honest, or should I be polite? Do I have to answer at all? Am I perceived as being bitchy because I didn’t answer when you were already 8 feet in the other direction?
The stress of it all just exhausts me. I just need some time to settle back into the idea of community. It’s not natural, but I can do it. With some pain and suffering…