Bohemian Like You

I couldn’t resist the allusion to the Dandy Warhols in the title. I came across Jonathan Rauch’s “Caring for your Introvert” (Atlantic Monthly) through Brian’s entry on this article, so “Bohemian Like You” only seems appropriate.

Hi, I’m Shin and I’m an introvert. While I’m not aggressively antisocial, I find people best at small doses, whether they’re family, friends, lovers, or acquaintances.

It’s nice to know that introversion is an orientation, but this culture is run by extroverts who don’t understand people like me at all. People like me, however, have had plenty of time to observe them.

Given a choice between living with others or by myself, I will live alone. I am willing to pay a little more for this whenever possible. On the surface level with roommates, there’s a lot of bullshit I’d rather not deal with: messiness, personal tastes, sharing things, and bathrooms to name a few things. The bottom line, however, is that I can find other people intrusive in my home, especially if they are the type who thrive on company. I want to be left alone so I can read, write, watch my TV shows, or surf the net. Then, there are all the things I would rather do when no one is around, like have a footbath and give myself a pedicure.

I’m fond of daydreaming and conceiving characters, milieus, and stories in my mind. I’m happiest when I can get lost in my imagination and write or draw pictures. I wish I had more time to do this.

I find it interesting that Rauch says, “We tend to think before talking, whereas extroverts tend to think by talking, which is why their meetings never last less than six hours.” I typically think before saying something. I often feel like I’m editing my sentences in my head so I can coherently say something, and the delivery can be awkward at times. Though I have my moments of quick, witty remarks, I am often not good with the quick response. Answering people and participating in small talk are things that feel laborious to me. As an introvert, I have had the opportunity to observe extroverts, and they often talk about nothing most of the time. Often, when I’ve had conversations with people (especially an assertive extrovert), I find their responses lacking. In other words, I don’t think they’re listening, despite that they may be quicker and more confident in what they say. When someone listens, I’m truly impressed.

There’s nowhere where this becomes apparent more than parties. As much as I enjoy going to parties, participating in banter can be awkward. Some people “hold court” while people like me try to figure out how to get a word in edgewise. I guess I haven’t mastered the extrovert’s ability to detect the pause in conversation and quickly jump in.

Of course, parties are events where I don’t like to stay for long. Long enough to make an appearance, but short enough to limit my interactions with people. The issue is similar to what I encounter in teaching.

I often feel being an introvert is an occupational hazard. Teaching is an activity where I must interact with a group of people, and I find it tiresome. Even though I may spend one hour (minimum) per session with a group of students, I feel I need to unwind afterwards. Late afternoon and evening courses work the best for me, as I can go home and easily unwind in several different ways – TV, Internet, reading, music, or a nightcap. In my ideal schedule, I can easily take care of prep work and grading in the daytime, teach at night, and have my dose of solitude and unwinding after class. However, I often take classes I can get, so I teach some courses in the morning and the afternoon, which ruins me for the entire day.

Yes, teaching can make me feel like a whore. I could easily point to how I’d rather write or do art, but any job is whoredom in that case. Even though I am one of the nicest people in the world and am capable of friendliness, I really am not a people person. I am not fond of being emotionally or psychologically promiscuous. I prefer to interact with a few people than many. Given that, I don’t hate teaching. I enjoy it, especially when I have those teaching moments (those unexpected lessons that come up).

Overall, it is a matter of caring for my introvert. Part of it is managing my time so I can unwind from lessons and even to set aside time where I can sit down and prepare (and feel good about it). Another part is being able to say no to friends like Mr. Pushy, who thrives on dragging me along to adventures in crowded places. I’ll probably post more about being in introvert in the future, but thanks for tuning in.

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