I like being by myself. While people don’t usually believe me when I say this, I am a hardcore introvert. Yes, I am comfortable speaking front of crowd. Yes, I tend to be the loudest one in the room and draw a lot of attention to myself. Yes, there are plenty of times when I will go around and “work the room”, “kissing babies” and “pressing the flesh”. But, this is usually in places where I know most of the people AND I am relatively sure that they like me (or at least don’t despise me.)
At the very least, I need a safety net or ‘wingman’, some one who I trust implicitly and feel 100% comfortable around. Not just comfortable to hang around with, but someone who I am comfortable being myself around, including being able to not talk, yet not having that uncomfortable period of silence (you know, the kind that makes you desperately look around the room for someone else, anyone else, to talk to so you can flee from the awkwardness as fast as humanly possible, even if it means talking to a potted plant or your mortal enemy.) This includes being able to stand silently next to, either as a pair or in a small group, and pretend that I am cool, accepted and part of the discussion. Usually this person is my wife or, like at medical conferences, a select few of my trusted pediatric friends. Some of this is my introverted nature and some of this is my secret (now not-so-secret) lack of self-confidence.
Either way, when I have to be around people and make small talk it is very draining. I look for any opportunity to flee and retreat to some kind of ‘Fortress of Solitude’, like my hotel room.
For example, at the meeting I have been at (where I had none of my trusted security blankets), there was a mixer (do people even use that word anymore?) on the first night. I tried to expand my horizons and meet new people (I was also hoping to see some people I knew and needed to talk to.) I eventually found my Program Coordinator and some of her coordinator friends and made them my ‘home base’. But then they moved on to somewhere else (I guess I should have explained the rules of being ‘home base’!) and I was alone again. I tried really hard and stuck it out for another 20 minutes before making a mad dash for the elevator. (It helped that I found a new ‘home base’, the dessert table.) I did the same thing the next night, retreating to my room ASAP.
In my defense, I had a lot of things in my room that I was looking forward to finally doing. In fact, I had put so many things off to do until this trip that I had too many things to catch up on. There were 3 weeks of Sports Illustrated (looks like those bracket predictions fell a bit short, Seth Davis), a new literary journal I have gotten hooked on Lapham’s Quarterly, ESPN’s 30 for 30 series of documentaries, the music on my phone, thank you notes, this blog (clearly the top priority!) not to mention some work stuff. Plus I must have 10 books on my Kindle and a list of at least 30 books (I added two more on this trip alone) on my to-do ‘someday when I have some free time’ list.
It’s the same overloaded paralysis that hits me when I have some unexpected alone time at home. I have so many things to catch up on and so little time. Should I write a new blog post, watch that movie I DVR’d 5 months ago or play my poor neglected Wii? What about a nap? (Technically, there are probably some things around the house that need to get done, but those aren’t nearly as fun.)
And while it sounds pathetic to say that the Wii or Kindle are ‘neglected’, at some level I know that people spent hard earned money to get me such a wonderful gift, I should use them more often. I am like the cat in Aesop’s fable, I have too many tricks up my sleeve that when the time comes, I freeze. I should be like the rabbit, who only has one trick. And I am not even a ‘gadget’ person! (Or maybe I am and am in denial about it?!)
I don’t write any of this so that people feel sorry for me. I am extremely lucky that both myself and those close to me can afford these cool luxuries and I have a job and a life that allow me leisure time to enjoy these and a myriad of other pleasant activities. I could be like my great-uncle and others like him who worked in the steel mill endlessly and were happy to get called in for a double shift or to work on Christmas, because it meant more bread on the table and supplies for the kids. I could be a war-torn or poverty-stricken corner of the globe.
But on the flip side, don’t make fun of me when I say I spent 4 days in Miami, didn’t go to ‘Dash’, jeer the ‘MoHeatos’, visit the beach nor Calle Ocho and proclaim the best part of my trip was the documentary on the USFL that I watched alone, in my hotel room, on my laptop. After a long day ‘pressing the flesh’, this new rabbit needs his Fortress of Solitude.