“I’ve been wondering that about you since the first time I met you,” my friend Cyrus said as he and I boarded the elevator back up to SEOmoz’s offices. “I’m somewhere right in the middle,” I responded.
The middle road is something I’ve learned to navigate. But it has been bumpy recently. No, Cyrus and I weren’t talking about my sexuality (which is a little less a 3 and more a 4 these days, in case you were curious) or which Star Trek series is my favorite.
Instead, we were talking about if I was an extrovert or an introvert. To which I can pretty much say “neither” or “both” to. Depending on how you want to spin it.
I was once turned down for a job — one almost identical to the one I have now — because I wasn’t an extrovert. I have been admonished by my introverted friends to give them some quiet time. I’ve read books in the corner at sport’s games; been the life of the party; been alone in a room full of people; and been asked to be a social ambassador because I just really made people feel at home. After GeekGirlCon ’11, I was so jazzed I didn’t crash until mid-morning the day after. Other days, I come home from work and am in my pajamas. I’ve found that different people in my life think of me in different ways on this scale, largely depending on how they know me.
The first half of 2012 has been a very introverted time for me, and I realize looking back, it shouldn’t have been. Or taking my friend JK’s advice and his belief that there aren’t personal things and the world would be better if we’d be transparent about our personal things, good and bad.
Because when I’m not transparent — and people think I’m an extrovert — they think I don’t like them or are doing suspect things. When really it was me, not you. This is quietness is not about you, it’s about me. And the people who think I’m an introvert — they just leave me alone. Which isn’t really the solution either. Because I need my friends and family to stop my brain from spinning, to kick out the jams as it were.
In February, I decided to end my four-plus year relationship with Jason. We ended not with a bang, but a continued fizzling out of everything that was not working. And we rather decided not to tell anyone.
(But Facebook still says we’re together! It must be true!)
We both hate the responses of sympathy, of picking over the bones, of the Facebook friend you haven’t seen in 15+ years who you were never close to wanting to know the score.
Plus, we had crap to figure out. We were living together and had been for a long time. We had to find new places, draw up custody plans for Winston, tell our parents, get on with life.
If you want to know the scene, it went like this:
I cried. “I think we should break up. What do you think?”
He pushed pause on his video game. “I want to be with you forever.”
I fell on his bed dramatically and hugged the cat. Winston meowed in protest. “But I don’t think we can be together.”
“Okay.” He patted my head.
Write that down, Lifetime. That’s how real people break up. I’ve done this scene a lot of times in my life.
Then I disappeared into introvert mode. I didn’t want to go out with people. I didn’t want to socialize with my coworkers or talk with my GeekGirlCon staffers. And it wasn’t people. It wasn’t you. It was me.
Instead of being sad, instead of crying or drinking, I turned off im. I read a book. I kept my head down and headphones on. I ignored Facebook and emails from friends. I made the break up “personal” businesses. Those I told were instructed not to ask me about it. Jason and I controlled the message by making no message. I did reputation management by not saying something because it was a non-story.
So much of a non-story that I think some of the people who came to help me move didn’t know Jason and I weren’t living together anymore and were surprised when I said we were only moving my stuff, not our stuff. So much of a non-story that there was a confusion of tweets about the location of Winston yesterday. (He’s with Jason for a bit right now.)
Of course, the non-story is a lie because it was sad for both of us. Even if we never had a screaming fight or have either of our parents say, “I never like them anyway.” Because it wasn’t like that.
Yes, sad enough for me to spend half of 2012 as an introvert. For me to withdraw with more stress and less patience. With more people second guessing my behavior. I know there were friendship and other relationship that I lost because I pulled back. I regret that. And even though I tried to keep my break up not other people’s business, it became that way in that rumors and assumptions surrounding what was my introverted licking of wounds.
I’m in the middle, and that’s where I need to stay. I need to have my nights in and my days out. Balance and transparency fit me the best. And clearly, that mode is better suited for those around me. Because there is no personal business and there is no context without explanation.