Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Introverted Extrovert/Extroverted Introvert

We're off to Chicago tonight for a mini-vacation and I'm so excited I can barely think straight. How I love that city.

Besides the obvious joys of the City of Big Shoulders (burritos, ribs, pizza, beer, sausage, beer...oh and art & architecture too!) and getting in a good visit with some old friends, there are two great things about this trip:

  1. We're driving there. It's about 9 hours if you take the highway the whole way, but we like to break up the trip to the city by staying overnight in Michigan and doing a little shopping. This means that on the way to Chicago I get to spend a day and a half alone with my husband, with no hyperdog barking at us when we hug (I'm sure the reason we don't have children is because our ridiculously jealous dog is secretly administering contraceptives) and no jealous cats competing for our attention by (cat a) not eating and (cat b) overeating. There will be quiet when we want to be quiet, and talk when we want to talk, we will consume Nibs and beernuts (our preferred roadsnacks) by the sackful, and we will get to sleep in a bed not recently befouled by cat b who seems to be making an artistic statement using urine, poop and our duvets as her media of choice.
  2. This is the last major commitment of the summer. Other than this trip (which I AM delighted about, trust me) and very fun wedding that I'm looking forward to in August, this mini-vacation is the last major commitment on the calendar. There is nothing else that I need to prepare for, cook for, board the dog and cats for, there is nothing else on the books that requires small talk or chat of any sort. And that, my friends, is pretty damned thrilling because July has been one long whirlwind of social gaiety and I am on the verge of a teeeeensy little breakdown if it doesn't stop soon.

Not that any of the social whirlwind has been forced on me. Oh no, no at all, in fact it was all my idea. I'm the one who agreed to events and trips on three subsequent weekends, I'm the one who decided to throw a big party for husband's 40th, I'm the one who decided that a night class comprised of two lectures and two tutorials per week was doable. I'm the one who agrees to dinners and lunches and all that stuff. And I'm the one who ends up panicking and cancelling and getting sick because of it.

I am, by nature, about 50% recluse. I would be delighted if I could stay home and potter around all day and not talk to people. When I left university, I said I was going to get a post-grad diploma in museum studies & conservation JUST so I could get myself a job labeling stuff in the basement of some museum and not talk to people. Half the reason I took to Facebook and Twitter like a duck to water is because you can communicate with people without actually having to talk to them. Okay, okay, I'm not a total freak, I don't mind talking to people in person (mostly), but I do loathe the telephone and I find it extremely difficult to talk to someone if I can't see their face. I get depressed (and frankly bitchy) if I don't get enough time alone, and will become physically ill (I can spike a fever like a five year old) if I don't get enough time to spend at home with no more company than my husband and the pets. I am the all time worst person to send to a conference because I just want to go to the sessions and learn stuff, I have no interest in "networking", which is apparently the whole point of conferences. Speaking in front of a crowd or group fills me with a gagging fear and my voice will get higher and faster in correlation to my discomfort -- I once had to make a presentation to a city council defending a grant application I didn't believe in and by the time I finished the only mammals that could have heard and understood me were bats or dolphins.

So what do I end up doing for a living? Do I spend my days shuffling around some museum basement, wearing acid free cotton gloves and labeling the detritus of the past, blissfully alone and silent? No. I somehow fall into fundraising, an industry based entirely on building relationships with people, a process that involves talking and being with people. All. The. Time. And I do it, and sometimes even well. I'm a great rodeo clown to have on a donor call as I can (usually) draw even the most recalcitrant person into talking about themselves while the other development officer zeros in for the actual donation request. I can write a wicked grant application and chat up funders like no tomorrow. If I believe in a cause I can sell it like Elmer Gantry sellin' that old tyme religion. And I kind of get a kick out of working events like golf tournaments and gala dinners.

My boss says she's much the same way and describes herself as an introverted extrovert, or perhaps an extroverted introvert, I can't remember which way it goes, but at least there's evidence of other freakily unsocial people ending up in this business. My mother figures I'm genetically predisposed to this type of behavioural confusion because I'm 50% her and 50% my father. My mum, left to her own devices is a pretty darned social person and before various small town arts organizations treated her like shit and took all her fun away, she was an eager volunteer in the community. My father, on the other hand, is so economical with his words that my friend Angela didn't actually hear him speak until about 4 years after she met my parents ("Omigod, your dad spoke to me, YOUR DAD SPOKE TO ME!").

But, whatever. Given that a windfall o' cash isn't likely to happen and I've got to work for a living, it's a pretty good gig and you do get to meet some very interesting people. And working in a museum basement might not be half the fun I think it would be. But a girl can dream, can't she?

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