I’m the first to admit that I’m a total fraud. I’ve got degrees in psychology and sociology, and was a class away from finishing the pre-med track as well, but all that really means is that 1) If it were possible to get paid to go to school I would have been a professional student for life because I LOVE LEARNING and 2) I’m much more comfortable in a role as an observer. People are fascinating! But they’re also completely draining.
I spent over fifteen years in luxury retail and although I won awards in customer service and moved up multiple times in the management ranks, I was never fulfilled. In fact I excelled at what I did, and I was miserable. I left the crowds and neon of the Las Vegas Strip every day feeling overstimulated, and had to lock myself away in a quiet room with a book and my cat to normalize. I was so good at being outgoing and exuberant in my interactions with employees and clients that I still have friends who refuse to believe I’m an introvert at heart, which is perhaps proof that I should have stuck with my dreams of being a professional actress.
I never really understood the depths of my split personality until I read Quiet by Susan Cain a few years ago (which I recommend for everyone – not just the introverts of the world) and it was a total light bulb moment. All those years of accolades and exhaustion made sense!
We live in a society that celebrates the loud and outgoing, and some people are forcing themselves into that mold just to succeed. Kids can’t get perfect marks if they don’t raise their hands and participate. Teenagers have to post incessantly to various social media platforms just to stay relevant to each other. Do you want to advance in your workplace? Try doing that while being the only person NOT going out for happy hour with the boss.
I’m not whining. I played the game. Hell, I crushed the game. I still do, because my husband’s work requires many social occasions with many different clients, and I will always put on my happy face and worry about recharging my batteries later for him. Mostly I’m just putting it out there that sometimes I need to hibernate occasionally. But if my sweet sensitive niece ever decides she wants to give up the cookie sales so she can bury her head in the books she loves, I’ll go to bat for her anytime.