On Being an Introvert: Self-Discovery

For the last few years, I’ve felt slightly out of place. Unlike most twenty –somethings, I did not enjoy going out to clubs or bars or parties. I usually ignored group invitations with the guise that I worked too much (which I do, so it’s not too much of a lie). Instead of venturing out to brave bulk shopping days like Black Friday, I stayed home, content with some online browsing of potential gifts.

However, I saw that my friends of Facebook, my peers in living the twenty-something lifestyle, were all very social. They often posted about the parties they attended or the gatherings they had at their homes. And I was a little bit jealous. They always looked like they were all having so much fun. Yet, I knew that if I tried to engage in these same social engagements, that I would find myself awkward and uncomfortable. I would look for an exit as I was forced to share parts of my life or endure the endless small talk. For this, I felt unlike many of my peers because I was uncomfortable with the cornerstone of twenty-something social interaction.

A week ago, as I cruised through Pinterest, one of my favorite downtime activities, I stumbled across a pin about INFP. I don’t remember what the pin said exactly, but I identified immediately with the quirky observation. I had completed the Myers-Briggs Personality Test a couple of years ago as a group activity at work. At the time, I thought it was fun because it links the best careers for your personality and one of mine was a writer, which I have wanted to be since I could read my first book. Yet, I did not understand the other components of the personality or the characteristics usually associated with it.

As I dug further, first through Pinterst and then onto the World Wide Web, I realized that what I had considered my social awkwardness was really a byproduct of being an introvert. I did appreciate one article that explained that begin an introvert did not equate to being shy, but rather that introverts found extended periods of time surrounded by people to be draining. Personally, I actually enjoy speaking in front of people, as long as the topic is not about me. I am not shy; I can approach students and customers alike with relative ease, as long as I am not detained for a longer than two-minute session of small talk.

When I was in college, I sat next to this fellow who I thought was really cute, but I was unable to speak to him for fear of rejection. I didn’t even look at him because I worried that this would start a conversation and he would realize how awkward I truly was. When I discussed this with one of my friends, she explained to me that although she knew I was a genuinely kind person, I came off a little snobbish. This, I found, I can thank my introvertism for. Obviously, nothing developed from my crush, but I carry that same awareness with me- that I can appear a little snobbish. Now, do I completely blame my introvertism for it? Or is it because I am a New Englander? Does the cold make me inherently bitter? Are these leftover feelings from the Puritans?

Okay, I digress.

Yet what is the outcome of all of this?  I am beginning to finally understand my introvert, acknowledge her pitfalls and, most remarkably, embrace a sense of confidence in knowing that I am not alone in my need for quiet reflection, my over-thinking and under-speaking dilemmas and my intensely large personal bubble. It is funny that, by realizing that my personality is so heavily influenced by introvertism, I actually feel more self-assured.

A Tale of Two Jobs: Part 1

About a year ago, one of the tax preparation offices ran a commercial where a plumber (or a retail worker) was giving tax advise to their customers. The customers were a little taken aback by their advise, but when the plumber/ retail associate identified themselves as their tax preparer, they are even more shocked and the company sponsoring this commercial then prompts the viewers to wonder about who is preparing their taxes.

I work two jobs–one at a local college and one at a local supermarket– and I often feel like the plumber or the retail associate when I run into college colleagues or students as I stock produce in my company-issued red polo. 

It’s an interesting dynamic. Sometimes, I look up and call out a “How’s it going?” as they enter the produce department. Sometimes, I run to the cooler and find something to busy myself with until they have moved onto the bakery or deli. And, with the intention of full honesty, it is at this point that I realize my embarrassment for working such a job and my snob-attude rears its ugly head.

As I work two very different jobs, I find it an uncomfortable, yet necessary, juxtaposition. For one job, I need a skill set designed to explain the unforgiving nature of writing and study. My qualifications include a four year degree from a liberal arts college, something I do not often mention to my students for fear of seeming like an elitist. Yet, in the same day, I exhibit a different skill set necessary to distinguish quality and perhaps even give advice in food preparation. Here, it seems absolutely unnecessary for me to think about my degree, a proud accomplishment, as I lift 40 lbs cases of bananas and trim the ends off lettuce.

Now, I’m not saying that I do not enjoy my produce gig. Actually, I enjoy working as a team member to achieve sales goals. I know that, at the end of the day, my contributions help my coworkers in addition to the customers we serve. However, the fact that it is often pair with my other job makes me feel like the plumber from the commercial- someone with questionable qualifications if she must work a blue collar job.

I suppose my main concern lies in my appearance to others. At first, my college related coworkers and students often share the same shocked faces when they see me in produce section donning my red polo as those customers in that commercial I mentioned earlier. Some even don’t recognize me. People, who would have greeted me as I walked through the campus hallways, pretend to (or genuinely don’t) see me. It could be the assumptions made about people who work in retail or they want to avoid asking me why I work there.

There are those who approach me and wonder why I need to work a low wage job. At this moment, I have a number of opportunities and have to filter my reasons to fit those who want to know. The truth is that there are a number of reasons I choose to work in retail, from extra income to flexible hours, a different environment to proximity to my home. I have student loans in addition to rent and “life” bills evident in the so-called real world.

The hardest part is breaking the feeling that I am not meeting my potential– the plight of many twenty somethings.