A year ago I accompanied my husband to his 25th high school reunion. I knew very few people, and I felt semi-miserable. I was really uncomfortable as an outsider in the room. I was really uncomfortable playing at being social. I wished, over and over again, that we had brought our kids along so I could hide behind them. My happiest point of the night was when I escaped to the outdoors, sitting at a picnic table and watching the sun go down through the trees.
Moral of the story, I am a bona fide introvert.
I recently had the privilege of accompanying my husband on a yearly organized vacation for a few hand-picked high-performers within the company for which he works. It’s the ultimate prize for hard work and dedication. It is also a prize for the partners of these select employees, for putting up with the time away from home our spouses put in. Which is, let me tell you, a lot.
It was in many respects a true vacation, during which we were truly spoiled, and in other respects, it was an opportunity for company politicking and a way to get to know colleagues on personal rather than purely professional levels. Needless to say, there was a lot of small talk happening.
For the employees, small talk revolved around tech-based jargon, acronyms no outsider could possibly understand. They had it easy, they had an immediate common ground by which to break the ice. For the partners, small talk was just small talk. Something I really suck at.
An extrovert can walk up to a complete stranger, introduce themselves and start a conversation without batting an eye. An introvert would rather eat dirt than have to make small talk.
So here’s the thing, I’m an introvert, and I freaking hate small talk. I am much happier not talking at all than talking about nothing of value. Which is weird sometimes, and can make things kind of awkward for others. As an introvert I am totally and completely comfortable with silence. I love it, I thrive in it. However, when you put comfortably-silent me next to a colleague or acquaintance—namely, someone who doesn’t know me well enough to be comfortable with the silence—yeah, it can be a little awkward. For them.
I began to wonder, in the first few days of our trip, if I should be putting out more effort to mingle and dazzle, if I was doing enough to represent my husband in the company of his peers. My sole intention for the trip as a whole had been to fully and completely relax, I wasn’t prepared for suddenly feeling like I needed to work (or, at least, work the room).
I’ve been thinking a lot lately on how I fully intend on being a wild ‘n crazy old lady someday. You know, the kind of old lady that you see riding roller coasters in her 80s, that speaks her mind without giving a crap, and who goes on weekend romps to the casino with her fellow wild gal pals. I fully intend on being the type of old lady for whom proprieties be damned.
In my mind, however, being this type of crazy old broad also means being loud and flamboyant, an extrovert to the nth degree. I felt as though I would need to extrovert myself were I to fulfill my aging desire. I was pondering the conundrum on our vacation when all factors collided and everything suddenly made sense.
Being a crazy old broad really just means doing whatever one feels like doing. It is living life as the most free and unfettered self one can be. It is the ultimate, I-know-who-I-am-and-your-opinion-doesn’t-matter. There is nothing in the rule books that says being extroverted is a part of the deal. Don’t-give-a-shit-ness has nothing to do with extroversion, and everything to do with having the confidence to simply be yourself. Me, simply being myself, is someone who doesn’t like small chit chat and would be a thousand times happier sitting alone with a book than trying to impress people through unnatural conversation.
It didn’t matter that we were on this vacation with several of my husband’s colleagues of various ranks. For one, it’s my husband that needs to worry about impressing them, and given that we were on that vacation, I assume that deed had already been done. Also, these guys were all on vacation too, and probably also just wanting to relax. And also, there’s nothing more impressive than a person who’s just being who they naturally are.
My personal solution to small talk was to simply not partake. If I had something I wanted to share, I shared. If I didn’t, I was silent. Joyously silent. As quiet inside as I was out. And enjoying our trip so much more because of it.
In this world there are the introverts and the extroverts. Both are necessary. But being either is only relevant when you are being your most natural, your most free, your most true self. You can be a Chatty McChatster or quiet as a monk in meditation, but whoever you are, be confident about it.
I’ve figured out that I can be the most wild and crazy introverted broad around. And I like it. I like it a lot.