I work with many different people whom one could objectively describe as “lovely.”
The problem is… well, perhaps the problem is me… but there is something that slowly wears away at you when you spend the better part of your day with people you have nothing in common with. (In that regards, perhaps that is how high school truly prepares us for the real world.)
As an introvert, I’ve spent years forcing myself to socialize. I have this carefully practiced persona that I flick on like a switch. Some days, it’s easy to do. Others, it’s just… ugh. Too much work.
For most of my life, I did not realize that being introverted is normal. I always assumed that extroversion was the default setting. I was broken.
The pressure to socialize and to have a flourishing social life was always overwhelming. Being bright and bubbly is the gold standard for how one should act, just as weekends spent out with friends – cramming as much gossip and cocktails in as possible – is how one must live. A Saturday night at home makes you a failure.
When I lived with roommates for the first time, I felt this tremendous relief that I didn’t have to leave the house to socialize. There – right in my own home – were people who would save me from the social blacklist! No longer was I sitting at home watching TV all weekend, I was “hanging out with friends.”
When surrounded by people I genuinely enjoy and respect (and don’t feel judged by), I can be a bright and bubbly person. I can actually like socializing. But most people I simply don’t enjoy.
Maybe it’s because I’m an asshole, or maybe it’s because other people are, but I feel shoe-horned into the greater swathes of humanity. It seems as though most people want to talk about their mortgages / children / retirement plans, how much they enjoyed the Expendables movies, and how the protesters in Ferguson should just shut the hell up already.
If this is the average person, then I’m just not a good fit, and I’m okay with that. It’s exhausting to have these conversations over and over. Does no one want to discuss anything substantial?
The thing with discovering yourself, whatever that is, is that once you realize something significant about yourself, you can’t go back. It was just like when I realized I was an atheist. It was not a decision I made, but something about myself I was unable to change… like the fact that I can’t stand canned tuna. I can force that shit down, but I can’t make myself like it. Once I realized that socializing had no objective benefit to my life, then I lost the will to do it.
So it’s tough, eight hours a day, forcing yourself to socialize with people with whom you have so little in common.
The obvious solution seems to be to find like-minded people with whom to work with. But alas. To make such a declaration is to be naive about the current job market and to be oblivious to the fact that most other like-minded people are also introverts. We don’t make real friends easily. I know many people at my place of employ with whom I am sure I would get along fantastically. The problem is, most of them I’ve worked with for years and have barely spoken to. I think we all take to the internet, and I guess that’s where we find each other too.
The best I can do is cut the people who exhaust me from my life as much as possible. No, I will not waste Sunday afternoon listening to you drone on about hockey draft picks, thankyouverymuch. No, I won’t watch your racist / sexist / uninformed bile spew up on my Facebook feed all day. No.
No, no, no.
I’ve learned to say No.
I think you have to sometimes. It was a formative moment for me when I realized I could do that. Wait, what do you mean I don’t have to attend every social obligation I’ve been invited to? What do you mean I don’t have to like everyone?
And I don’t have to be bothered by the fact that people don’t like me?
It’s such a relief to really accept that. It’s the only way to make it through those days when you have to grin and bear it when someone complains about their “paltry” pay cheque that’s easily double yours, or try to come up with a politely worded rebuff when someone makes a casually racist joke.
No way I’m doing that when I’m not on the clock.