Another magical thing that happened at the dune shack came in the form of a book that Jill brought with her. That book was Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts In A World That Won’t Stop Talking. I picked it up with idle curiosity, I’ve always known that I’m an extrovert. I mean, I’m a people person. I do customer service for a living. When I took the Myers Briggs test years ago, I was a solid ESFJ. That’s a fancy clinical acronym for CAREGIVER. But I was in a dune shack with writer’s block. I would have read a week old Cleveland Plain Dealer if it had been what was in front of me. In the beginning of the book, there is a quiz. I heart quizzes, and although I knew the results, I took it anyway.
20 Questions, followed by my honest answers.
1. I prefer one-on-one conversations to group activities. I DO. Like when people say, “The more the merrier,” I want to shoot them. More is not more for me. I thought this was because I’m an asshole.
2. I often prefer to express myself in writing. Well, I’d say the fact that I’m writing this blog and not out with you right now chatting makes this a BIG FAT YES.
3. I enjoy solitude. I DO. My job involves so much noise and people two inches from my face commenting on every bit of minutia that goes on while they wait in line for the bathroom, I really, really enjoy being alone. I thought this was because I’m an asshole.
4. I seem to care about wealth, fame, and status less than my peers. I CANNOT TELL YOU HOW BIG OF A YES THIS IS. I work enough to pay my bills and have a good time, but I own nothing of any material value, which is the way I like it. I certainly need attention and approval to some degree from the people closest to me, but again, more is not more in this realm. My dopamine races when people like a particularly flattering shot of my dopey face via social media, as I am human. But I harbor no delusions of grandeur.
5. I dislike small talk, but I enjoy talking in-depth about topics that matter to me. HOLY BALLS IS THIS AN AFFIRMATIVE. I know that small talk is where big talk begins, not many can just dive into meaningful conversation without the warm up of jabbing about the weather and such. After twelve years of being in a pressurized tube full of small talk, I’ve taken to answering questions about the weather with remarks like, “Does it matter? We’re going anyway.” Okay, that one's really just me being an asshole.
6. People tell me that I'm a good listener. I am. I like to learn, and I do not learn when I’m talking. Everything that comes out of my mouth, I already know. I enjoy listening. See, I’m not a complete asshole.
7. I'm not a big risk-taker. This one is tricky. I’m fine with telling very personal things to large crowds of strangers, yet driving my roommate’s car four blocks to the airport causes me to have a panic attack. I am less nervous about skydiving than I am about holding your newborn baby. This a mixed bag, so I’ll say PASS on this one.
8. I enjoy work that allows me to "dive in" with few interruptions. Yep. When I am on track, God help you if you try to derail me. Prepare to witness me involuntarily eye rolling.
9. I like to celebrate birthdays on a small scale, with only one or two close friends or family members. YES. Again, more is not more.
10. People describe me as "soft-spoken" or "mellow." Hmm. Maybe? I was recently described as “reserved and slightly withdrawn”. Sometimes I’m kind of a bag of hot air, but generally I think this fits.
11. I prefer not to show or discuss my work with others until it's finished. DEFINITELY. I will proofread this stupid blog post 97 times before I post it, then 97 more times after I post it, changing stuff no one will ever notice or care about.
12. I dislike conflict. Are there people who enjoy conflict? They are definitely not invited to my birthday party. YES.
13. I do my best work on my own. I’d say mostly yes, but I appreciate collaboration. After I’ve done the work to the best of my ability (see #11), I'm happy to work with others.
14. I tend to think before I speak. I try to. When I don’t, I’m generally sorry.
15. I feel drained after being out and about, even if I've enjoyed myself. 100% YES. I thought this was because I’m old, and quite possibly an asshole.
16. I often let calls go through to voice-mail. I’m still surprised there are people who use the phone to CALL people and that people answer. But yes, even if I love you dearly, even if I’m expecting you to call, I sometimes stare at the phone ringing and think....I. Just. Can’t. Do. It. I’ll call you back in 5 minutes. Or 5 hours. Or tomorrow. It's not personal. I just can't deal.
17. If I had to choose, I'd prefer a weekend with absolutely nothing to do to one with too many things scheduled. DEFINITELY. I get a strange thrill when people cancel plans. It’s like I get to steal back time. I chalked this up to being old, with a hint of being an asshole.
18. I don't enjoy multi-tasking. I’m okay with it if it goes well, but generally it doesn’t. And just because I can pour a Coke and talk to you about the weather doesn’t mean I love doing it.
19. I can concentrate easily. Nope. Squirrel!
20. In classroom situations, I prefer lectures to seminars. Yes. I’d rather soak in information than be so focused on what I should bring to the table that I stop listening entirely.
So, in review, out of 20 questions, a vast majority of these I answered with a resounding yes, which indicates being an introvert. I retook the Myers Briggs test and wound up being an ISFJ this time. I’ve gained some relief with the notion that being an introvert doesn’t make me a better or worse person than when I thought I was an extrovert, just more self aware. I’m more understanding of my social limitations now that I get who I am and how I operate. I'm content to live in a comfortable spot somewhere between caregiver and asshole. It seems pretty late in the game to get this realization, but I am also new to being really honest about myself. I’m reminded of Miles Davis’ fine quote, ““Sometimes you have to play a long time to be able to play like yourself.”