before they died, a lot of people told me I was a really good listener....

Sometimes you find a piece of literature so profoundly life-changing it almost makes you believe (or reaffirms your belief) in a divine presence guiding the universe. How else can you explain that one book or poem that so completely describes your person?

For me, those books are The Poisonwood Bible and My Name is Asher Lev. And...

THIS article. The title alone should merit a click-over: Sorry I Murdered Everyone, But I'm an Introvert.

Some noteworthy excerpts:

Sorry that everyone is dead. They weren’t respecting my quiet power and inner strength. It’s a common misconception that introverts can’t lead; we’re just not always the first to speak up.

Some famous introverts include Albert Einstein, Audrey Hepburn, Alfred Hitchcock, and all of your friends are dead.

I’m so sorry I killed your friends. Making small talk is just really hard for me. It’s so stressful.

Spouseman can testify that when my introvert need for space and time to recharge isn't met, I'm absolutely misanthropic, if not actually murderous. A story: once, some old neighbors came to visit us unexpectedly. I walked in the door from work, and there they were! Sitting on our couch, casually chatting with Spouseman.

Usually after work I immediately retreat into my bedroom cave to recharge for a while (sometimes a long while) until emerging to actually participate as a member of a family unit. It isn't my favorite thing about myself, but possibly going to prison because I killed Dan for asking about my day is also not my favorite thing, so I take what I can get.

That day, I got friends. Friends I really enjoy! Friends I didn't see very much, and might not see again for a few more years, since they announced plans to move.  Friends who, had I known they were coming, would make me feel excited and happy about their impending arrival.

But I really, really needed to go sit in my bedroom quietly for a little while. Without these friends sitting on my couch outside my door TALKING and INTERACTING. (The nerve!)

After a quick trip to the bathroom for a mini-freak out, I joined the happy group in the living room. An hour turned into two, and then three, and then Dan invited them to stay for dinner. Dinner, and then, oh hey, who wants brownies? That take an hour to cook! Brownies. More talking. More interacting. By the time they left, it was late, and I as soon as the door shut, I burst into tears. After a few minutes, my tears turned to straight-up frustration. Why hadn't they called beforehand to tell us they wanted to stop by? Who stays at someone's house for that long? DAN. WHY DID YOU INVITE THEM TO DINNER, YOU MONSTER???????????  Sorry I butchered all of your friends in front of you. It’s just that I’d rather curl up at home with a good book than go to a party.

Spouseman was naturally very confused. For him, the evening was fun and invigorating. In all honesty, we'd both had a good time. (Especially when I realized I could take mini-breaks by excusing myself to check on dinner, or change the wash, or check on the cats, etc.) We had just spent the evening with people we loved, and everyone was funny and smart and engaging, so why was I crying?

I explained that I'd been at work since 7:00 a.m., and it was now almost 9:00 pm. That's 14 hours of unadulterated social interaction. I spend my days teaching reluctant teenagers, and repeating the same instructions over and over, (MAKE SURE TO WRITE YOUR NAME ON YOUR PAPER, GUYS! No, you cannot use the hall pass. Can you elaborate on what you mean? Give me an example from the text!) sitting in meetings with agendas I'm convinced could be accomplished more effectively with an email, and trying to talk anxious parents off the ledge via phone when they call the school insisting I explain why their child received a B

By the time I make it home, I need to sit quietly and not talk. Not because I dislike my job, I actually really enjoy teaching most of the time. I need to sit quietly and not talk because my job uses up my mental and emotional resources faster than I can replenish them. It doesn't matter how much I like someone, or how much I want to enjoy spending five hours talking with them, after a long day of work, I need a break.  It’s simply an issue of supply and demand.

I always feel bad when I identify as an introvert who needs lots of alone time. I worry that my friends think I am telling them I don’t want to hang out with them, or that I’m secretly miserable the whole time we are together. It’s not true! At worst, I’m just planning on maiming you. (I’m kidding, I promise.)

 I love spending time with friends, and I get lonely when I go too long without seeing or talking to people I care about.  But I want to give my friends my best self, and not the self secretly planning their imminent demise because they ambushed me after work.

Today I noticed that I unintentionally plan lessons with lots of student group or partner assignments on days I have plans after work. Subconsciously, I’m trying to preserve my social interaction resources during the day so I can socialize later. I probably won’t lecture much on days I want to meet friends at the park, and I probably won’t make playdates on days with lots of work meetings or class discussion.  Just like a novice runner shouldn't try to run a marathon without training, I know 14 hours of social interaction will end in nothing but tears and premeditation.

I’m getting better at identifying my needs as an introvert with a very extroverted job. I haven’t cried after seeing a friend in years, so that’s progress.

But I won’t lie, sometimes I can’t help thinking that if you were all dead, you wouldn't keep trying to talk to me. And solitary confinement sounds awfully peaceful.


Michelle Glauser said...

Yep, yep, yep. A big part of my career seems to be evening networking events, and by then I just want to go home! Sometimes I wish people would have breakfast events instead.

Bryan and Sarah said...

Totally get this. I'm a true introvert and love/need to be alone.

Stephanie said...

Michelle, I totally agree. Once our friends did a Christmas Brunch instead of the usual Christmas evening party, and it was really nice, for the grown-ups and the kids.

Bryan and Sarah (I think Sarah?) It really is a LOVE and a need. I think it is really healthy to cultivate a love of be alone, right along with a love of others/socialization.

Accidentalwriter said...

So many 'double-edged sword' aspects to life. I love being with people - however, I only have the capacity/stamina to do this in known increments of time (generally). Surprises are great - as long as I have advanced notice. A crowded room of people will often highlight my appreciation of solitude. The paradox of 'to thine own self be true' is that we live in a world with more than one person (ourselves). Apologies for the convoluted remarks - what I really want to say is 'I hear you'. Best wishes. Jeff

Stephanie said...

@Accidentalwriter- "Surprises are great- as long as I have advanced notice." That is a perfect statement.

LC said...

If you haven't, consider reading the book "Quiet," by Susan Cain. I wouldn't even call it a self-help book. Cain has spent years researching and helping people understand how introverts are built, mentally, physically, and emotionally. It was really validating for me to read.

jen said...

Help me! I'm a complete & total extrovert but my son is an introvert. He's in 7th grade & I feel like he's missing out because he just wants to be home on the weekends. Do I just let him stay home or make him do something. I

Stephanie said...

@LC I have read "Quiet" and it was absolutely helped me make some changes in my teaching practice, both for my students and for myself!

Stephanie said...


My mom used to make me hang out with friends even when I didn't want to. I think it was even on my summer chore chart. Clean bathroom, fold laundry, hang out with friend, etc.

It actually made me more introverted and anxious, as well as reinforcing the idea that there was something wrong with me. I made friends later on my own, but I was permanently stuck on the idea that I needed to be hanging out with lots of people all the time in order to be normal.

I'd say wait and see, but let your son figure out his social life on his own terms for now. If he's really just introverted, he'll probably find like-minded souls on his own. Seventh grade is hard enough without worrying if you are even MORE weird for hanging out at home. :)

jen said...

Oh gosh I just typed up a comment & lost it, so sorry if I comment twice. Thank you so much for responding. Kinda weird that your blog popped into my head today while I was surfing around on the internet (do people still say surfing around?). Your post was exactly what I needed to read. Thank you so much for your advice. It's exactly the answer I've been searching for. I am definitely going to hold off and just let him figure out his social life. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!!! He really is such an awesome kid and so far his self esteem seems to be ok. I feel like it was me & my husband that were about to ruin it & not even his friends. How sad would that be? I will definitely hold off on forcing him out the door to play. I've even paid him to play with friends. How lame is that?

bonbon said...

Just catching up on your blog after a very long and needed reading-blogs-break. Basically I just wanted to tell you that you are Greg and Greg is you. I feel like he could have written this. (Although, admittedly, not nearly as well.) He does the exact same hide in the bedroom thing and if I ever invite someone over without telling him he goes ape. I think an unexpected visitor is probably on his list of top three greatest fears. It has been even more difficult this year with such an extroverted job. You will have to teach him your tricks because he doesn't deal so well- he hasn't seen his parents in a month due to people overdose.