Social life has always been a bit of a not too distant and infrequently visited island for me. And it’s not without its ironies and contradictions. I’ve read articles about introverts, and how they’re generally able to fit their friendship group in a phone box. That’s me, pretty much. The irony lies in the “reading” part. You’re not usually doing a lot of talking or otherwise interacting while reading a book. And talking about books is largely boring unless the person you’re addressing has read the book/s in question. So of course I couldn’t categorise myself as an extrovert while reading an article which quite accurately describes me as somewhat the opposite. Though I read less these days, as a child characters in books were my most reliable friends. I was a journalist for a total of a couple of years for two different organisations. Another irony. Obviously, you have to write well to be a journo. And it’s difficult to write well without also being well read. But journalists also have to be very social people, even if that means their socialisation mainly involves the asking of a lot of questions – which has tended to be my conversational staple. But how does a person who reads a lot also socialise a lot? Difficult. It’s possible, at least early on, that the best journalists aren’t necessarily the best writers. I know where my strength lay. But there are only so many hours in the day, and I’m less effective at everything without enough time spent sleeping.
I’m vastly less painfully shy and anti or a-social now than I was as a child, when I was known to sometimes hide when people would visit. That growth and change was due in part to my coming to terms with myself, over the years, even if there are elements of my external world which I may never be fully accepting of. It’s still an energy thing for me, in that as an introvert socialising drains me. While extroverts apparently and plausibly, in my opinion, are energised by socialisation. I’m not sure if I envy the latter all that much. Perhaps I’m being unfair, but I’ve long held the opinion that I’ve never met anyone quite as intellectually stimulating as some books I’ve read. In fact I’m sure that’s unfair, as people when broken down could easily be likened to books or series of books. And of course books don’t just magically manifest themselves, and are written by people who talk to other people however often. But when looking at the issue through introverted eyes, it’s quite an accurate appraisal. Extroverts don’t necessarily read any less than their opposites, but I imagine what they gain from books and the like differs from what I tend to – in a word: escape. Or in a few words: a journey for my mind that my body could never take. I’m quite comfortable, as I should be at almost 30, engaging with people whether in person, by phone, in writing or by whatever other means. Though the more directly such engagement takes place, the more draining it is for me and the more likely it is that I’ll need my engaged to take the conversational lead.
My biggest, albeit not constant, grumble with my latent social timidity is of course the matter of the fairer sex. I’ve dealt with the nature of my relationships with women previously, but in this particular case the grumble I mentioned relates to the fact that rarely do women (at least in my environment) find men who are not the or close to the centre of attention attractive. (Assuming I’m right about that, I should probably be grateful I’m not a bad looking bloke.) Plus, they’re simply more likely to be drawn to extroverted personalities. It’s frustrating, and kind of ironic once again because naturally if you’ve a wide and dense social circle you will have less undivided attention to give to a particular woman. That said, another about face on such reasoning is that I don’t require excessive amounts of undivided attention from a woman I happen to be close to. And I expect her not to require me to live in her pocket 24/7, too. But as I alluded to, in a kind of a chicken-and-the-egg scenario, it’s hard to get romantically close to one female if you’re not well-connected with other men and women. Like I said, I’m relatively at peace with this element of myself, though I do from time-to-time detect a certain amount of self-perpetuating awkwardness from others at my lack of social integration and low frequency or duration – though in my opinion high quality – association with women. Whatever the positive and negative consequences, as I once said to a mate after I entered a catatonic state for an hour after smoking a joint with him: I am who I am. Superficial problems can be solved, created or dismissed, but at the core of who I am lies, I assure you, a very good yet not un-blemished and at the same time uncompromising heart.
I socialised last night. Admittedly, while drinking – which always, erm, lubricates socialisation. And a couple of weeks ago I attended a function during which I not only talked to several people I had never or only once met, but also spoke to all of them at once through reading – quite well, if I do say so myself – a fictional short-story I’d written for the occasion. I’d post the video link to that, but I’ve only got it on Facebook so you’ll have to make do with the written words, if you so please. Another admission: there was another meeting of the group last week, which I did not attend. My justification in my own mind is that I am currently unemployed, and have been for almost four straight months, and need to concentrate on getting a job before engaging more often in such indulgences, however pleasurable and stimulating they might be. Though if I’m being a little more honest with myself I’d have to first admit I only attended the initial reading night at Griffith University, which preceded the event at the library at which I read to a wider audience, because I was invited by a friend and former peer; and secondly admit that when I do gain work I might use that as an excuse to not have enough time in which to attend the regular meetings. One of the elements at the core of my social being is that I am not aggressive. I am literally a pacifist – which developed from the fact that I have visited physical violence on people and had it visited on me (and don’t care for it either way). But what I mean is I’m not socially aggressive, in that people will mostly engage me socially and not the other way around.
I am less lonely when I’m alone. And please don’t misinterpret that. In the context I’m leading to, there can be a difference between being lonely, and being alone. For example, I can feel very alone, and content, at a music festival; surrounded by thousands of like-minded people. But put me in the crowd at, say, a car race, and I will feel lonely, and quite discontented. The difference is simply common-ground. Extroverts, too, value common ground, but from observations I’ve made they are more ready to profess to or even outright lie about sharing the marginally or completely foreign values and interests of others. Conversely, I am not. Actually, I am comfortable stating to people with different values and interests that while I might respect their difference, I might also not be inspired to either pretend to or actually start sharing their values and interests and thus reduce the difference between us. One contradiction in this case is, for example, that I am not interested in sport and will rarely discuss it, watch it on television or read about it. But, I don’t mind participating in some sports and have been to the occasional live match. It’s not hypocritical, it’s just . . . limited. Or managed. It would be prejudicial for anyone to describe it as lazy. I am genuine when I say that I’m capable of deep respect for people with different values and interests to mine. And if I’m not often with people whom I’ve spent time with before, doing things they’re interested in, it’s not because I’m hateful. Or disrespectful. Or anti or a-social. Or a loner. Or vindictive. It’s because I refuse to patronise or outright lie to people about things I simply do not have in common with them – which inevitably means I’m sometimes or often absent. It’s because I’ve retreated to my comfort zone in order to replenish my energy. And if sincere socialisation steadily drains it, bullshit takes it from me quick as an opening trap door.